Instagram Stories 101: Utilizing Stories' In-App Features

    April 25 2019

    Many marketers face the challenge of keeping up with the incredibly fast-paced digital landscape. As a result, social media platforms have become accustomed to catering to the constant need to build and iterate. When talking specifically about Instagram, the platform is continually working to unveil new tools to enhance the experience in new and dynamic ways — look at Instagram Stories for instance. From the Giphy and Spotify extensions to the use of Polling and Q&A features, this article will examine why utilizing these elements can be used as both a strategic communication tool while also taking your visual storytelling to the next level.

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    The Great Debate

    The great debate over whether or not specific content should live on one's Instagram Grid vs. Instagram Stories is often top of mind for social-first brands. While these factors vary on a case by case basis, it's important to think about the following:

    Production Quality The shift towards more candid, raw content has afforded flexibility to both brands and content creators in that they can still create compelling content with limited resources. With that said, the rise of Instagram Stories has become the perfect place for these more real-time, off-the-cusp social stories to really make an impact with your followers. But when thinking about whether or not your content should live on your brand's Instagram Grid or Stories, consider its medium and intended purpose. For example, say you want to use Instagram to share a look into your brand's most recent campaign shoot. Do you have behind-the-scenes assets from the shoot day? Posting on Instagram Stories may be a better use of this content as you can share more unedited, authentic insights into the process vs. posting the more highly-produced campaign assets — which may be better suited for your grid to help further define your brand's overall visual aesthetic at first glance when someone lands on your feed. Varying Visuals Speaking of visuals, it's also important to understand your visual branding and how it exists not only across social channels but within specific platform experiences. For Instagram, Stories has become a powerful tool to build upon what otherwise used to be perfectly polished imagery that was edited to maintain consistency with the other posts on your grid. However, when thinking about what to share on either side of the platform, it's worth noting that Stories provides more tools and customization to vary your visuals in new and exciting ways. We'll get into the specifics of this later in the article, but if your brand is looking for more of a visual content "refresh," Stories is a great option to try out new embellishments and ways of presenting your brand's visual assets. Deeper Storytelling Last but not least, and depending on the nature of your brand's voice and POV, it is essential to look at how and where to best use Instagram to dig into your brand narrative. Many often use Stories for more multifaceted storytelling that includes a variety of content mediums (from static imagery to on-camera discussions), which enables users to really deep dive into certain topics that they might not have normally explored further in a grid post. Whether you're selling a product or educating your followers on a topic, it's important to understand how much "content real estate" you'll need to get the message across effectively and in an engaging way. Enter the next section of this story.

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    Instagram Story In-App Features

    Now that we've outlined a few considerations for where to post certain kinds of Instagram content, we'll get into the meat of what makes Instagram Stories' in-app tools so useful concerning branding and communication. Currently, Instagram Stories has a plethora of fun add-ons to make your content stand out — ranging from emoji stickers to music from Spotify — but these elements can elicit more than just a smile when implemented effectively. If you look at some of the features like the Q&A and Polling buttons, these tools are great to engage with your followers and solicit feedback around specific products or brand initiatives. Supergoop! (@supergoop) recently used the Q&A tool to do just that. The brand engaged their followers to ask their founder Holly Thaggard questions they have regarding skincare, business, and so on. And because Supergoop! has an educational/scientific component to their branding (if you look at their feed they have robust Highlight called Sun 101 which includes educational content and takeovers on the importance of skincare), using the Q&A feature like this both reinforces customer relationships and acts as a form of research. Garnering feedback in this way can be especially valuable (and in some cases more honest) if your brand's products are in the wellness or health categories. In whatever case, Supergoop! is generally a leading brand to look at for their use of Instagram Stories across the board. From their use of GIFs and cute stickers to recurring takeovers to educational content series, they are a prime example of the many storytelling opportunities that can be tapped into when using Stories' in-app features to its fullest potential. Similarly, Girls' Night In (@girlsnightin) has also mastered the art of Stories and its many features which take the brand's social content to the next level. This lifestyle platform and newsletter is specifically known for its fun and relatable POV which is clearly defined in the Girls' Night In grid content — which ranges from branded assets to wellness-focused memes and regrams from the community. This same approach also extends to the Girls' Night In Stories, but the team often uses the Q&A and Polling features to communicate with their followers beyond just their weekly newsletters. Coupling this with their consistent use of GIFs and other on-brand visual elements like stickers and emoji, Girls' Night In has been able to maintain consistency across channels by using these fun visual and interactive tools to bring an otherwise copy-heavy brand to life in an accessible and easily digestible way.

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    With these examples and use-cases in mind, think about the below when integrating in-app features into your Stories content strategy:

    What is the conversation that is best suited for my brand on Instagram Stories... and how do I use these in-app features to maintain interest? Instagram has enabled everyone to self-publish at the touch of a button, so in an increasingly oversaturated landscape, using Stories to delineate yourself from other brands is crucial. Doing this also forces you to think about how to use Stories to start or keep a conversation going long term. It may be as simple as using GIFs within a similar category (i.e., humor, fashion, beauty, etc.) or posting a recurring Q&A that ties back to a more extensive product initiative. It's also worth analyzing the landscape of your industry and seeing how brands are NOT using these features and where you can further capitalize on these opportunities to become a leader in the Story space.

    How much time should I carve out for Instagram Stories vs. other elements of the Instagram experience? While we've addressed Stories as being a place for more raw, real-time content, it's still worth understanding how much time goes into creating the actual Story assets (especially when taking it a step further with the interactive tools mentioned above). As you craft your Stories strategy, think about how these elements can play a role in more significant brand moments — like gathering feedback or insights around a product launch or engaging with your followers on a lifestyle story, and so on. Additionally, it's important to consider how Stories can support your brand's other Instagram content (including Grid and/or IG Live and TV posts). Narrowing in on this will ultimately help focus your overarching Instagram strategy, and in turn, save you time and allow you to use these Story features in a way that enhances your content and communication with your followers during key periods in your brand and content calendar. To sum things up, there's a lot to dig into when it comes to utilizing Instagram Stories' in-app features in a way that makes sense for you as a content creator or a brand. While the case for using some of these elements may vary, it's worth exploring these readily-available (and free!) features, especially if you lack additional creative and/or monetary resources to evolve your content. If you'd like to see more posts about how to do this effectively, reach out to our team and be sure to catch up on all of our Best Practices articles here on the blog!


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