Instagram seems to be pulling out all the stops when it comes to adding features and boosting engagement.
And with good reason.
Back in 2013, Snapchat added Stories and changed the way people could share their lives in a personal and not-so-permanent way. The only problem was, a handful of friends passively watching wasn’t enough to keep the lights on.
Fast-forward a few years, the Snapchat Story hasn’t changed all that much and the app is quickly losing money and users.
Meanwhile, Instagram has been in the background quietly making itself the undisputed champion of the story.
Getting reactions from followers that denote more than a “like” or “thumbs up” has been one of the biggest challenges the major social networks have had and Instagram is cracking the code.
With the addition of Question Stickers, the latest sticker update to the platform, Instagram arguably touts some of the most coveted user engagement out there.
The Social Media Engagement War: A Brief Story of Stories
It’s easy to forget why these incremental add-ons feel so monumental and why it matters in the first place.
So, allow me to explain.
The true success of social media should be measured in exposure and the ability to build a following. In other words, to expand your reach and build awareness of your brand.
Snapchat Stories, while a trailblazer, could only be seen by people already following you.
There were no hashtags, user tags, or ways to search directly on the platform, so there was a lot of friction in finding new accounts and getting found for brands.
If your audience was 100 people, unless a follower sent your info to someone outside of your existing following, your reach stopped there.
Even if you had a massive following, Snapchat Stories gave few ways to interact with it aside from direct messaging back and forth, and don’t forget, these messages vanished once you read them so it was difficult to maintain a conversation.
These shortcomings gave brands close to zero ways to foster meaningful engagement, which we all know is the next step if you hope to turn social traffic into a sale. Interaction, conversation, etc. is how you start moving a user down the marketing funnel.
This is where Instagram got its leg up.
Instagram built its Stories inside its existing infrastructure that was, by design, built with reach in mind-- hashtags, mentions, location tags, public profiles, etc were available right off the bat.
Little features like these gave brands the opportunity to reach more people long before poll stickers were ever an option.
Not to mention, if the profile was public, you could view the Stories whether or not you followed it.
Essentially, fostering user engagement is baked into the DNA of Instagram and brands quickly caught on.
Instagram established itself as a leader in this Story space, but it didn’t rest on its laurels.
The Introduction of Instagram Stickers
In 2017, it decided to kick it up another notch, announcing Poll Stickers.
Poll Stickers are a sticker you can add to your Instagram story that allows you to take a poll two options against each other.
For a private user like me who, at the moment, has 327 followers, it didn’t mean much, but for any influencer, model, photographer, artist, business, or brand with even a small following, this type of interaction could make a huge difference.
Want feedback on a new song? New product? New studio layout? What to write next?
Using a Poll Sticker would humanize the brand and get your followers involved. Both huge social wins.
Poll Stickers were the first time Instagram attempted to capture user engagement like this, and it worked really well.
So well that in May of 2018, it announced the second iteration of the sticker, the Emoji Slider. The layer of “emotional context” that polls had been lacking all along suddenly became easier to get.
The emoji slider became a completely frictionless way to get a general response from a large audience, similar to a star-review you would leave for a restaurant, hotel, or an Amazon or Google review.
If this wasn’t great enough, Instagram wasn’t done yet.
This week, Instagram, yet again, made a huge play for engagement with the newest addition to the Stickers tab: The Questions Sticker.
What is Instagram Question Sticker?
The Instagram Question Sticker is a sticker that allows you to take questions from viewers of your Story in real time.
This allows you to get feedback or even simply get to know your audience better, and let them get to know you too.
You can even share your favorite responses back to your story, which in the name of engagement, is highly recommended..
Unlike its predecessors, the responses prompted by Question Stickers aren’t predetermined. They are straight from the viewer's mouth (or fingers I suppose) and can be a fully fleshed out thought.
Also, unlike the others, you can respond as many times as you’d like.
As you establish yourself as a thought leader using a feature like this to field questions or host a Q&A gives you a fun and easy way to share your expertise.
As a brand, you can also collect feedback or even conduct some simple market research.
This allows you to connect with your audience on a personal level, humanize it, and even use the questions as subject matter for future content.
Plus, while Instagram automatically removes the username when you “share a question” to your story, you can even still give audience member’s their 15-minutes of fame with a tag or shout out.
Why Should I Care?
As digital marketers, we are judged by our ability to drive traffic, engagement, and ultimately leads.
Engagement can be defined as a like, comment, click, retweet, and now a question. These interactions are not just a nice to have, they are essential to turning social media into something more for your business and your audience.
Either your followers see your stuff and turn away, or they see your stuff, engage, and you can then start a conversation to move them into being a fan or customer.
If you invest any amount of time into marketing through Instagram Stories, these features are one of the easiest ways to track the tangible, interactive metrics; the things beyond just a view.
Instagram is the only company offering features at this capacity right now when it comes to Stories. This type of instant user feedback and interaction is the stuff marketers dreams are made of.
In fact, I predict, in the future, Instagram may even start offering these elements in paid ads, creating an amazing resource for market research.
So, adopt these features early. Your followers will thank you.