Instagram launched Stories as a playful, creative space for everyday moments and not just the highlights. Since its launch in October of 2016, IG Stories has grown from 100M to 500M users. Facebook expects the platform to grow at a faster rate than the Instagram Feed, which grew from roughly 450 million to 1 billion during the same period.
Its rapid growth presents an amazing opportunity for brands and marketers today.
Instagram Stories Has Changed Consumer Behavior
Many consumers (83%) discover new products and services through Instagram, and 87% of users engage with what they see on the platform. People are flocking to Stories to catch up with friends, making them more apt to engage with a brand’s story. In fact, 90M+ users tap on shopping stories to learn more about brands and their products and services (Facebook IQ).
With the rapid adoption of Stories, how can businesses embrace Stories and drive results?
“Instagram Stories is such a beautiful space for visual creativity and storytelling but that doesn’t mean that you need a production crew and a ton of money to create a meaningful connection with your audience, sometimes all it takes is a mobile phone, a tripod, sunlight and a simple idea to break through the clutter of content the comes up every second.”Sameh Neseim | Creative Strategist, Facebook ATX
At SocialWithin, Stories are one of our favorite ad formats. Here are some best practices that we’ve seen work well with our clients and have helped us drive significant revenue growth.
Create Immersive Experiences
Stories are an immersive experience, allowing brands to take over consumers’ mobile real estate—at least for a few seconds. More specifically, 7 seconds for photos and 15 seconds for videos. We recommend maximizing your potential impact by building assets that entice engagement within 5 seconds or less and taking advantage of the full-screen capture by bringing the brand front and center within the first 3. Make memorable, cohesive creative that convinces your potential customer to keep watching, clicking through, or remember your brand for the future.
“Stories allow advertisers to capture users’ attention within a few seconds of the screen take over. Users are valuing visuals almost as much as the product’s perceived quality. If the ad is beautiful, it will drive results.”Josh Retief | Creative Strategist, SocialWithin
Utilize Carousel Ads
The Instagram Carousel allows up to three back-to-back 10-second clips and requires the user to tap through each before being returned to organic content. Keep them engaged by creating interactive stories that make your consumers want to participate and continue across multiple cards.
Utilize Dynamic Ads
Dynamic Ads populate the brand’s product inventory in a personalized and scalable way. Utilize Dynamic ads in your stories to showcase products your customers have either interacted with or are most likely to interact with. A recent Facebook IQ study found that 62% of people were more interested in brands and products after viewing them on Stories.
Target customers who have been browsing for similar products and services with Dynamic Ads. Dynamic Ads will auto-populate with images from your website to ensure that your potential customer sees relevant content.
Go for Clarity
Stories work best when they’re easy to understand. Along with including your logo on the first card, introduce a call to action (CTA) right away, keep your message concise and clear, and choose visuals that make memorable impressions. We do this by using popping colors and adding accents to direct the user’s attention to a certain place on the Story.
Tailor Stories to Your Brand
With all of your creative, you need to remain consistent for brand awareness and recognition. Tweak each piece of content to ensure that it flows with the brand’s overall presence, visual tone, and voice. Increase recall by introducing your logo, logomark, or wordmark in the first 3 seconds (unless it’s prominently displayed on your product), and display it throughout the ad.
As our world becomes more open and connected, visual communication becomes the universal language, shattering linguistic and cultural barriers. Researchers are estimating that mobile video will account for 75% of total video by 2020 (Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast), and as of April 2018, 50% of Instagram stories were video (Instagram Internal Data Apr 2018).
Preliminary data suggests that shorter videos yield maximum results. According to Facebook, video ads perform best when they’re between 6–10 seconds long, and beta campaigns showed that 3-second videos increased views (Instagram Internal Data, Dec 2018). We still recommend utilizing the full 15 seconds for video stories, but we also encourage you to introduce fast-paced motion or impactful visuals immediately to catch the consumer’s attention.
Utilize User-Generated Content
We recommend adding user-generated content (UGC) into your creative testing calendar alongside other assets. UGC feels more native, making it more relatable to the consumer. In our experience, UGC performs better with retargeting audiences but we encourage you to test it for yourself and identify what audience UGC will work for.
Design with Sound on but Optimize for Sound Off
“Information set to music is among the easiest to remember.” – The Wall Street Journal
60% of stories are viewed with the sound on (Instagram Internal Data July 2017), which is a great argument for designing with sound, but brands should also keep the other 40% in mind. Ensure that your ad provides clear direction and pertinent information when the sound is off.
Our creative team designs with the sound on and off to ensure that each element is introduced at a steady pace. Their goal is to generate a visual rhythm, which draws the consumer into the ad. Even if they never hear the soundtrack behind it; they’ll feel it.
How We Media Buy with Stories
Although Automatic Placements generate great results, we recommend creating a separate campaign for Stories. Consumer behavior on Stories is different from the Feed or any other placement on the Facebook Family of Apps. Square images that work well on Facebook and Instagram Feed may not perform well in Stories. But every brand is different, which is why we also run split tests to identify if our hypothesis of pulling Stories out is a good decision.
SocialWithin’s clients have seen an incredible return on investment (ROI) using Instagram Stories as a part of their overall marketing mix. We recommend taking advantage of the opportunity that Stories presents, while it is still novel and less crowded than the Feed. Skim through some of our success stories and reach out if you have any questions.
We created short form, tightly branded video ads with compelling story arcs for Hydro Flask, utilizing best practices mentioned in this blog. As a result, Hydro Flask saw a 16X higher return on ad spend (ROAS) and an 80% increase in revenue.
For Buck Mason, we saw a 29% higher ROAS, and a 40% lower cost per purchase than other active ads during the same week.
“Instagram has played a key role in our customer acquisition efforts and as a result, most of our ad sets include Instagram as a placement.”Faheem Siddiqi | CEO, SocialWithin