Social media is a remarkable tool for capturing new potential customers, getting the word out to thousands of people at once, and showcasing your products - but if you don't bother to master the medium, you're on par with an unplugged television. Let's start with an uncomfortable truth, here: the shine has worn off of social media as a whole. It's not to say that it doesn't capture interest or command staggering numbers of subscribers every day, it's simply that it isn't "new" in the strictest sense of the word. That means that a mere presence is not enough to kickstart your social media storytelling; like any good story, you'll need to plan it out and tell it in a compelling way.
Perfecting Your 'Gram Stories
Social media marketing, or SMM, is shifting to a distinct focus on the visual over the textual. Now-defunct apps like video clip platform Vine and pin-mecca Pinterest started the ball rolling, but the undisputed champ of marketing visuals on social media currently is Instagram. Instagram stories, a clever twist on the Facebook-like "feed" that users see on their Instagram dashboard, allows users to display images and videos in a special collection that vanishes after 24 hours (similiar to Snapchat). This limited window encourages views and engagement - an ideal "hook" for bringing in new eyes and building loyalty among existing followers. Marketers can harness this unique space by creating their own instagram stories that showcase various aspects of their brand.
- The Final Countdown: A ticking-down clock builds a sense of anticipation, particularly when it uses regular intervals. Have a big product launch, sale, or announcement on the horizon? Use images that tease your big news, revealing a little more - but never everything - with each new numerical image. When the countdown is over, add in a live link that will bring your Instagram followers to a platform with longer content for the big reveal, such as your website or a livestream with comment capability. Keep your branding large and easy to spot, as well: making yourself recognizable at a glance will keep your brand at the forefront of your viewers' minds.
- Influencer Central: If your brand has a positive relationship with an influencer or two, consider giving them a broad direction - e.g. "Make some noise with [Your Brand] in [Their City]" - and the controls to your IG account. They can then use the stories feature to capture their ideas, their journey, and even their conversations along the way. Just be sure to have a quick chat about expectations and off-limits subjects before handing over your password and you'll have great, original content in no time.
- Just for You: Give your Instagram followers incentive to keep following with...well, incentives! Send out a limited-time, instagram-followers-only discount code or special sale page, or put out a quick IG story that offers an extra gift with purchase to the next 10 or 25 followers that place an order. The stories feature builds in a sense of urgency and limited time only, which means you don't have to be overly "salesy" - a relief for both sides of the B2C line, more often than not.
Your Instagram account has the potential to command a huge amount of interest, even while using a condensed, 24-hour-only format. The key to successfully using Instagram stories is to know your audience: other accounts they like and engage with, the time periods that they're most active, what they've already liked of yours. If you follow this "trail of marketing breadcrumbs" diligently, your audience will be clamoring for a virtual book's worth of your IG stories in no time. (Now that's what we call a happily ever after.)