Animated Gif

Why Instagram Story has to be taken seriously

The audience for Instagram Story is bigger than the whole of Snapchat. But what does it actually do, and how can you benefit from it?

Hardly a day goes by without another Instagram feature update. But there was one, back in August 2016, that had more impact than most – the launch of Instagram Story. A Snapchat clone designed to put its competitor out of business, this was, as Instagram owner Mark Zuckerberg made clear, a move designed to place ‘video at the centre of all our services’. Now you could film your lunch (or create a gallery of images) for all your followers to see.

While not quite the Snapchat killer Zuckerberg had hoped, Instagram Story has been wildly successful with more than 300 million people using it every day.

Successive updates have brought new features to Instagram Story. You can now create Boomerangs (short videos that loop back and forth), broadcast live, film backwards (Rewind), make stop-frame animations, add your friends on a split screen, add stickers ranging from sunglasses to GIFs, face filters, sparkly and/or sound effects, create community polls, type text with no image at all and, imminently, produce your own cinemagraphs. Arguably most useful for brands, Story can also reach a wider audience thanks to searchable location tags and clickable hashtags.

These days, Instagram fame is no longer ephemeral. Stories don’t necessarily disappear within 24 hours. You can archive them, add edited highlights to your profile as a lure for potential followers, and even allow your stories to be downloaded and shared by other people.

So far, so fun. But what does it mean for your brand? The most obvious advantage is visibility. Instagram tells us that 80% of users follow a business on the platform, with over one-third having bought a product they first found on Instagram. That positive relationship continues with Story.

Instagram Story not only offers creative flexibility but also topicality – a brand’s ability to be seen to make the most of each new update reflects positively on the brand itself. Instagram tells you who watched your story, the number of impressions, reach, taps forward and back, exits, replies and swipes away. It is now (rather creepily) testing a feature which will show you who took screen shots of it, too.

Best of all, if your business account has over 10,000 followers, Instagram allows you to include an external link from a story, extending the user journey beyond the social network – long the Holy Grail of Instagram users.

And, while many have seen overall Instagram engagement fall since last year’s notorious algorithm change (when posts no longer appeared chronologically), Instagram Story appears to be bucking the trend: a range of behind-the-scenes-style fashion stories we created in French and English for Hammerson shopping centres last year resulted in six times the engagement levels of standard posts. Who doesn’t love a story with a happy ending?