One of the biggest features to hit social media in 2016 was the launch of Instagram Stories. Early reports showed nearly 100 million daily active users engaging with the feature that closely resembles Snapchat’s own stories function.

Both work as a 24-hour timeline to post videos and images where users can share with all of their followers. After the 24-hour period, the content vanishes, acting as an “in the moment” social media channel.

For many marketers, Instagram Stories becomes another social feature that is hard to track and measure effectively. While data around stories is lacking, brands can still use Instagram analytics tools to gain incredibly helpful insights into Instagram performance.

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Try Sprout Social for a free 30-day trial to see post performance, trends and audience engagement across all your Instagram profiles.

Before we get into the benefits of using Instagram Stories, let’s first take a look at what is a story and how to create one:

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What are Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories was released mid-2016, but most users have already grown accustomed to the new feature. Stories exist on the home tab and at the top of your feed, which is only visible on mobile devices.

Your profile will always appear first with a string of other profile icons of the people you follow. Instagrammers will only see your video if they follow your account. In fact, Instagram uses an algorithm (much in the same vein as Facebook) to showcase stories that you’re mostly likely to engage with first.

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Much like Snapchat Stories, Instagram Stories only last for 24 hours and disappear forever. You can go back and view other user’s stories again and receive a small set of stats of viewers and play count on your own content in that 24-hour period.

The bars at the top of the screen show you the total amount of content shared by a single user and a simple tap of the screen moves you to the next image or video.

How to Make an Instagram Story

Making a story on Instagram is extremely easy to do. Simply click on your profile icon or swipe right on the home page and click the “My Story” plus sign after you’ve captured your content. Your device will likely ask to use your camera.

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Hold down the camera button as long as you’d like for the video, which can go up to 10 seconds. Instagram provides these options for recording:

  • Live: Share live videos with your followers in real time and once finished, the content no longer exists on Instagram.
  • Normal: Post a video or single image to your story through the standard Instagram lens.
  • Boomerang:Use Boomerang to share a short video that plays forward and backward on repeat.
  • Hands-free: Record video without having to keep the record button pushed down (tap to stop recording).

Once you’ve recorded content, you can click the paintbrush, text or sticker button to write notes, add comments, stickers and drawing marks. Additionally, you can save the content to your device by clicking the down arrow button.

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After you finish, click the plus sign to add your story to your followers’ feed.

New Features for Instagram Stories

Even though Instagram Stories was released in August 2016, the network has already released several updates and new features. With emphasis on real-time sharing, Instagram continues to focus on upgrades to stories.

Some of the most recent updates include:

  • Stories on Explore: Instagram made it possible for users to find new stories from those recommended in your Explore function. The various stories are related specifically to your feed.
  • Boomerang: While Boomerang was launched in 2015 as a separate feature of the network, Instagram now includes the video feature within the app.
  • Mentions: You can now tag Instagram users within the stories feature, which will alert those included in the content.
  • Stickers: Whether it’s a geo-location, timestamp, weather status or a holiday-themed brush, Instagram has you covered with newly released stickers and paint features.
  • Instagram Live: Even though this feature is not available to every user just yet, the function allows users to go live with friends in stories.

Marketing Tactics for Instagram Stories

If you’re a brand, you still might be weary to hop on the Instagram Stories train. While many businesses struggle with pointing out the benefits of networks like Snapchat, there’s still ways to be successful.

According to eMarketer, Instagram’s newly released advertising platform already generated $1.5 billion in 2016 alone. And there’s expectations figure will grow to $5 billion by 2018, which means brands should heavily consider using Instagram for business.

Here we’ll go through some of the benefits and tactics marketers can take with Instagram Stories to see success:

Better Visibility on Instagram Story Feeds

The latest adoption of the Instagram algorithm has marketers scrambling to become visible in feeds. Just like Facebook, organic content is ordered on what the network thinks you’d prefer to see.

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With Instagram Stories, your content is more visible because of the adoption rate of users. If a user only has 10% of followers posting to stories, you have a much higher chance of being seen.

This means your Instagram Stories strategy should be to post regularly to stay current in feeds. Additionally, social media algorithms tend to lean toward users who are more active and receive of a lot of engagement.

Don’t just post to push content. Instead, focus on driving content that will build brand awareness and make your followers happy. If you’ve already got users following you, the last thing you want to do is annoy them.

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The 2016 Sprout Social Q3 Index found 41% of users will unfollow a brand on social if the posts don’t share relative info. On top of that, 71% said they have unfollowed brands because they were embarrassed by the content or brand.

It’s critical to be visible, but you should always focus on engaging and relevant content.

Increase Social Shares & Mentions

Like we mentioned above, posting too much content could have a negative effective if it’s not engaging. One of the benefits to Instagram Stories is the ability to limit content in the regular feed and reallocate that content to the stories feed.

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Over-posting on stories is something brands shouldn’t stress over in comparison to the regular feed. Stories acts as a way see and engage with unique content. Rationing your Instagram content between the regular feed and stories will help you get shares and mentions where it’s needed most without seeming overly promotional.

Another Avenue to Create Unique Content

Just like Snapchat, stories provides marketers with a unique avenue to create content. Unlike regular Instagram posts, stories are much more raw and unscripted. This means you don’t have to put in nearly as much production value into stories as regular content.

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However, this shouldn’t be a reason to slack on stories. Try bringing out your creative side with stories’ paintbrush and sticker features. Users are likely moving through your content at a blinding speed, so don’t overthink your content strategy.

Use the new feature to post behind-the-scenes content of your business. The rawness of your videos can highlight employees, your office or the work that goes into your product or service that people don’t see every day.

Additionally, you win at sharing this type of content because it’s so specific to only Instagram Stories. Post enough engaging content and users will flock to your feed to see what’s next.

Create More Personal Experiences

There’s a reason why Snapchat’s biggest users are humans instead of brands–the content provides a more personal connection. Whether it’s Kylie Jenner or DJ Khaled, these mega influencers drive engagement because of the personal aspect of the content.

instagram story tag example

Instagram Stories works the exact same. In fact, with the new feature to tag users in stories, content can be even more personal. These types of videos and images work well because they’re different from the rest of searchable social media content.

Stories allow brands to provide special promotions only available there. Again users can witness behind-the-scenes content only promoted on Instagram Stories. This makes the social media outlet a completely unique and more connected experience.

Use Instagram Stories to highlight the exclusivity of the network to drive buzz and word of mouth marketing. People will be more likely to view your content when they know it’s specifically catered to them.

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Don’t Ignore Your Potential Viewers

Instagram now has more than 600 million active users, which makes it one biggest social networks. While Snapchat only sits around 150 million active users, it makes more sense to tackle all of Instagram first as a business.

For social media marketers, Instagram Stories provides another feature to boost your presence on the network. It’s important to pay attention to your current followers and always be ready to reach out to more.

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The amount of engagement with this style of content can truly increase brand awareness and drive more users to your site to make a purchase.

However, with the growing amount of features, it’s becoming harder to wrangle your Instagram.

That’s why we recommend brands to use Sprout Social as their Instagram management tool, so it’s easier to track, monitor and engage with users on a single dashboard. Without a helpful social media tool, you could waste hours with content management and planning.

Had any success with Instagram Stories? Share your experiences in the comments below!