Instagram_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

In August, Instagram introduced Stories, its own version of one of Snapchat’s most popular features. Users create Stories by selecting a series of images that are displayed montage style, and can be augmented with text or graphics. Stories exist for only 24 hours. Instagram has recently moved the Stories feature so it can now be found in the Explore tab.

 

Since their launch, Stories have proven to be one of Instagram’s most popular features. Nearly 100 million users watch Stories daily, representing a third of Instagram’s user base. In an effort to attract even more views, Instagram is reportedly experimenting with adding Live Video functionality to Stories.

 

Creating compelling Instagram stories

Nearly half of the top 200 companies on the Fortune 500 are active on Instagram. The brands that have been most successful on the platform include Nike, Red Bull, and Mercedes Benz. They all share a similar storytelling strategy: rather than focus directly on their products and services, these brands create stories focused on the lifestyle their fans admire. Nike’s Stories include athletic accomplishments, while Red Bull features more extreme adventures. The Mercedes Benz feed features Stories illustrating the thrills that come with driving a luxury car through winding European mountain roads.

 

This strategy is definitely scalable for small businesses. While your company may not have Red Bull’s budget to host and cover cliff diving events, it’s more than possible to create Stories based on actual events happening in and around your community that appeal to your target market.

 

Instagram_PQ.jpgPromoting sales and product launches

The ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories makes them the ideal vehicle to promote flash sales and other promotional events. The retailer J. Crew had great success using Stories to promote their new Jane in Pink sunglasses. During a limited-time sale, the J. Crew team posted Stories featuring models wearing the sunglasses as they went about their day.  Sales of the glasses immediately spiked and remained strong even after the Story was gone from view.

 

But it’s important for small businesses to understand how much work goes into running a flash sale successfully. Creating the Instagram Story is only a part of this campaign. Any small business with an e-commerce platform must ensure their website, particularly the shopping cart functionality, is working flawlessly in advance of launch. Stories’ position on the Explore tab means your content can be seen by many people in addition to your normal follower base. You want to be prepared in case your offer resonates with these additional viewers.

 

Cross promotion is key

To realize full value from your Instagram Stories, you want to make sure to promote them across Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms you utilize. You may also want to feature the imagery used in Instagram Stories on your website. Messaging apps are powerful tools to use to drive customers to flash sales being hosted on Instagram. Make sure the path to purchase is extremely clear for these users.

 

 

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