When Instagram rolled out Instagram Stories, a Snapchat-esque feature that allows users to post photos and videos that are viewable for 24 hours, it sparked a lot of hype. Bloggers took the news and ran with it, publishing think pieces about why it’s great, why it sucks and why Snapchat shouldn’t be concerned (although, nowadays, maybe it should be).
I think Instagram Stories is a great tool for entrepreneurs to jump start their marketing. Here are a few reasons why.
1. It’s cheap to start.
Although official sponsored ads on Instagram are expensive, Instagram’s relatively lax promotion rules allow businesses to set up accounts for free and immediately begin advertising on their stories and in permanent posts. Since smaller companies tend to have fewer resources, this is a great opportunity for them to set up an early advertising platform.
The cheapness of using Instagram allows startups and other small businesses to immediately begin marketing with little to no budget. With fewer monetary strings comes more freedom to test different types of content and adapt to what consumers want.
2. It’s immersive.
Marketing teams rejoiced over the recent introduction of full-screen ads to Instagram Stories. By allowing companies to use photo and video clips to advertise, Instagram has created a great platform for building intimacy with potential customers. Due to how ephemeral Stories are, companies have focused on raw and unfiltered advertising as a way to cement this direct connection to Instagram users. They allow users to have experiences with their advertising, instead of just passively looking at it.
As if this weren’t already helpful enough, ads in Stories allow you to use targeting capabilities, making the ads personally relevant to people you’re trying to reach. Airbnb did an awesome job at this, using video ads in their Stories to set up travel experiences for viewers. They had a double-digit increase in ad recall due to targeting and “reach[ing] the right audience, in the right mindset, with the right story.”
3. It promotes deeper connections.
More than 150 million Instagrammers use it daily. This is a huge group of people to cater to, but Instagram’s platform allows businesses to still forge deep connections with their audiences. One in five Stories on Instagram receive a direct message from a viewer, and about 70 percent of Instagrammers follow a business. This level of direct engagement means that businesses using Instagram Stories can create tight bonds with their customers. Everyone wants to feel in the know — you can capitalize on this by posting exclusive insights into what goes on day to day in the company. In other words, it’s time to get real.
Sharing behind-the-scenes footage and photos, providing inside looks into office spaces and showing how certain products are made can all help establish intimate connections with users. Giving people a peek into creative processes helps them feel that they really know your brand.
It’s no surprise that many bloggers have created specific, general and comprehensive guides on how to humanize your brand and best connect with your Instagram Story audience.
4. It can help you connect with millennials.
The average age of Instagrammers skews young when compared to other social media platforms such as Facebook. More and more startups are using the platform as a way to communicate business ideas with the millennials, using groovy strategies such as hashtagging to cater to millennial trends. Since young consumers tend to value authenticity and reject what they deem as inauthentic, the ability to humanize your company through Stories is a valuable resource.
Popular Instagram users, known as “Influencers,” can also help you connect with the millennial crowd. Influencers have thousands — even millions — of mostly young followers who witness their every move. As a result, companies often invite Influencers to “take over” their Instagram Stories for a day or to participate in special projects such as travel guides. You can tap into this phenomenon by getting an Influencer to influence some of their followers to give you a shot. Many up-and-coming ones do guest spots for free.
If you still need convincing, consider who uses Instagram Stories well and has a large following: tattoo artists, craftspeople, musicians and others trying to develop a brand. They curate their Stories to establish the perfect balance of humanity, youth and immersion — and they get great results doing it. There’s no reason startups and other small businesses can’t do the same.