September 18, 2017

Making sense of Instagram Stories

Kham Inthirath is founder and president of Worcester marketing agency Envision Digital Group, helping local businesses find and connect with their target audiences.

Last summer, Instagram introduced Instagram Stories, a very Snapchat-like feature allowing brands and people to share personal, temporary, moments outside of those carefully curated images we all post in our feeds.

I'm not one to jump on any social media bandwagon just for the sake of it; so our team really took our time examining how Instagram Stories would – or could – benefit local businesses. We never did see much value in Snapchat – it's just a hard platform for brands to leverage. Instagram, however, already had a massive, public following.

Over the last several months we've examined the Instagram Stories of some well-known brands. Below are ideas we discovered.

The limited-time sale

Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, making them perfect for retail companies offering a limited-time sale. That's what we found J. Crew (@jcrew) doing with a new product, Jane in Pink sunglasses.

The story J.Crew told featured staffers at the company's headquarters sporting these sunglasses in natural, fun ways. The story added a more human element to the images J. Crew posted on their feed and encouraged audiences to act fast. A good rule of thumb is no one wants to see your product in their feed. But add that product to a natural, real-life setting, and you're bound to win over new audiences. That's what J.Crew did.

The seasonal product

Instagram Stories was launched in August 2016 – that's ideal iced brew time at Starbucks (@starbucks). In its first ever story, Starbucks showcased both its chilled cold brew and iced Americano with cream drinks, using a combination of photos and video, as well as some unique neon drawings. This helped bring humor to a big-corporation brand.

Transparency with Worcester Bravehearts baseball

A little closer to home, it's great to see the Worcester Bravehearts baseball team (@woobaseball) get in on the Stories game.

The team has used Stories as a way to not only bring excitement toward upcoming games but to also bring the action to folks through social media.

This is what we like to call transparency. The most effective social media strategies aren't comprised of high-concept images of videos. Social media is about being honest; it's about engaging in authentic connections with your viewers. For the Bravehearts, that means shooting short, casual videos during the game to help others experience the action.

That's part of the reason Instagram launched Stories to begin with. The company realized far too many brands were very careful about the quality of their feed images. They wanted to bring transparency back.

After one year in existence, Stories has proven that Instagram's mission has been a success.

Each business can approach Stories in their own way; but one general rule of thumb I'd offer is this:

Go into your Stories strategy – heck, your entire social media strategy – with a plan. You should know, each week, what your feed and Story will focus on, rather than approach each day with a blank slate. Whether it's a seasonal sale, a new launch, or something else, use Instagram Stories as a tool to broaden your message and connect with your audiences on a human level.


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