A few days ago Instagram introduced a new feature dubbed Stories. As the name implies, Instagram Stories allows users to share multiple photos and videos all under one album or slideshow-like format to tell the “story” of their day. All content in users’ Stories disappears after 24 hours.

Social-savvy brands might compare Instagram Stories to Snapchat Stories, which are also collections of pictures and videos which last for only a day before expiring completely. In this sense, Instagram Stories isn’t a novel concept. However, with Instagram’s impressive track record of helping brands boost their online presence and gain millions of video views, video marketers have a unique opportunity to harness this new feature and use it to their advantage.

Why Instagram Stories Are Important for Brands

Instagram Stories have a couple of worthwhile benefits to offer brands looking to master the platform and grow their following. One of these benefits is the ability for brands to upload their content directly to a Story instead of as individual posts, while still providing multiple images and videos for their followers to enjoy throughout the day. Text and drawing tools are also available to spice up the content uploaded to Stories. This allows for more creativity in developing a brand’s unique style and character, and enticing followers to view the Story to see just what a brand has prepared for them.

Instagram has also chosen to restrict the ability for users to like or comment on Story content. This decision takes the pressure off brands from chasing after likes and comments, or crafting the “perfect” Instagram post. Instead, video marketers on Instagram can focus solely on creating unique content in a casual setting to enhance their brand’s image.

Another key aspect about Instagram Stories is the feature’s noticeable presence in the Instagram app. When followed accounts post new content to their Stories, users will see a colored ring around those accounts’ profile pictures in the top Story bar. In essence, uploading a steady stream of photos and videos to a Story means brands will have a better chance of staying front-and-center in followers’ feeds than those who choose to post only a photo or two a day.

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4 Ways Brands Can Use Instagram Stories

The importance of Instagram Stories for brands should be clear by now, but none of those points matter if brands don’t actually implement Stories in their Instagram marketing. Here are a few key ways to start doing just that:

#1 Use Stories for to Cover an Event: At first glance, the slideshow style of Instagram Stories may seem inconsequential. But in some instances, your brand may not want to constantly bombard your followers with content throughout the day.

For example, if multiple team members of Brand Awesome were at a convention and all of them were using Brand Awesome’s Instagram account, Awesome’s followers might get overwhelmed by the amount of content and choose to unfollow the account. In this case, it may be in Brand Awesome’s best interests to instead allow all its team members to post to one Story, which its followers can watch at their leisure all in one go.

#2 Make it a Not to Miss Feature for Followers: It’s also important to take a cue from Instagram’s new feature and think about ways your brand can tell a story which will delight your followers and make your Instagram Stories a can’t-miss part of their day.
A good example of storytelling comes from National Geographic, one of the most skilled brands around at dominating social media and video marketing. On Instagram on August 9, the wildlife and nature-centric company posted a string of images and videos around the replica of a Viking longhouse in Denmark:

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#3 Use Stories to Highlight: If stringing together an entire story isn’t your brand’s forte, consider putting together highlights from the day instead. Going back to the example of Brand Awesome, it would make sense for this company to use Stories to post highlights of the convention it attended from the different viewpoints of its team members.

Using Instagram Stories as a highlight reel seems especially fitting for sports-related brands such as the NBA or this year’s Olympic Games. These companies could post photos or videos of important moments, athlete interviews, and even game results on an Instagram Story to catch up their followers on the day’s events. In fact, this is exactly what the MLB is doing now with its newspaper-like #MLBTimes Stories:

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#4 Make Content Go Further: If your brand is also on Snapchat, consider killing two birds with one stone. Save your Snapchat Stories by downloading them to your phone, and then uploading them to Instagram Stories.

Like any good social video marketer, make sure you pay attention to how your audience reacts to the double-posting of content. Some followers may not notice, as they only keep up with your brand on one platform instead of both. However, if you feel your followers aren’t reacting well to the double-posting, cut the practice immediately and re-focus your efforts on providing content unique to the separate platforms.

Instagram’s Stories feature is a new and welcome opportunity for brands and video marketers alike to show their content chops. Stories are a great avenue for providing followers in-the-moment photos and videos which don’t need to be primped and polished before going live, and they also provide a fresh way for brands to be creative and compelling on a platform otherwise singularly focused on individual content posts. We’re eager to see how brands start to use Stories in the coming weeks.