Is that enough to deem the platform a ‘good investment’ for companies in 2019?
I took a deep dive into this topic and have concluded that Instagram Stories can be an effective way for B2B marketers to reach their audiences.
Marketers have the functionality available to integrate links and CTAs into their stories
The timed, auto-advancing format makes it easy to tell a story using stories
Marketers can showcase authenticity with videos or images
The cost of ads remains relatively low compared to other platforms
Let’s dive into the nitty gritty, shall we?
What Are Instagram Stories?
Instagram Stories allow users to share videos and photos to their “story,” which is not the same as adding content to their timeline.
When you open up the app on your mobile device, you can find Stories located right under the top bar, which includes the Instagram logo, your direct messages, and more. Each story is in a circle and you’ll see which of your friends have stories available for viewing by clicking on the circles.
Stories are sequential collections of timed, 15-second videos and images that stay viewable for 24-hours.
Because they can stay viewable for so long, and because viewers can always go back during that time period and watch segments again, they’re an excellent way for you to connect with friends and celebrities, or *cough cough* for brands to connect with their audiences.
Users can add ‘flair’ to their story content (images, videos, etc.) right inside of Instagram -- this flair can include hashtags, stickers, location tags, and more. This is another way to make the content more engaging for viewers and to draw attention away from the feed and to the stories.
Now that we know what Instagram Stories are and the benefits of using them, let’s dive into the details on how brands can use them to get Instagram users into their sales and marketing funnel and ultimately convert them into brand advocates and consumers.
Integrate Links and CTAs Into Instagram Stories
Most marketers, especially those who play in the ecommerce or inbound realm, understand the importance of using CTAs (calls to action) to convert strangers into known contacts.
CTAs put the next action a user should take front and center, and when we’re doing our job as marketers right, that CTA will direct the user to content that either gets them the answers they’re looking for or connects them with a business representative that can help.
CTAs done right are valuable.
Instagram Stories offer far greater potential to convert your Instagram audience into leads for your business than a typical Instagram post that show up in the feed.
When you post on your Instagram timeline, you aren’t able to directly tag your image or video with a URL and there certainly won’t be a button to drive traffic from your image to your site.
In fact, Instagram only allows one live link per account and that’s in the bio section -- so if you’re looking to drive Instagram traffic to various pages or campaigns, you have to select which link is most important, add it to your bio, and then in your post content tell users to visit your bio for the link.
That’s not the case with Instagram Stories.
With Instagram Stories, you can include a CTA in each individual piece of content within the story-- a major game changer for B2B brands that are focused on measurable marketing outcomes.
So, not only is this added functionality available for marketers, but it’s actually delivering results in the form of users who are taking direct action. They’re engaging with this content and they’re taking the next step with the understanding that they’ll be taken away from Instagram and moved towards a more branded, company-specific experience.
As an added bonus, Instagram Stories create a sense urgency on the part of the viewer. With quick, 15-second, timed clips that are the hallmark of the Stories experience, users know the content will go away soon so they must act fast (aka click on that nifty CTA) or else they might lose out on the opportunity.
It’s up to you to discover what story makes sense for your brand to tell, but here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Showcase Your Company Culture
Companies such as Mention and Mailchimp have used Instagram Stories to build a deeper connection with their audience and to provide a more personal look at who they are.
Mention had their employees from all over the world provide a small clip of how they were celebrating the holidays and the Mention marketing team compiled them all for a chain of Instagram Stories.
This is a great way to use Instagram Stories as it’s personal, shows that there are people behind the brand (which builds trust), and it’s a fun way to get the point across that Mention is a diverse company that’s worldwide.
Mailchimp did something similar but in an even more up close and personal way with their employees. If you go to their Instagram page and look through their stories, you’ll see stories that are labeled with the names of a few of their employees. Once you click on them, like this story about Tamera, you get an inside look at who the employee is, what they do, and where they’re from.
By showcasing your company’s culture, you show Instagram viewers that as a company, your culture and the people behind what you do are important to you, they deserve to be recognized, and that without them, what you do just wouldn’t be possible.
2. Engage In Collaborations
Collaborations with influencers and/or other companies are common in marketing and Instagram Stories allow marketers to do this with ease.
With this type of campaign, you’re able to engage each other’s fanbase and, ultimately, build brand loyalty. When the right company and influencer partner up, it can be a powerful exchange of value that can grow both users' audiences.
3. Showcase Thought Leadership
Thought leadership is another way to showcase your brand’s expertise and build trust with audiences to whom you can provide an effective and valuable solution or product.
If your business isn’t wildly technical and it doesn’t make sense to involve a team like the one I mentioned above, it doesn’t mean that you can’t showcase leadership from your CEO, your CIO, or whoever else can speak to the what, why, and how of the company, product, or service.
4. Create Episodic Content
Due to the ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories and how the 15-second video clips link together (ie. once the first clip is over, the next automatically plays, and so on) it’s a great way to create episodic content.
In the B2B space, this episodic content can focus on:
Breaking down technical concepts
Giving demonstrations of products
Showcasing how-to do something/use a product
In the digital age, you can’t show an image or a video of your product on your website and expect a million people to see it and purchase it. An image doesn’t do a lot to convince people of WHY they need it in their life. A video does a bit more, but to really create effective marketing that converts, you must tell the right story to the right audience at the right time.
Instagram Stories are a small, yet effective way, for B2B marketers to do just this.
Authenticity is crucial in any business -- regardless of the service or product you sell.
With so many options at the fingertips of consumers when they’re doing online research in support of a purchase, an element of trust and authenticity can be the thing that sets your business or product apart from the competition.
They need to trust that your product is right.
They need to trust that your C-level management is in business for the right reasons.
They need to know that you want to truly help them versus just making a couple of dollars.
And if you don’t provide authenticity to build trust, a competitor will.
Not sold on why authenticity is essential yet? Take a look at these stats and see if they change your mind:
This survey revealed that 86% of people say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support.
For B2B marketers who are just dipping their toe into the Instagram Stories pool, the fact that the cost of ads is relatively low is important. You don’t need to throw your entire marketing budget at the platform. Instead, you can test and identify if Instagram Stories is effective or not at reaching your audience and encouraging them to take action - and then double down on your budget if it makes sense.
With everything listed above, it’s easy to see how B2B marketers can win with the right Instagram Stories strategy - assuming that Instagram is where your audience is.
Ready to dip your toe in? Here are some actionable next steps you can take:
1. Have a content plan ready
Like you would with an editorial calendar for your blogs or social media, if you want to be successful with a long-term Instagram Stories strategy, make sure you think ahead and integrate this into your overall content plan. Remember, your Story content doesn’t have to be perfect, just authentic.
2. Start with a comfortable budget and adjust once you begin gathering data
You don’t have to kick off an Instagram Stories campaign by going all in. You can always increase or decrease budget based on your learnings.
3. Test, test, and then test again
Everything could look perfect on paper, but when you actually get your Instagram Story up and live, you may find that what you expected to happen isn’t actually happening.
Remember to be agile and make strategic adjustments. Instagram Stories is just another platform to attract your target audience, so don’t forget the principals you follow when creating blog content, website content, or anything else.