Instagram Stories are changing the face of social media. Originated by IG, and inspired by Snapchat, Stories are becoming a key format for all social media platforms. You’ll find them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, FB Messenger, WhatsApp, and YouTube. And we can't forget TikTok, which is nothing but Stories.
What makes Stories distinct from standard posts? When you click on a story, it consumes 100% of screen real estate. Besides being immersive and mobile-first by design, they’re short and serial, impromptu and transparent, but most of all ephemeral — a recipe for high-consumption.
In order to create engaging Stories content, you should understand why this trending format is taking off. And, we'll discuss ways to build Stories into your current content marketing strategy.
The science behind Instagram Stories
Historically, social media has been a place for people to seek out contacts, influencers, or brands. The resulting like, follow, or connect, ensures that your profile's content appears in their feed. That reach is called organic impressions.
The attention economy
Tables have turned with the introduction of advertising and analytics. Influencers, celebrities, and brands can seek followers and pursue engagement, giving rise to the attention economy.
As a result, the news feed becomes center stage on every social media platform. (Remember you had to visit a friend’s FB wall to see what they were up to?)
It’s hard to remember when newsfeeds weren’t a thing. But trust me: Stories are the next social media frontier. Embracing new trends early on means you don't fall behind peers and competitors. Master the art and science of Stories to keep your brand's presence fresh and active on social media.
People are aware that their attention is up for grabs. They don’t want to scroll mindlessly through news feeds in pursuit of content, pulled into distracting posts. And the more profiles a user follows, the less likely they are to encounter what they want in their crowded feed, even with algorithms.
Newsfeeds and standard posts aren’t going out of style. But, when influencers or brands release Stories, users can jump to fresh valuable content, as if they changed the channel on a remote control.
What sets Stories apart from other formats is their expiration date. And you know how motivating FOMO can be. Yet, you’re probably wondering whether you should invest time or effort into fleeting 24-hour content.
The good news is that Instagram Stories can now be archived and curated for later viewing by saving them to your highlights. But, with or without the FOMO factor, they have a certain appeal distinct from your feed-relevant evergreen content.
Although brands and creators can target audiences, it’s easy for those audiences to get lost in a sea of news feed content. Here’s how Stories cut through the noise...
With standard posts, you appear in a follower’s feed, right? So, let’s imagine your content reaches followers, organically or through a paid campaign. If you don't captivate viewers, within milliseconds, they can simply scroll by, and you lose the opportunity for engagement or conversion.
With Stories, once a viewer starts watching, they’re immersed, full-screen. And just like scrolling through the newsfeed, the user can tap to go to the next post. However, their attention is locked in, exclusively, to your brand’s channel (provided you release a series of Stories.)
This experience, if you can tap into it, translates to higher impression metrics, plus higher engagement and conversion rates.
Building Stories into your content strategy
Now that you know the science behind Stories, it's easier to decide what content is feed-worthy and what content is story-worthy. Let’s dive into everything you need to know about layering Stories onto your evergreen content and bypassing that newsfeed.
The Stories vibe
Evergreen posts are polished and planned out in detail. While Stories content also deserves a plan, it's important not to overproduce. Stories can be short 15-second videos, GIFs, or photos with text overlays.
Videos can be up to 15 seconds and pictures can air for 7 seconds.
The general direction for Stories video posts is casual, intimate, and impromptu, capturing a moment in time. This backstage pass to your brand, generates a feeling of connection. Instagram's marketing campaign for Stories is "Share Everyday Moments."
Short curated video content usually centered on talent can be posted as an Instagram Reel. It's worth noting that only followers can view your Stories, whereas, Reels can be viewed publicly.
Connecting with your audience.
To boost connection is to make content that is interactive. In addition to reactions, Instagram Stories are adding in more audience participation features like stickers, polls, and question prompts that invite engagement.
Stories are the most popular format for collaborating with influencers. And with Gen Zs and Millennials demanding authenticity and transparency from brands, it’s where you want to place the bulk of your influencer content.
How much and how often?
The answer is: As many and as often as you can. Remember, Stories should come in serial bursts. A standalone story could be great, but in a series, you have the opportunity to keep a follower tuned into your brand’s "station."
Be prepared to create sets of related Stories released in tandem. Of course, Knowing How to Effectively Shoot and Edit Mobile Video goes a long way.
Is design important?
Though the focus is on spontaneous, raw content, you should still consider design. You likely have a social media style guide for your planned posts — if you don’t, it’s time to make one. Stories may not be as polished as regular posts, but be sure to stay on brand with fonts and colors. You can even set up Stories templates for consistency.
The Color Map tool in the UNUM app can help you to create a consistent aesthetic for story posts. Discover your brand colors, and you can select the right filters for editing photos and videos.
Spontaneity on a schedule
Despite their unstructured nature, you can roll Stories out on a regular schedule to keep fans anticipating. Sure, you can post them at random, but it would be wise to take advantage of analytics. You should track impression and engagement metrics to determine your viewer's time zones.
Experiment with different times of the day until you find the slots with the highest engagement. Continue to schedule posts for that slot, you can even plan posts a few weeks out if you have the right publishing tools.
What about hashtags?
You might think hashtags aren’t as important for Instagram Stories due to the disappearance of a dedicated caption space; but they still matter. I’ve found that the most efficient way to choose hashtags is to put a photo or video through UNUM’s Hashtag Generator. It auto-generates the perfect hashtags for any post. You can select the ones you want and even include your own.
Keep in mind that Story hashtags get slapped on as a sticker, so choose the ones that contribute to visual storytelling.
Outline Your Strategy
Start with a goal as you outline your Stories strategy. What do you as an influencer, brand, or marketer expect out of Stories content — brand awareness, more follows, increased engagement or conversions? Determine your end game, and you can outline your Stories to be scalable with your evergreen content.
Wise creators and marketers repurpose their content for different platforms. You might shoot a travel video on your smartphone to post on IG Stories, then drop that same content into YouTube Shorts and TikTok.
Remember, you should have an overall marketing strategy that includes a dedicated Stories content strategy.
For more actionable tips, check out How to Create Instagram Stories Content Like Pro.