10 Really Awesome Ways to Use Instagram Stories

Hélène Heath
October 20, 2016
Lasted Updated On

To Snap or to Insta Story? That is the question.

If your business already devised a robust and efficient Snapchat content strategy, you're probably asking yourself if you should even invest resources in Instagram Stories. While the formats are, um, similar, it's probably still wise for your brand to explore Insta's version, if only for audience size purposes.

Below, we're delving into cool ways you can use them to your advantage.

There are countless reasons for brands to use social media. The obvious one being that if a business doesn't have a presence on social channels, it might as well not exist. If the evidence doesn't get posted, did it really happen? Consumers have evolved with the times, and boy are they rapidly changing.

Fans and customers are more demanding than ever. To properly capture shorter-than-ever attention spans, brands need to over-index on creativity and innovation. Especially to reach their consumers on an emotional level. Needless to say, marketers can no longer stick to their old ways. Anything from even 5 years ago feels outdated in today's landscape. For example, now topping every brand's priority list is Snapchat, but it wasn't even a thing back then. Instagram Stories? Even less so. The rise of visual social channels has changed the game.

While Instagram Stories is the newest kid on the block, we've familiarized ourselves plenty with the functionality by now. That said, all of the information we've uncovered since the roll out doesn't solve for how to make good use of the feature. Are brands supposed to approach Insta Stories the same way they have Snapchat Stories? The formats might be similar, but they are two distinct entities and shouldn't necessarily be assigned identical strategies.

Vertical Video for Instagram

The great thing about shooting vertical video for Instagram is that unlike Snapchat, your audience is not a big enigma. You've spent years cultivating it and engage with its members regularly. You're familiar with what they respond positively to and what they don't care much for. That is a tremendous advantage to have when developing a strong content strategy.

Your Instagram gallery is - and should be - a beautifully curated selection of memorable visuals that contribute to your brand's narrative. Your Instagram Story also needs to tend to that dialogue, but in a less calculated and polished way. It's for the moments that provide brand insight, yet aren't pretty enough to warrant a coveted spot in your gallery profile. The Stories functionality is the perfect opportunity to communicate your message on a deeper, more personal scale. You know your audience is already interested in your brand since they're following you; all you need to do now is to capture its attention.

Let's examine 10 easy ways to draw them in with Instagram Stories, to keep them watching, and ultimately, to maximize engagement.

1. Behind the Scenes

Giving your audience exclusive access to your company's otherwise secret activities or private happenings is a tried, tested, and fail-proof way to make its members feel like they're a part of it all. Are you conducting a photo shoot, going on a work retreat, partying at a special event? These are all fun things that can be shared with your followers to make them feel like they're a part of your company's inner circle.

2. Contests and Give Aways

Name one person you know who doesn't love winning things or getting free stuff. Yeah, we don't know anyone like that either. And for that very reason, you should be doing give aways or running contests in your Stories.

3. Product Launches

Trying to create hype around a new product? Whether you're looking to tease your audience about it or do a full reveal, this is the type of content that your followers are dying to see - new releases from a brand they like enough to keep up with on social media? It's a no-brainer and you can make it super fun.

4. Office Insider

Does your company have a dope office culture? You may not work at Google, but there certainly must be some aspects of your HQ that make it better to work at than, say, #freelancelyfe (although lunch in the park every day doesn't sound half bad...). Whether it's a rad milestone (new couches! prototype or sample delivery! 100th employee hired!) or watercooler banter that lets your company's internal personality shine through (a great snack selection! a really funny colleague! staff favorites!), entertaining office culture outtakes can make your fans feel even closer to your brand.

5. Q&As and Interviews

This is something that you can have a lot of fun with, and that's both super entertaining and informative for your followers. Whether you're interviewing an important player in your niche, or whether your team is answering audience questions, people enjoy learning, especially when they find the subject engaging. It's all about providing value.

6. Showing the Love

Tying your Story back to your gallery is a super smart, focused way of approaching Instagram as a marketing tool. Doing it by giving your fans shoutouts is even more brilliant. Some accounts generate so much UGC that there's no way they could ever repost all of it. Create an Instagram Story segment to showcase some of your favorites - this'll make users feel über special and prompt them to want to create content to tag you in. It will also make them want to tune in because they'll be dying to see if their images were featured.

7. CEO Speaking Engagements

Do you have a CEO who moonlights as a thought leader that racks up super rad speaking engagements and attends all kinds of conferences relevant to your sector? Those are all things that revolve around your brand world and that should be shared (in moderation) with your audience. Displaying the fact that your company has authority in its field, as well as respect from industry peers, can only be a positive thing.

8. Tutorials and Product Demos

We truly hope that you've read and imbibed all of the wisdom we've imparted in our recent three four part video series. Let us circle back for a sec: in part 1, we stated that certain industries fare way above the pack when it comes to video content performance. Those niche industries highly benefit from filmed tutorials and how-to clips. If you belong to one of those categories, Instagram Stories has likely been the answer to your prayers. Get on it.

9. Seeking Feedback

Ain't no shame in the feedback game. In fact, you won't get a more direct line of communication than by openly seeking your audience's opinion on how you're doing. If you're not asking your followers what they love and what they hate, how will you truly ever know? Make it fun and make it about them, there's nothing people love more than feeling important (besides winning things and free stuff, see point #2).

10. Takeovers and Special Features

There was a time when Instagram takeovers were all the rage. Then the tradition continued on Snapchat. Takeovers have always been a brilliant mutually beneficial way to build an audience for both the taker and the taken. They're back with a vengeance on Instagram Stories and they're better than ever! Use influencers that are on-brand and whose content creation skills you admire.

For a fresh twist on the classic takeover, try a mini feature instead, where you get someone from your team or an influential Instagrammer to talk about their favorite things within a theme.

There's no creative limit when crafting on-brand, engaging Instagram Stories, so long as you remain within the bounds of your brand's voice and tone. For example, you can include various uploads, such as memes and Boomerangs. You can also create your content up to 24 hours in advance if quality control is a concern, or if you're not good on the fly. Another pro tip: don't be afraid to experiment with the doodles and emojis to make your clips more dynamic - they'll help your Stories stand out and render them more memorable.

It's now time to either get started on your first Story or sharpen your current strategy. And if you're wondering how to measure the performance of all that vertical video content you're about to produce, don't worry, we already covered it in "How to Measure the Performance of Your Instagram Stories".

Let us know how it goes in a comment below or by tweeting at us!

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