The Power of Stories
Seth Godin once said, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make but about the stories you tell.” This quote was initially made about a decade ago – right before the disruption caused by the proliferation of social media in all its forms, yet it could not ring truer today.
The use of narrative has been a way for marketers to get their messages across to the public for generations, and today, we see this in many more formats than ever before. Specifically, there are 500 million daily users of Instagram Stories and 500 million daily users of Facebook Stories. That is one billion daily users of Stories on these two platforms! The viewers on these platforms are from different age ranges, countries and languages, yet they all have something in common. They want to be engaged, entertained or inspired in some way and, as amateur marketers (and business people), it’s our job to give the people what they want.
If you’re not yet familiar with Facebook or Instagram Stories, let’s delve a little deeper.
What are Stories?
They are vertical, image-based content (including gifs, boomerangs and videos) that are an addition to your traditional news feeds. They last just 24hrs – like the original Story concept that came from Snapchat.
The Story row lives at the top of your newsfeed and shows Stories from friends (on Facebook) and profiles you follow (on Instagram). Both allow you to share your Stories with all your friends or followers OR to send to just a few or even one in particular.
You can view someone’s Story by tapping on their profile photo and you can tap to go back and forward in a profile’s story or swipe to go onto the next profile’s Story. Another thing to keep in mind is that all comments that you make on a Story go to Direct Messages, not public comments.
Stories are available on both smartphone and desktop (but are certainly better viewed on a smartphone). There are also loads of different effects, frames and filters, as well as a range of stickers that include gifs, images, locations, mentions, hashtags and a whole bunch of other cool things. You can also share your Instagram Story directly to Facebook Stories – but not the other way around … yet!
Whether you should focus on Facebook or Instagram for your Stories is up to you. It all depends on your target audience and where they hang out online.
Quick start guide for Instagram Stories
Just in case you’re one of many that haven’t had the opportunity to experiment with Stories, here are some simple instructions to get you started …
- Tap on the camera icon in the top left of your screen or swipe right from anywhere in Feed
- Then tap the circle at the bottom of the screen to take a photo, or tap and hold to record a video. To choose a photo or video from your phone’s library or gallery, swipe up anywhere on the screen.
- You can tap the icons at the top of the screen to draw, add text or a sticker to your photo or video. To remove the text or a sticker, drag and drop it onto the bin at the bottom of the screen.
- When you’re ready to share, tap Your Story in the bottom left.
What are the unique features of Stories?
Stories stand out from other forms of social media in many ways. For starters, Stories give you the ability to overlay text, images and even music on top of your own content. Some of the features you use while getting started with Stories include:
- Stickers – Location, timestamp, temperature, GIFs, music, mentions, hashtags, emojis, polls, questions, quizzes, countdowns and other visual graphics
- Frame formats – Superzoom, Focus, Rewind, Hands-free
- Augmented reality filters
- Drawing Tools
- Texts, fonts and colourways
Why add Stories to your content strategy?
There are many reasons why you should consider adding Stories to your current social media strategy. If you answer ‘yes’ to another of the below, keep reading!
- You are targeting a younger audience, for instance, females aged between 18 and 34 years
- Your goal is to grow your audience and you understand how using hashtags, mentions and locations will help potential followers to find, engage and re-share your content
- You want to boost your brand’s engagement by taking advantage of all the interactive features that Stories has to offer, including polls, quizzes, chat and much more to connect with your audience
And that is just the beginning of the benefits that Stories have to offer. In order to harness their true power, the most important thing is to understand how to use Stories in a range of different ways that keep your audience (and potential or returning customers) connected and wanting more.
How to engage your audience with Stories?
Think about how you can add value to your fans or followers. Some ways to do this could include sharing ‘did you knows’, random trivia, industry-specific facts and number-based or historical data.
It all comes back to your target audience so experiment with sharing facts and figures that you believe would spark interest or draw their curiosity, just like the @latermedia example below:
Keep your fans or followers entertained and they will keep coming back. Try keeping your content light and colourful, attempt to get a little more creative by seeing what others (including your competitors) are doing or you could also do something out of the ordinary. A great example of this is the @mtv life advice series, where each week MTV shares ‘Life Advice With …’ an inspirational artist, such as Cardi B.
Entertainment can mean different things to different people. Gauge what is entertaining for your target audience by seeing what kinds of content get the most engagement and you can even try simply asking them what they would like to see more of by using the question sticker.
Tell a story
Stories are a huge driver of personal connection. This is a significant aspect of social media that sometimes gets lost in between the memes, viral videos and fake news. Social media should be ‘SOCIAL’! It is a way for friends and relatives to connect, chat and share.
As brands and businesses, what we do on social media is really disrupting that connection. So, if you are going to interrupt someone’s downtime, you better make it good. And a great way to do that is to tell a story, either personal or otherwise. You can do this by giving your Stories a beginning, middle and end. Life (and business) is a journey of ups and downs so show this to your audience. You could also try to share something relatable that your followers can connect with and will feel a rapport. And always make sure you make it memorable!
Here is @cntraveler and their ‘The Great American Road Trip’ story that chronicles the best routes from the point of view of the writer sharing their perspective.
In regard to your own story, it could be the background of the business, details of the process of creating a new product, and so on. There are no rules. Do what connects best with your audience.
You have a plethora of ways to interact with your followers in Stories, such as:
- Ask questions – You could try asking a question and have your audience respond with long-form answers
- Run a quiz – Post a question with multiple choice answers from which your followers to choose
- Post a poll – Simply post a query with two possible answers. When they respond they will see the percentage of users that chose either option
- Hold a Q&A session – Give your audience a chance to ask you questions
- Go live – Like all other Instagram Stories excluding Highlights, Live Streams last for 24 hours in your Stories. In a Live stream, your viewers can see exactly what you’re videoing, and they can also send messages that appear on the screen to you and all of the other viewers watching the Live feed
In the posts below, you can see how @missguided have used the quiz function to find out how much their followers know about the brand.
Making the most of Stories
When you are uploading your Stories, don’t forget to add as much detail as you can such as:
- Mentions – Who are you with?
- Locations – Where are you?
- Hashtags – What would people search for to find your content? The added bonus of using hashtags and locations is that your Story could be featured in the Location’s or Hashtag’s Story so that even more people can find and engage with your content.
The power of Stories is ready and waiting to be harnessed so you can connect, engage and nurture your growing audience of potential customers. It’s now time to put these strategies into action. And remember, as Gary Vee would say: “No matter what you do, your job is to tell your story.”
As a journalist-come-digital marketer, Stacey has extensive experience in all areas of content and social media, including creating complex digital marketing strategies for medium-to-large businesses locally and abroad and educating the next generation of marketers and communicators. She is also former global editor of women’s lifestyle website, SHESAID, and has worked on print and online titles such as Australian ELLE, Woman’s Day and madison, as well as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald.