Telling tales: what marketers need to know about Instagram Stories

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Investment by marketers in Instagram Stories is on the up.

Social video has been at the heart of many marketers’ social media strategies for some time. To keep up with the competition, meet user demand and make sure they remain fresh for brands, the major social platforms have been evolving their video offerings accordingly.

Over the last year, Instagram Stories has undoubtedly been the jewel in the social media crown. They have been around since 2016, but the number of brands investing in them has grown exponentially of late. According to reports, advertisers using Instagram Stories have increased budgets dedicated to the format by 124%. That’s not surprising when you consider that Stories now have up to 400 milliondaily active users - and growing.

Of course, with every format comes a set of evolving considerations - we’ve been working with brands like Fanta over the last few years to put many of these into practice. Here are a few tips on how to get the most from Stories.

It’s a goldfish bowl

The most important thing to consider is the user’s attention span, or lack thereof. On Stories, like most other social video formats, you have to be interesting from the beginning. People tap and tap, swipe and swipe until something catches their attention. There’s no time to gradually draw people in by building a narrative; you need to be upfront with your message from the outset. Treat your Story like a digital outdoor or animated poster - everything you need to say should be upfront. That doesn’t mean you can’t evolve your story, but at each stage, key messages should be clear.

Get updated

Updates to Stories seem to happen almost every week at the moment, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the social media news pages to see what the latest development is. Here are some of the most useful right now: Profiles with over 10,000 followers on Instagram can add links to their Stories - useful for pushing specific content, products or services. Stickers are a good tool for brands using Stories. Hashtag, location and mention stickers can all be used to help make content more discoverable and broaden its reach; polls, questions and countdown stickers can make your posts more interactive. Meanwhile, the ever-popular GIPHY stickers can be used to portray reactions or emotions in content. Instagram also recently announced plans to allow donation stickers in Stories - potentially a big win for not-for-profits using the platform.

Lay off the polish

The great thing about Stories is that you can relax the rules a little. They’re more fun and content is more ‘real’ and low fi than what you’d traditionally post in the feed. If you try and polish your content to within an inch of its life it’s going to come across as inauthentic, so save (most of) your editing tools for the grid. A lot of brands who invest in paid Stories in particular make them look too polished, resulting in the viewer thinking 'this is just another ad by a brand invading my social experience'. The key criteria for Stories doesn’t necessarily have to be beautiful creative - it’s not somewhere to roll out a TV ad, for example. It’s far more important to create content that people find useful or entertaining.

Embrace native functionalities

So you’re shutting down photoshop - how do you make your content stand out? The tools that people are used to seeing and using on the platform are a more natural fit. Using Instagram's (or Facebook or Snapchat’s) native features and functionalities creatively will show the audience that you not only understand the platform, but that you can speak their language. Even - in fact, especially even if you’re making paid-for content.

Don’t forget Facebook

Facebook’s Stories format might not be as well regarded as Instagram’s, but the platform is really pushing it to brands and users alike. Recent business-focused updates on Facebook Stories include the introduction of call-to-action stickers for Page Stories, allowing businesses to prompt Facebook Stories viewers to 'Shop Now', 'Get Directions' or 'Book', directly from the Stories feed. Because they’re all part of the same family, you can share an Instagram Story directly to Facebook Stories, taking your content to a wider audience without much extra effort required.

Sarah Cantillon is managing partner at Movement

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