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McLellan: The benefits of Instagram


For the last two weeks, we’ve been exploring how brands can use Instagram to create community and connections.

Instagram Stories are different from regular Instagram posts because they come in a “slideshow” format, like the stories on Facebook. As on Facebook, Instagram Stories are only live for 24 hours, but stories can be saved to any of your devices and reused at a later point.

Since Stories were introduced in 2016, there has been a 400% increase in daily active users; 500 million people view a story every day. Sixty-two percent of businesses say a story prompted a direct message from a customer, helping build a relationship with their brand.

Also, like Facebook, Instagram Stories appear above the feed.

The benefits of Instagram Stories for brands are pretty impressive. The screen position is one. Stories are displayed at the top of timelines, where users already look daily.

Stories have more of an “in the moment” feel to them, so companies can post less official or more insider “behind the scenes” posts that will come and go in a day. It’s also a smart place to experiment with content types that you haven’t created as often, like short videos.

Many brands use Stories to do off-the-cuff videos where an influencer, brand spokesperson or rabid customers talk right to the camera. People love the authenticity and imperfection of these types of videos.

Even though stories disappear after 24 hours, you can save and reuse them. You can choose “share as post” and re-upload as a regular post. The three dots in the corner of your story will give you the option to delete, share as a post, save to your device, or view story settings.

Another cool feature of Instagram Stories is that you can also see who has watched your story. Navigate to your story, swipe up, and then you can view the list of people who watched it.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you experiment with Instagram Stories.

Don’t save the best for last: You need to grab the viewer’s attention within the first few seconds, so don’t go for a slow build. If you don’t capture their interest in the first five seconds, odds are you will lose them.

Think vertically: Stories only appear in a vertical format, so be sure to think through your shots from that point of view. This often means you can’t repurpose video you’ve shot for other purposes. Which actually is a good thing. This content should feel more off the cuff and casual than most of what you’d produce for other purposes.

Be bold about your brand: There’s a fine line here. You want the content to be engaging and not feel like a sales pitch, but you do want your brand to shine. Find a way for your company to be woven into the content rather than be the topic of the content.

Optimize for sound-on viewing: Even though every best practice tells you to assume people have their sound off when viewing video, with Stories it’s different. Most viewers know they need to be able to listen, so they turn their sound back on.

Creative a narrative arc: Even though this is casual and should feel organic, it doesn’t mean you should phone it in. Give it the creative concepting time you’d give any execution.

It’s worth mentioning that Stories are only available on the mobile app version of Instagram. Fortunately, most users access the site from the app rather than the website version, so you probably don’t have to worry about it.

Hopefully these last few columns have gotten your creative juices flowing and I’ll be seeing you and your brand on Instagram soon!

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