When social media first emerged, it allowed current and potential customers to get a glimpse into a company’s personality, staff, office space and other behind-the-scenes snapshots. That transparency has increased ten-fold with brands taking to Facebook Live, Snapchat and, most recently, Instagram Stories, where brands present raw versions of themselves.
Real-time content has its advantages in that audiences get a more authentic experience than almost any other social format. Can things go wrong? Of course, but brands are already finding some engaging ways to influence, inform, inspire and interact on Instagram, while staying on-brand.
The goal of content marketing is to engage audiences over time to build relationships. Often the messages subtly influence readers to buy, sign-up, subscribe (whatever it may be). Customers will be turned off by overly promotional messaging, of course, but they understand the premise of their relationship with a brand. Including some text that influences them to stop by an Open House, for instance, like LA-based real estate brokerage The Agency does in one of its "stories" is smart especially considering the breath-taking images it includes of the property in question. The next time the viewer needs a luxury realtor (and who doesn’t?), The Agency will likely be top of mind.
Another way to influence Instagram followers is to include testimonials in a brand's story every now and again. An on-the-spot 10-second (or more if clips are taken consecutively) review could be extremely persuasive.
Instagram Stories may only be collections of clips up to 10 seconds in length, but there’s no reason tutorials can’t be presented back to back in order to inform audiences in various ways. The FabFitFun box company, for instance, offers a do-it-yourself body scrub tutorial, which is on-brand, casual and fun. The number of possibilities for quick informational posts is endless. Look to existing content that is already popular and repurpose it in an Instagram clip. The beauty of stories is that it doesn't need to be professionally shot, everyone is using smartphones to capture that in-the-moment experience.
Pictures of a hackathon? Clips of a workout regimen? There are so many ways to inspire audiences to take action and understand a brand’s message. Cut Fitness, for instance, posts clips of its members working out in its gym (make sure brands get user consent).
Instagram has quickly confirmed it is using an algorithm to decide which order the stories appear – relying on engagement signals from its news feed. Brands will want to consistently post to Instagram, not neglecting the more traditional news feed even with the appeal that stories offers. What’s more, Instagram users can now send brands a direct message from their stories so companies will want to make sure they monitor those interactions and respond accordingly.
Go With It
While it’s important to respect the authentic, real-time nature of stories, brands can leverage them to influence, inform, inspire and interact whether that’s with quick tutorials using back-to-back clips or calling audiences to an event. Companies will want to remember that stories are better imperfect, so include those raw pictures, video mess-ups, etc., as engagement will be better off for them.