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What Goes Into a Great Instagram Story?

What Goes Into a Great Instagram Story? (Source: pixabay.com - used as royalty free image)

According to Facebook, there are already more than 200 million daily active users for Instagram Stories – that’s a huge step above the DAU rate for Snapchat, the instant messaging app is Stories’ most direct competition. Even more impressive than its user base is the effect that Stories has already had for media outlets and ecommerce brands, who report a 15-25% swipethrough rate with the feature. That translates into real, hot leads for brands of all shapes and sizes.

But are you using Stories – which are compilations of still images and 10-second videos, strung together to form a narrative and set to self-destruct within 24 hours – for your brand? If so, are you optimizing them to secure leads and drive up engagement?

With our thanks to the gurus at Social Media Examiner for a few of these concepts, here are the four key pillars of a successful, engaging Instagram Story:

1.) Differentiate Your Stories from Your Usual Content

One important thing to remember up top is that Story content is fundamentally different than the posts that otherwise fill up your Instagram feed, and it should be treated as such; don’t just post the occasional picture as a “story” and call it a day!

Instead, take some time to really think about what you should be using your Story posts to accomplish. One easy strategy to use this new feature to add value to your Instagram marketing efforts is to put your Story to work presenting different ideas than what you normally share on Instagram. For instance, if you typically just use Instagram to share samples from your blog content, you may want to consider using your Story to post more behind-the-scenes footage.

Or, if you’re unsure about how to get started running a social media contest or promotion, consider dipping your toe in by using your Story, where your promotion has a finite window, allowing you a greater level of control over who gets access. 

2.) Be Dynamic By Using Text and Stickers

In addition to looking and feeling fundamentally different from traditional Instagram content, your Story also offers functionality that was totally unavailable on the platform even a few years ago. To make your Story as appealing as possible, put these new tools – including location tags, stickers, emojis, and on-image text – to work!

Text, in particular, is a key tool for making your Story tick. Where standard feed posts can lean heavily on your body copy to get their point across, Story content works completely differently. In your Story, users will be looking for text layered over your images themselves; this formatting creates a completely different user experience, a new way of engaging with the content that you’re sharing.

As a result, there are all sorts of ways to put text to work in your Story! For a starter, consider summarizing the point of your video posts in a few words, so that users can engage with your message even if they can’t listen to audio.

You may also want to add stickers, emoji, or written text to encourage clickthrough; you can use these visual add-ons to make each slide of your Story related, connecting each separate piece of content as one unified whole. This will help ensure that viewers will want to stick with your story until the very end.

One important thing to keep in mind? While the huge array of text and sticker options may seem like a dazzling candy store at first, it’s important that you exercise some restraint. Don’t just slap on different text styles, colors, or stickers willy-nilly! Instead, keep your text formatting and emoji use consistent; remember your visual branding and try to make sure that your Story style hews as close to the fold as possible. Limit yourself to a few key colors, and attempt to create a unified aesthetic so that your Story, your typical Instagram posts, and your website content all seem interconnected and instantly recognizable to a new follower.

3.) Create Like a Storyteller

One easy way to ensure that your content is stylistically and thematically linked is to always create a Story with an intention in mind. As with all facets of your content marketing, it’s important that you consider how the Story you’re creating will work to bolster or complement every other piece of your campaign – in this case, how it will relate to your usual Instagram content, as well as your overall social media marketing strategy.

In other words, every piece of content you craft should have a clear goal – and your Instagram Story is no different.

Once you have your intention in mind, it is then time to think like an author, and consider how what you post will actively work in service of your goal. In most cases, that means considering what story you’re actually trying to tell. Always know the beginning, middle, and end of your story before you start, and don’t hesitate to take some time before you begin posting to storyboard your concept or write up an outline/script before you start shooting.

During this pre-production phase, brainstorm what types of content or tools will work best for each piece of your story. Don’t be afraid to be dynamic and experimental, and try switching up your use of images, videos, and Boomerang GIFs.

And always remember that, when it comes to social Story content, quality will always be more important than quantity. One or two high quality pieces of Story content every week will do more for your brand in the long run than a sloppily-edited or produced Story every day. And the principle of brevity also applies to each separate Story itself; most of the time, you won’t need your full minute, nor will you always need the full 10 seconds available for each video slide.

4.) Use Your Story to Listen

In many ways, social media is just as useful a tool for listening as it is for creating content. Your Instagram Story is a chance for you to communicate with your audience – but it’s also a great tool for hearing what they have to say to you, as well.

One of the most effective ways to do so is to keep track of who’s watching or engaging with your Story. Take note of where users tend to tap out, as this may suggest that you’ll want to take a different approach the next time you post. There’s nothing wrong with a little trial and error!

More importantly, keep track of the users who are watching your Story through to its conclusion, as this audience may be primed and ready to really start heading down your conversion funnel. Follow up with your most devoted Story watchers with a direct message – perhaps using a personalized video or photo – to to continue the conversation in private, where you can ease them into making a deal or engaging with another piece of content.

You may also consider offering rewards to anyone who follows your story to the end; this could be as little as a discount code for your product, or it could be a new piece of content. Either way, you’ll increase your brand loyalty and encourage users to follow through with you, making it more likely that they’ll become conversions somewhere down the line.

Have any more questions about using Instagram for marketing? Have any Story tips or tricks that you think we need to know? Whatever the case, we’d love to hear from you! Why not get the conversation started by following us on Instagram today?

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).