Last week, Instagram made some big changes to their Stories feature, and publishers and brands should be thrilled. Verified accounts can now add external links to their stories, allowing users to click through to further content or sales pages.
Users can also tag other users in their stories and add Boomerangs in-app. These big changes solidly set Stories apart from being a Snapchat clone.
These instant, time-sensitive visual platforms are skyrocketing in popularity. With tough competition, they’re all innovating fast.
Instagram Stories are in fierce competition with Snapchat, whose new Spectacles hardware just went on sale for $129 last week and are already fetching over $2,500 dollars on eBay. Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, just launched a feature called Flash in Brazil. And Periscope, not to be left out, added updates to identify ‘super fans’ and create live-streaming groups, a feature that’s been awaited on Snapchat.
But Instagram Stories’ latest changes have content creators the most excited, it seems. A social media manager at Benefit told Digiday the update was a “complete game changer”.
Instagram Stories are already something content creators have embraced. Residing at the top of the feed, they give publishers and brands a chance to override the algorithm.
The little circles under the Instagram logo indicated users’ Instagram Stories. You can tap ‘Your Story’ under your picture to add your own.
So what should you keep in mind for Instagram Stories, with this new update?
Closer and Quicker Connections
Instagram Stories is a different animal from the carefully curated and filtered images and video you typically see on Instagram. It’s meant to be more casual, given the impermanent nature and graffiti features of Stories.
Out of Print Clothing uses Instagram Stories to share fun literary facts and announce store news.
Many of the Snapchat tactics carry over to Instagram Stories. You can take your audience up close and personal to the subject of your content. Imagine going behind-the-scenes at a fashion show or showing a locker room celebration after a sports match. From there, you can link to external content.
Disney used their Instagram Story to take their followers to the premiere of their upcoming film “Moana” (click for full size).
For a publisher, you can put the spotlight on a certain provocative moment of a story, then link to further reading. The New York Times has been doing this on their Instagram content already, by putting the article link in their Instagram profile. Now it’ll be easier than ever, and publishers won’t have to focus on promoting just one link.
Harper’s Bazaar shared beauty and style tips on their Instagram Story. Their recommendations could now link to external pages for purchasing those products.
The important thing to remember is that you’re adding value to your user’s day. Keep your stories satiating their curiosity for new and clever content.
Tell a Story
They’re called Stories for a reason. Only posting an external link to content or an eCommerce page may not keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.
Instead of doing one picture or video, consider tying snippets together to make an expansive and interactive content experience. Tell a story in several parts to keep users engaged and build their interest in clicking through.
NASA is great at making these stories on both Instagram and Snapchat.
NASA used their Instagram Story to explain the science behind the recent super moon. These were the first three screens in their photo and video story.
Other publishers can take on this tactic as well, taking users through a story, start to finish, or showing another angle to a particular story.
Travel and Leisure brought their followers on a tour of Obidos, Portugal on their Instagram Story (click for full size). By creating a cohesive narrative, you can keep your followers engaged and watching to see what comes next.
Don’t Forget Influencers
Now that links and tags can be put into Stories, influencers that you partner with can tag back to your Instagram account or to an external link.
We’ve seen the phenomenal reach and impact that influencers have made for content creators before on the blog.
For publishers, this could be having interview subjects or reporters use Stories to flesh out an article or provide another viewpoint, while ultimately linking back. As social media platforms continue to place more emphasis on organic distribution between users, this is something worth focusing on as well.
Influencers can be some of the first to adopt new features. Chiara Ferragni, a travel influencer, already used the user-tagging feature in her Instagram story above. You can tap any of those users’ handles, and tap again to go to their profile.
One benefit of influencers is their reach. You can take this even further another way. If you hold a contest on Instagram, you can ask users participating to tag your account in their Stories. All of this will lead back to your account and your content. Previously, this tagging feature was done through comments alone.
Keep Track of What Works
Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a way to track analytics on Instagram Stories over time. So it’s up to you to keep a note of which Stories work the best for you. These will indicate the top opportunities for sharing links.
Even looking to your regular Instagram content can reveal the insights. Let’s do an example here, with data from NewsWhip Spike.
Looking at the New Yorker’s top ten posts on Instagram for the past month, nine of the top posts were around their characteristic cartoons. They may want to focus on integrating their cartoon content into their Instagram Stories.
Of course, don’t look just at your own content. Keep an eye on your favorite content creators and influencers. What are they doing with Instagram stories? How are they innovating and making content that you personally find interesting and fun?
As social media breaks down more walls between publishers and audience, it’s exciting to explore the new ways to tell stories. With Instagram Stories update, the medium now has markedly more value.
Only time will tell how well users take to these features, but it’s exciting to watch in the meantime.