When you consider the ever-shrinking human attention span (from twelve seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds now), it isn’t a surprise that authentic, ephemeral content is resonating with social media audiences.
The 2016 State of Social Marketing
Snapchat pioneered this “in-the-moment” idea with branded content, and quickly became a force to be reckoned with. Then Instagram launched Instagram Stories. With over twice the number of MAUs as Snapchat, Instagram Stories has become a new playground for brands on social media. Here’s why.
1. Natural and Experimental: Instagram has always been the place to highlight the best-quality images from brands, supported by a range of clever filters and editing tools. But Instagram Stories, as Kevin Systrom explained, allows “filling in the space in between — and becoming more about visual expression in general – capturing all the world’s moments, not just the best ones”.
Instagram Stories do not need to be shot professionally. They vanish in 24 hours. They humanize brands and forge a deeper connection between social audiences and brands. Instagram Stories can also be a great way for brands to experiment with different kinds of content and see what works before investing marketing dollars in that idea.
2. On Top of the Feed: When Instagram changed their algorithm a few months ago to show posts in-feed depending on how likely were you to be interested, brands had no choice but to work even harder to create compelling and engaging content. Instagram Stories help brands be even more visible to their followers. If someone already follows your brand, they will see it on top of their feed highlighted by a colored circle, which indicates that a new story is available. This is a huge opportunity to get content right in front of an audience that already cares about you, helping to keep your brand top-of-mind and driving awareness.
Instagram and other social networks have a unique ability to impact prospective customers and customers in various stages of the buyer’s journey, from awareness to advocacy. Here are the stages of the buyer’s journey:
While Instagram Stories do not currently offer in-depth metrics, the feature is already being used by top brands across many verticals. Here’s how brands are using Instagram Stories to meet business goals for their brands and products.
What: Fall has become synonymous with pumpkin patches and Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice offerings. The retailer has, in a very light-hearted way, captured both popular subjects in this Instagram story.
Impact on Buyer’s Journey: Starbucks’ seasonal coffees are so popular that they command their own social media pages. As the retailer launched the fall-themed coffees, this story was perfectly crafted to capture the fall mood and at the same time announce the new products, driving awareness.
What: Time is using Instagram Stories to highlight global issues like the refugee crisis in Greece. Powerful photos like these have a potential to be a great instrument for social change, documenting people’s circumstances, sharing their stories, and changing their lives–or at least sparking a dialogue.
Impact on Buyer’s Journey: Instagram Stories are shared with people who are already aware of your brand and are following you on Instagram. This is an opportunity to connect with your core audience on values they followed you for in the first place. Time, which has been an impeccable source of world news for over nine decades, used Instagram Stories to release a very strong and succinct story about the crisis in Greece, directing the audience to more content on their website. While the story surely helps drive top-of-mind awareness, it mainly impacts the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey on the social media metrics map.
What: NASA shared an Instagram story inviting social media users from around the world to register for a satellite launch event at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The selected applicants would get exclusive behind-the-scenes access for the launch, plus the opportunity to snap, post, tweet, and share everything about the launch of NOAA’s GOES-R.
Impact on Buyer’s Journey: It is not every day that we get an opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at a rocket launch. This post from NASA is immensely exciting for many of NASA’s followers who are passionate about space exploration. Although the CTA (driving traffic to site) for this story mainly impacts the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey, the overall experience goes beyond just the registration on the website. Being part of an event like a rocket launch inspires the audience to engage with NASA further and makes them associate with the brand positively, helping drive adoption and building advocacy.
What: AirBnB showcased an AirBnB room with an influencer, @SongofStyle, who visited Paris for Fashion Week. In this story, she gives a quick glimpse of her room and the neighborhood where she stayed.
Impact on Buyer’s Journey: This influencer takes AirBnB’s audience around the house and out the window, and even on a trip to the neighborhood shop. This rich and immersive experience is a great example of a brand activating influencers to become advocates and inspire evangelism among current customers. Worth noting: there is no CTA here, which keeps the content non-salesy and experiential.
The New York Times Fashion
What: NYT Fashion covered the Ralph Lauren Fashion Show at New York Fashion Week, where the designer made dresses available for purchase immediately after the show. NYT Fashion also shared celebrity interviews and moments from the after-party.
Impact on Buyer’s Journey: The fashion vertical is one of the most active on Instagram, and understandably so, since images and videos are such an integral part of that industry. This story gives the audience a glimpse into what happens at high-profile events that most don’t get a chance to see firsthand. Such content helps delight the audience and create a positive association with the brand, helping drive adoption.
What: Amazon showcases a Chalkboard Mug in this story, showcasing how creative one can get with it. The playfulness of this story keeps it memorable.
Impact on Buyer’s Journey: The ephemeral nature of this Instagram Story is a good fit for the transient nature of the design on the chalkboard mug. For a retailer that sells millions of products, it is not possible to create a story for each one of them. However, a simple and fun story like this one helps build top-of-mind awareness about the retailer and also helps drive people to Amazon’s website, where they can then discover many other items.
Whole Foods Market
What: Whole Foods used Instagram Stories to announce their sales/digital coupons, which were valid only for a few days.
Impact on Buyer’s Journey: Instagram has been one of the most engaging channels for Whole Foods. The brand experiments with different features to keep interactions with their audience engaging. This story showcases sales and coupons, and also features a CTA asking people to download the app for weekly deals. This is a brilliant strategy to glide the audience through the decision stage in the buyer’s journey to drive conversions, since everyone who shops at Whole Foods would love to be able to use this information. Since the information in the story is only available for 24 hours, downloading the app is a logical next step.
While Instagram Stories do not yet have metrics, the feature can undeniably be leveraged to move your audience through the buyer’s journey. Is your brand thinking about Instagram Stories? How are you using the feature to target audience members at different states in the buyer’s journey? Leave us a comment below.