The 24-hour lifespan of Instagram Stories has made managing and analysing content a laborious process for marketers. A handful of companies have claimed to solve that problem, allowing brands to put a strategy in place for how to get more from their influencer marketing deals.
Instagram Stories now boasts 400 million daily users and advertisers have duly flocked to the ephemeral offering, upping spend and largely opting to work with the platform’s many influencers.
According to influencer marketing agency Activate, Stories was found to be the second-most popular social media feature that influencers used for sponsored campaigns, after posts on their Instagram news feeds.
That influencers are increasingly opting to run advertiser content on Stories is no surprise. In-feed posts don’t allow the influencer to add a link to click though to a product or webpage, instead they have to put it in their profile page bios. In Stories however, they can use affiliate links to encourage users to simply swipe-up to be taken direct to a product page, ultimately earning them a cut of the sales from whatever they’re promoting.
Testament to this trend, advertisers have started to experiment with ‘Stories-only’ deals with their influencers. Fashion giant Zalando, for example, says it has forged “a lot” of deals that are only Stories-based.
“We're seeing a lot more of this. It's really picked up in the last three months,” explains Stephanie Walravens, the company’s PR, social media and influencer marketing manager for the UK and Ireland, suggesting that people aren’t as quick to skip past the content as they are when it’s in-feed. The recent backlash over a highly-styled influencer post for mouthwash brand Listerine seems to back this sentiment.
“A lot of what is going out on Stories feels more genuine. It's not as polished or as 'fake', it feels more real and that's why customers want to shop there. They feel a lot more connected and the shopping experience is a lot more integrated. Our Instagram Stories spend is going up”.
Likewise, mattress brand Simba is seeing more conversions from Stories than any other platform.
“Instagram is our second most valuable channel for paid marketing,” adds Amie Holloway, influencer marketing manager at Simba. “If influencers we're working with have over 10,000 followers they can use affiliate links in Stories and we now see a lot of referrals coming from there.”
Edward East, the chief executive officer of influencer marketing agency Billion Dollar Boy – which counts Simba, Zalando and L’Oreal among its clients – suggests that as much as 40% of the influencer content advertisers spend on is going directly to Instagram Stories deals.
Tracking an 'impossible' task
Despite this increased investment to influencers and Instagram Stories, the problem many advertisers still face is tracking content – when it’s being uploaded and by who – and if they are getting value for money when it disappears so quickly.
“[Marketers] and our team internally were staying up at night or after an event to screenshot hundreds of Stories across hundreds of influencers,” says East of the process it used until recently. “The time taken to do that was immeasurable.”
Similarly, ad agency We Are Social said managing Stories content is still by-and-large a manual process.
“Due to the technical nature of Stories and access its non-public data, it is still quite a manual process. Often the content creator will need to send us screengrabs and we'll consolidate the results manually, calculating metrics such as Story retention and completion rates,” explains Jessica Shirling, influencer manager at We Are Social.
For Simba, Holloway admits that it was a virtually impossible to track all the content that the brand was tagged in within Stories: “If we saw coverage, we would take a screen shot; it was so hard to track, especially over the weekends,” adding that as a “one woman team” managing Simba’s social media marketing it presented a huge challenge to get round-the-clock oversight of what was posted.
“It was really easy to miss. We were relying on influencers to feed back to us and unless they were contracted to feedback, we were working completely blind. I didn't pick a few things up and going back to the influencers we work with and asking if they’d featured the content yet always came across as quite unprofessional and that we weren’t on top of things.”
As a solution, East’s Billion Dollar Boy launched a tool called StoryTracker last month and has courted Zalando and Simba among its 12 test clients.
The tool automatically downloads any public Stories content that mentions a brand or uses a hashtag associated with a campaign. It’s then stored in a programme called ‘Matchmaker’ which the client and agency can access. For each piece of content, the tool also gives an estimated view count, which is based on historic data the agency has collected.
Zalando first used the tool for a mini-festival it ran Berlin where it had invited a large number of press and influencers.
“It was our own event and we were running around, you don't have time to get on and see if people have been posting and check that influencers had delivered against promises,” says Walravens. “It was one place to see where that's all happening in real-time and then to be able to go back and analyse it afterwards.”
Repurposing Stories content
And with this bank of user-generated-content now their fingertips, brands have also started to eke more value from their investments.
Simba now asks both its influencers and regular users if they can use the content that’s downloaded as a paid-for advert with the belief that people will be more inclined to view it if it doesn’t “look” like an overly-polished ad.
“People react a lot better to UGC content in Stories. If we have the permission, we use it on our own Stories account and sometimes put paid media spend behind it. We’re seeing a really good click-through-rate,” adds Holloway.
In the midst of a crackdown on how transparent brands and being when it comes to influencer marketing, Zalando reveals it’s also using it to ensure posts are being tagged adequately.
“It's hugely helpful. Especially if they've done the wrong thing you've got the evidence and can talk about how to correct that error. It's already helped us to identify a couple of people who were doing it in the wrong way and then see how they can improve,” she says. “It helps to keep track of it - there's no way of preventing it though.”