Posted by Megan Oldcorn
19 March, 2018

Social media ‘stories’ are a new type of content that’s growing in popularity. But what exactly are stories, and how useful are they for marketing?

The sister platforms Instagram and Facebook have both launched story features in the last two years. Unlike a normal post, which stays on your business page indefinitely, stories remain visible for just 24 hours before vanishing into the ether. So why invest time in marketing that can’t last? Believe it or not, stories are a worthwhile addition to your social media strategy.

They let you offer more

Think of stories as supplementary to your main feed; they’re where you can offer a user more images and video related to a certain topic. Maybe you’ve just launched a new product – you’ll most likely post an image or link (on Facebook) in your feed. However, a story can be where you offer extra insights like snapshots of the design and manufacturing process or fun photos or video of your team trying out the product. You wouldn’t necessarily bombard your page with content like this, but as a story it’s neatly tucked away for anyone that wants to delve a little deeper.  

They could encourage regular visits

If you have a good-sized following and decent engagement levels, using stories can encourage your followers to check in with you a little more often – they won’t want to miss your latest content. If you have the time and ideas to post stories regularly, you could even consider running a regular slot such as ‘Tuesday Takeover’ (read on for more on takeovers) or ‘Behind-the-scenes Wednesday’.

They’re a place to have fun

One of the main advantages of stories is that they can be less posed and polished than regular social media marketing; their transient nature lends an air of authenticity that consumers like. If you usually play it safe regarding content, especially on Facebook (where it’s too easy to simply share posts by others), stories offer the opportunity to come up with some creative, original content. That’s not to say you shouldn’t aim for high standards – it’s important to stay on-brand – but do pursue the authentic. This is your chance to communicate the culture and personality of your business. 

They’ve got takeover potential

If you have trusted brand ambassadors, influencers, partners or staff members, stories can be a fun arena for content takeovers. For instance, ‘XYZ is running Instagram Stories for us today – check back to see what they’re up to!’). If there are national celebration days or festivals relevant to your industry, you could link up with posters for these too – a restaurant might hand over the reigns to its chef for a day of pancake tips on Shrove Tuesday, for instance. Just make sure that your guest poster will uphold the same content standards as you.

They’re ideal for events or offers

Alongside features like Facebook Live, stories are a good content option for when you’re attending events, holding a product launch, running a one-day offer or doing anything in real time. Perhaps you’re exhibiting at a trade show – you’ll most likely post normal updates too, but you could add another level of content as a story. This may be a snippet of video, atmospheric photographs of the event or simply the extra shots that didn’t make it to your main channel. Alternatively, you could hold ‘live’ events such as Q&A sessions (ask people to comment on a regular post with their questions, and then answer them in stories) or competition draws.

So now we’ve covered the basic reasons for using stories, how about giving it a try?

Instagram Stories

At the moment, Instagram’s Story feature has the edge over Facebook’s and has been far more widely adopted by its users. Here, audiences are accustomed to engaging with a brand via imagery, and brands can in turn engage with audiences in a fun, authentic way.

How do I create an Instagram Story?

A story can be easily created from the Instagram homepage on your app. 

  1. Log into your Instagram account and go to your home feed by tapping the little house icon on the bottom left of the screen.
  2. Tap the camera icon at the top left of the screen. This will open your camera.
  3. You can change the style of your story post by swiping left and right on the words at the very bottom. The most common you’ll use are ‘normal’ and ‘live’ but you can have fun with all manner of special effects, such as recording a video that plays in reverse (a fun way to show a manufacturing process, for instance – just tap ‘Rewind’) or creating a stop-motion film from images. We definitely recommend playing around with the various features until you’re familiar with them.
  4. Tap the big circle in the bottom middle of the screen to take a photo or hold it to record a video. Swipe upwards to access the existing photos in your camera roll. 
  5. Tap the draw, text or sticker icons to add elements to the photo or video. If you’d like to run a poll with your post, select the poll sticker – this is useful for engaging users or canvassing opinions. Overlaying text is a good way to add context; for instance, ‘Check out our revamped spa!’. If you’re lucky enough to have 10,000+ followers, you can include links in your post (not normally an option), so annotating with text such as ‘swipe up to shop’ helps to make it obvious that your link is there. If your following is more modest, adding text is still a useful way to subtly encourage action; for instance, you could include an offer code for your website or ask people to click the link in your bio. Use the text feature to add any mentions you’d like to use (type @ followed by their username), or add a hashtag from the stickers menu. Bear in mind that if you feature a hashtag and your profile is set to public, your story could be shown on the Explore tab when people search for that hashtag.
  6. Add your creation to your story using the ‘+ Your Story’ icon next to the save icon.
  7. Because Instagram and Facebook are linked channels, if you have a profile on both – and have linked the two – you can share your Instagram Story to Facebook. Begin creating your story and tap ‘Your Facebook story’ and ‘Share’ in the options. 
  8. To add more images or video to your story, simply repeat these steps. Any further content will become a part of your existing story.
Adding text to an Instagram story
Sticker options in Instagram stories
Saving an Instagram story

What if I want to keep it?

Although an Instagram Story will disappear after 24 hours, it’s possible to extend its life by adding it as a ‘highlight’. Highlights will appear below your profile photo and remain visible until you remove them. To create a highlight, go to your profile and click the plus symbol below ‘Stories Highlights’. Select the story you’d like to add, and follow the steps to do this. 

It’s also possible to share images and videos from your story to your feed by tapping ‘…’ on the story content you’d like to share and tapping ‘Share as Post…’ 

Facebook Stories

Facebook’s story feature has been slower to take off, but with the platform championing its use, stories are likely to be featured more prominently than other content types. They won’t appear in users’ news feeds, but are indicated at the top of the feed with a blue circle around your profile picture. Not many brands are using stories yet so adopting them early, while they’re still a novelty for audiences, could help you to achieve greater visibility.

How do I create a Facebook Story?

Stories can only be created for a business page through the mobile app, so you’ll need to download the Facebook app to your phone. 

  1. Go to your business’s page and tap ‘Create Story’ beneath the compose section.
  2. Choose whether you’d like to add a video, photograph or text. 
  3. Create your content. If you’re working with an image or video, take a new one or select one from your phone’s camera roll. Use the options to overlay borders, text or emojis, add information such as your location or the time, or write and draw on the image. As with Instagram, use these elements to add context or comments to your post.
  4. Tap the ‘Your story’ icon to immediately add to a story, or tap ‘Next’ for sharing options. Select the ‘Your Page’s story’ option to post the image in your story for 24 hours. If you also select ‘Post as your Page’, the content will appear in your regular timeline. When you’re happy, tap the paper aeroplane icon to post.
  5. Any comments on your story will appear in messenger as private messages – only you and the person who commented will be able to see them. 
  6. To add more photos to an existing story, swipe right from your news feed. If the app defaults to your personal account, select ‘Change’ next to your name when you progress to the ‘Share photo’ options and select your business page. Any new photos or videos will be tacked onto the end. You can also create your story in this way, rather than doing so from the business page.
Adding text to a Facebook story
Share shortcut on Facebook Stories
Share options for Facebook stories

What if I want to keep it?

If you know that you’d like content to appear in your news feed as well as a story, you can easily post to both during its creation (see above).

Show who you are

In a world of bland shared posts, stories represent a move towards original and meaningful visual content that really conveys the values and personality of a brand. Forward-thinking companies are embracing this latest development in social media as a chance to be different, to be authentic, and to rethink what their audiences want to see. Stories might be uncharted water, but used correctly they’re sure to earn a place in any good social media strategy. 

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