Instagram launched its “Stories” feature two years ago. Since then, it has quickly become one of the most popular components of the social media app among its more than 800 million users.
The format encourages spontaneous, even quirky content. This gives the content a compelling sense of timeliness and urgency. It taps into users’ feelings of FOMO—fear of missing out—making it a powerful platform for brands hoping to boost engagement with their current and potential customers.
Are you just getting started with Stories, or do you need some inspiration to keep your content interesting? Whatever the case, check out these Instagram Story ideas to take your social media marketing strategy to the next level.
1. Go live
Content simply doesn’t get any fresher than this. Many users tune in for that sense of the unexpected, since anything can happen on a live feed. This makes it a perfect platform for announcing a new product, launching a contest or covering an event.
For example, when news website UnboxTherapy live-streamed the most recent Apple product launch event, more than a million viewers tuned in to get the first glimpses of the Apple iPhone 8 and iPhone X.
Users can also interact with the video stream in real time through comments or emojis. This makes live Stories a good place for ‘ask me anything’ style question-and-answer sessions. The opportunity for real-time interaction between the brand and the audience lends a powerful sense of connection and authenticity to this platform.
With Instagram Live, your followers will receive a notification that you’re starting a live stream, which can help build your live audience. Once the live stream is over, you can also upload it to your Stories so users who couldn’t tune in can still catch it for the next few hours.
2. Drive users to your content
By adding a compelling call to action to your Story, you can turn audience members into customers and drive traffic to your site. Instagram Stories allow you to add a swipe up link to your Story. This can be especially effective when the Story features a specific product or special offer. Please note, to utilize link within your Instagram Stories, you must have a business account through Instagram and a minimum of 10,000 followers.
For example, Starbucks recently promoted its new cold brew beverages on its Instagram Stories and invited followers to swipe up to place their order.
Consider these additional uses for the link feature:
- Use Stories to announce new blog content and direct users to it via the “swipe up” link.
- Promote content that’s too lengthy for Stories, like webinars or tutorials.
- Tease exclusive content, like video outtakes so people will click through for more.
To create a link in Instagram Stories, click on the chain link icon at the top of your Story. In the new window that appears, add your link and tap “Done” – or the green check-mark for Android devices – to save your link. Finish by adding any additional stickers, emojis or filters to your Story. Be sure to use text to add your “swipe up” call-to-action.
3. Offer a sneak peek
Using Stories to tease an upcoming announcement or event gives your Instagram audience a feeling of exclusivity. This makes them want to come back for the big reveal.
For example, United Airlines used a still photo in its Instagram feed. This directed followers to their Story of a new United Polaris lounge getting ready to open at the Newark, N.J. airport. This example is two-fold with the brand offering a sneak peak to drive views of its Story, where it shared another exclusive sneak peek of its latest service.
Exclusive insights are an awesome way to increase engagement for your latest Story updates and make for great Story content. They build brand trust and give people a great reason to follow your account.
4. Take followers behind the scenes
A behind-the-scenes look at some element of your brand – whether it’s the making of a product, like Buzzfeed Tasty’s ever-popular recipe stories, a facility tour or a “day in the life” of an employee – builds deeper, more intimate connections with followers.
Given the visually attractive and dynamic nature of Instagram Stories, behind-the-scenes looks can do a great job of adding that ‘human’ element to your strategy.
Do you have something exciting going on in the background? Clothes brands, like Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren, often use Stories to give glimpses of what goes on backstage at their fashion shows. By getting to see something only brand insiders usually experience, followers feel like they’re a part of an exclusive club. This enhances their understanding of, and affinity to, your brand.
For example, talk show host Steve Harvey recently used Instagram Stories to promote a behind-the-scenes look at his interview with rapper Snoop Dogg.
5. Poll your audience
Polls are a relatively new feature on Instagram.They are a fun way to engage your followers, whether it’s on a business-related topic like a new product idea or something more trivial, like whether they’d rather eat only pizza or only tacos for the rest of their lives.
Sports teams have used Instagram’s polls to get fans to predict the outcome of an upcoming game – nothing encourages user interaction like a little team rivalry. Meanwhile, hummus brand Sabra asked its followers to choose their favorite flavor from the brand’s offerings.
Creating a poll is simple. Once you’ve recorded your Story, open the ‘stickers menu’ and tap the ‘poll’ sticker. You’ll be asked to add a question and customize your answer choices. When you post your Story, followers will be able to cast their vote and see the results in real time, every time they come back to view the Story.
6. Let someone else take over
Letting one of your followers take over your Instagram Stories for a few hours or even an entire day is the ultimate grassroots tactic for connecting with customers.
Not only will the lucky individual’s family and friends follow along to see their loved one broadcasting to a massive audience, but it also shows that your brand is in touch with the people who use it. It can also provide potential followers with a real-world illustration of how your brand fits into their lives.
Don’t worry, you won’t need to share your account login. Most brands simply ask them to send photos or short videos that you can then upload directly to your Stories.
For example, General Electric held a contest to send one of its Instagram followers on a trip to visit the GE Aviation facility in Wales. As part of his prize, he took over the company’s Instagram account for the day to share his experience. This is a brilliant way to extend the impact of a competition or to raise awareness for an event or cause.
Social media “influencers” are also an effective choice for a takeover, as they’ll typically bring a substantial following of their own to your brand’s feed. Consider recruiting an influencer from a complementary niche to yours. This will maximize crossover awareness with an audience that may not otherwise be exposed to your brand.
7. Counting down the days – or minutes
You can create hype for an upcoming product launch, special event or holiday by running a countdown on Stories. Your followers’ anticipation will build as the big day gets closer and they will feel like they have a stake in what’s going on.
Additionally, you’ll have an audience which is excited about your event or purchasing your newest product. And who doesn’t want product-hungry consumers?
8. Make your Story stand out with stickers and special effects
Visuals are a great way to boost engagement and can communicate a lot when there is limited space – they are ideal for Instagram Stories. The Stories feature includes an ever-expanding menu of sticker options to add visual energy and variety to your videos. You can choose from the following:
- Geotags Hashtags
Special effects can also give your videos a playful, attention-grabbing look:
9. Incorporate user-generated content
This approach is slightly different from an Instagram takeover. It is not limited to a specific timeframe or a single user. Your followers are much more likely to interact with your brand on social media if – you not only respond to their tags and comments but, also, share their brand-inspired content with the rest of your audience.
As per research conducted by Crowdtap and Ipsos, millennials find user-generated content to be 50% more trustworthy than other content. This is primarily due to its authenticity. These content creators have no monetary incentive to share their brand-related content, they are simply sharing their real-life experiences with the brand.
Encourage your followers to submit their content by providing a theme or asking them to answer a question about how they incorporate your brand into their daily lives. Ask them to tag your brand and then periodically share the best ones in your Stories. You can also ask them to post their content using your hashtag.
Australian beauty brand Frank Body leveraged user-generated content by asking followers to share photos and videos of themselves using the company’s coffee body scrub using the hashtags “#LetsBeFrank” or “TheFrankEffect.” Within a year, followers submitted more than 25,000 photos and videos. Additionally, the company gained 350,000 new followers over the same period. You can see this UGC featured in the company’s Stories too.
10. Create a Story storm
By their very nature, Instagram Stories are designed to be brief. Occasionally, you might want to tell a longer Story. Post a continuous series of updates around one theme or topic to form a Story storm.
Story storms stand out from the typical blink-and-it’s-over Story format and create the opportunity to expand your message.
Still, keep in mind that most users scroll through Instagram expecting concise content. For this reason, Story storms are most effective when used sparingly and strategically.
And that’s a wrap!
The Instagram Stories feature is a fantastic tool for building your brand identity, growing your audience and connecting with new and existing followers. Almost 250 million people use Stories on a daily basis, and one-third of the most popular Story posts are created by businesses.
The results speak for themselves – one in five brand Stories lead to direct messages or other contacts from followers. Best of all, it requires almost no investment aside from a little bit of time and some creativity.
So what are you waiting for? Get on Instagram and start telling your brand’s Story.
Do you have some interesting Instagram Story ideas? Share them with us in the comments section below.
Guest author: Manvi Agarwal, Marketing & Communication Strategist at SocialPilot
Manvi is a Marketing & Communication Strategist at SocialPilot. Social Media is Manvi’s niche area in which she employs an interactive user-oriented strategy and loves exploring the industry’s tips and tricks. Besides social media, Manvi loves experiencing new things and trying new food!
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