Instagram Stories first appeared on the platform in 2016 as a response to the popularity of the ephemeral disappearing photo/video feature introduced by Snapchat. Instagram Stories are impermanent; they disappear after 24 hours. However, Instagram Stories for ecommerce businesses are extremely valuable because they appear at the head of a user’s news feed, which provides great potential for page prominence. They are free to run and a great way to engage with potential and existing customers. With a bit of research and lateral thinking, Instagram Stories can broaden your market quickly, whilst adding important visibility to your brand.
How Many People Use Instagram?
Instagram has 600 million users around the world, as opposed to Snapchat’s 100 million, so the potential for business is vast with both platforms. We’re going to be exploring the ways in which businesses have embraced Instagram Stories to create buzz around their brands.
Who is Instagram Aimed At?
Americans check their phones often throughout the day. According to Sprout Social:
- 59% of 18-29-year-olds (the Millennials) use Instagram,
- As well as 33% of 30-49-year-olds (the Gen X’ers)
- And 18% 50-64-year-olds (the Baby Boomers)
The widely accepted perception that Instagram is just a teenager’s platform, therefore, is not correct.
Whilst the platform is most popular with Millennials, the Gen X’ers and the Baby Boomers are getting in on the action as well. This suggests that there is a healthy 30+ tech-savvy audience out there, making Instagram an ideal platform for businesses to publicize their brand.
What Are Instagram Stories?
Instagram Stories are 10 second, impermanent collections of still photos and/or videos that disappear from the platform after 24 hours. They can be shot directly from the Instagram app or you can add images from your camera roll. Additionally, you can digitally add text, doodles, and emojis on top of the images.
Instagram Stories appear at the top of the Instagram feed, placing them in prime real estate for engaging with the user. Get your share of 600 million users by presenting your company in an interesting way.
How to Use Instagram Stories for Ecommerce Businesses
Represent Your Brand Positively
The danger with a service such as Instagram Stories is that the impermanence could possibly equate to producing poor quality content. Just because you can produce ephemeral content, doesn’t always mean that you should. Remember that you’re creating a window, presenting your brand to the world. Make sure that you give your content some proper thought and ensure that you’re presenting your company in a positive light. A lazily put-together piece could do more damage than good.
Maximize the FOMO Feeling
The impermanence of the Instagram Story is what makes the feature so powerful, so maximize on FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). The “here today, gone tomorrow” aspect of the service can be perfectly tailored to special offers, guest posts, “intrigue stings” and lots of other clever methods of surprising the audience.
The time-critical nature of Instagram Stories arouses a sense of urgency, so keeping your stories interesting is key. Use the impermanence of the format to make your audience feel that you are offering an opportunity to see something that others are going to miss out on. Give them a sneaky insight into who you are as a business and what it is that you do.
Add a Call-to-Action
The more stories you post, the more likely it will be that yours will appear at the top of your audience’s feeds, so posting regularly is important. For maximum efficacy, your mini-campaign should grab the audience’s attention and be followed by a call-to-action (CTA).
The “Swipe Up” feature of Instagram Stories allows the poster to send their audience to direct links which makes calls-to-action particularly effective and easy to implement.
Provide Special Offers
Instagram Stories is the perfect platform for announcing (and redeeming) time-sensitive special offers. The clock is ticking, so use this to your advantage.
Try running daily, weekly or monthly offers that are exclusive to your Instagram Stories audience. Suggest that the users redeem your offer by “swiping up”, or send them to a dedicated landing page. These simple things can majorly increasing customer engagement with your company.
Direct engagement promotes the feeling that the customer is a part of your brand which makes your customers feel that they have some input into your success.
Consistently Provide Value
Special offers should provide something of decent value—a couple of dollars off a product isn’t going to entice your audience in the long run. Continued low-value offers will result in users skipping your stories and tuning you out.
That’s not to say that you should be bankrupting yourselves just to get exposure—it doesn’t have to be money off. Thinking outside the box is a marketer’s best weapon!
There have been many groundbreaking marketing campaigns of the last thirty years. There are two that we can learn a huge amount from. The keyword, here, is mysterious.
First Direct is a British bank that launched in 1989. Their first-ever advertisement appeared to “hijack” the air-waves, by interrupting the broadcast of a conventional advert from another brand. Nobody had ever heard of First Direct, and the advert offered no explanation as to what they did. They failed to mention the word “bank” during the entirety of the advertisement.
But this was no mistake—they left the audience wondering what the advertisement was all about.
What was memorable from the ad was the company’s branding and their name. The advertisement excited the audience’s curiosity, and the next time a First Direct ad appeared, everyone was listening because they wanted to know more.
Orange is a cell phone operator who launched in the UK in 1993. They launched their brand with a nationwide billboard campaign that gave no explanation as to what market they were hoping to break and without providing any information about their service.
Their billboards each consisted of a single word printed in a distinctive orange-colored font against a plain black background: Cry, laugh, talk, listen. The posters displayed the company logo in the bottom corner, accompanied by the name “Hutchison Telecom” which was printed in a tiny, easily missable typeface
The posters were hung around bus stops, where people started to discuss what they thought the advert was trying to say. Nobody knew exactly what the posters were advertising until the accompanying TV branding campaign followed a couple of months later, by which time, the people were listening. Word-of-mouth spread and the intrigue paid off.
Obviously, First Direct and Orange had huge marketing budgets, but what those examples demonstrate is that you can provoke intrigue when you provide mysterious advertising. Consider how you can translate mystery into your business’ Instagram Stories—perhaps by giving sneak peeks of upcoming products before you announce them.
Tease with an image and your audience will actively pursue your story by swiping to the next one to find out more. Intrigue, however, is a volatile device—hold on for too long and people get bored, give it away too quickly and the conversation outside of the platform doesn’t start.
Moon and Lola have embraced the concept of intrigue in a really simple, effective, way on their Instagram page. The North Carolina jewelry and homeware company launched a new hoop earring with a simple text overlay—Oh. My. Gosh. The simplicity in this story is its absolute strength.
The first image presents the intrigue—we’re not entirely sure what the “Oh.” refers to. The next image, “My.” could mean a number of things. The final image, “Gosh.” affirms the branding and completes the story.
Without a wordy sales pitch, you’ve seen their new product three times, on three different customers and hopefully, it’s excited your interest. Giving little information and capitalizing on the visual medium can be extremely effective.
Three is the Magic Number
The rule of three appears throughout the creative world: Present, reinforce, pay-off.
For example, if you sell sofa cushions present an image of an old, unloved sofa on your business’ Instagram Story that looks tired and ready for the scrap heap. Follow it with an image of your wonderful new range of cushions by themselves to showcase them up close. Finally, show your cushions on the sofa in your first image and showcase how the old sofa comes back to life with your new cushions.
Three is a perfect recipe to entice, surprise and to pay-off.
Create a Guest Segment
A great way of getting your story out there is to open up your Instagram Story to a guest who represents your company. It could be a member of staff, talking about their day at work, or a customer showing how your product has had some kind of positive impact on their day.
Feed people’s curiosity—share behind the scenes footage. Perhaps film a clip with your distributor or your designer—show how they help develop the products that end up on the shelves.
Putting a face to a brand is an excellent way to humanize your company.
Even big businesses such as L’Oreal have taken advantage of the Instagram Story.
Their campaigns have gone the extra mile and taken the production of the 10-second ad outside of the Instagram app. They’ve gathered high-quality imagery, enhanced by brand-specific text fonts, thus setting their campaigns apart from the rest, demonstrating the caliber of their brand.
This is easy to do and you don’t need a budget.
Get some great photographs—decent lighting is always the key to quality images. The camera on your mobile phone is easily good enough, especially as super HD is going to have to be compressed anyway. Consider good composition—check here for tips.
The text overlay can be done very simply, using services such as Canva.
Explore Hashtag Holidays
Create or use hashtag holidays that relate to your business: #MarvellousMondays, #TacoTuesdays, #WellyWednesdays, #BlackFriday. Alliteration is often the key to creating a memorable hashtag.
You could start-up a conversation on your Instagram Story using these hashtags and encourage your audience to use these hashtags as well. Make sure to be consistent with your hashtags if you want them to be memorable with your audience. If you want your audience to know about #MarvellousMondays around your office, make sure you post about it every Monday.
Remember that the more regularly you post an Instagram Story the more likely you’ll be to find your way to the front of the queue for your followers to find. Free marketing should never be sniffed at; if you’re running a business, you know how challenging marketing can be. This is a free way to get your product in front of your audience so make use of it and get them engaged with your brand.