The 3 Best Ways to Engage Your Audience Using Instagram Stories

December 9, 2021
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Instagram has changed quite a bit in the past few years, especially due to the new oh-so-fun ranked algorithm feed. From a consumer’s perspective, most of these changes have made their scrolling experience more convenient. However, from your brand’s perspective, it may have made it challenging to attain the levels of engagement you once had when the algorithm was chronological. 

Instagram’s current algorithm is primarily based on the strength of relationships that users generate from their actions while using the app. That includes likes, comments, shares, etc. in aggregate. While Instagram asserts that an “average” post now receives 50% more viewership, many brands—smaller brands in particular—would definitely refute this claim. One way that your brand can boost engagement is by taking advantage of all of the opportunities provided through Instagram Stories. Due to its accessible viewership and (relatively) timely nature, Stories have an incredible potential reach for brands with approximately 500 million Instagram users viewing Stories every day!

How to Make 24 Hours Last a Lifetime 

More than ever, businesses are logging on to share content with their consumers, and consumers are logging on to engage with their favorite brands. While high engagement is the goal, right now, so much of this discussion is metrics-based. 

When you really take a step back and think about why you’re on Instagram, you might remember that it wasn’t originally about the numbers. It’s about fostering connections with your audience to allow them to uniquely and authentically familiarize themselves with your brand. Most brands, however, continue to struggle with this duality especially in an accelerated digital world. 

It’s only once consumers really get to know your brand that you should start promoting your products. Since 58% of users say they have become more interested in a brand or product after seeing a Story, you might want to consider using Stories in conjunction with Feed posts. Here are three ways that you can use Stories to engage your brand’s Instagram audience. 

1. Stickers are your friends. 

Along with the updated algorithm, Instagram launched the Stickers feature in 2016 which gives users more creative and versatile options when posting Stories. Over time, Instagram has added new Stickers that really help to boost engagement such as sharing polls, questions, and the most recent, “Add Yours.” With this newest Sticker, you can create public threads which allow your followers to reply to add to your Story. Out of all of the Stickers available, “Add Yours” has the most potential for collaboration with your audience and new ones also. 

Since consumer behavior is evolving, you will see a lot more of them wanting to be involved in the brands that speak to them, i.e. sharing tagged content, DMing, and truly creating a two-way conversation or relationship. Instagram Polls are a great way to conduct quick surveys with your audience and get a crowd-sourced opinion. Thinking about rebranding your logo, but stuck between color options? Poll your followers to see which they like best. This allows you to quantify your thoughts and feelings around even the most creative decisions. And that’s where you’ll start to see the best brand lift when you’re asking smart questions and using the real-time social response to evolve the brand accordingly. The Elevate My Brand team uses the Poll feature for many clients’ Instagram accounts and have always seen such a high response rate that helps us gauge what interests their audiences. 

Another way to use Polls is to boost engagement is through gamification. Quizzing your followers on a relevant, general knowledge topic can be a great way to generate some real-time interactions between you and your followers. And, let’s face it, it’s a whole lot of fun. It’s an added bonus that Polls create thumb-stopping moments which is ultimately what we’re all looking for. 

While Polls are an easy and quick way to generate a connection with your followers, the Question Sticker has become an increasingly popular strategy that many companies use to answer their audience’s questions about their brand. This option almost acts as an unbounded focus group because you will be able to look through questions that your followers from all around the world may have and address those in your marketing messaging later on. These questions might even give you ideas for content to post later (hot tip: EMB keeps a Google Doc of these questions and uses them when we get stuck on content). If you are worried about maintaining consistent messaging, consider using the question Sticker because it gives your brand the ability to have some time to filter through questions and develop thoughtful answers before sharing as opposed to Instagram Lives, which are, well, live.

“Add Yours,” Polls, and Questions are the three Stickers that are likely to provoke the most engagement, however, other Stickers such as countdowns, shoppable links, and location tags are also great ways to get your audience excited for new product drops, discover existing products, and find your store. So when in doubt, sticker it out!

2. Curate free, virtual billboards. 

Think of Stories as virtual billboards. With your profile appearing at the top of your follower’s screen, your content won’t be as “hidden” as in-feed posts because the algorithm for Stories is primarily based on chronology. If your brand is not receiving as many impressions on your feed posts as you might like, reposting content on Stories is a great “teaser” social strategy to make your other content much more visible. 

Fortunately, Instagram has made it possible to link all other forms of content that you might be creating, including IGTV videos, reels, and in-feed posts on your Stories. For example, if you post an IGTV video, but do not want to display the video in your permanent grid because it doesn’t aesthetically align, repost the video on your Story instead. This way you’re creating another avenue for your followers to view your video. An additional way of reposting content to engage your audience is by posting older content on your story. For instance, if you tested a new posting time that did not necessarily work out, you can create a Story that links to your post to recover some of those lost impressions. 

While you might want to share your own content on Stories (and you should), another way to include your audience in your Stories is by reposting content from fans about your brand. Not only will this make the fan that you reposted feel acknowledged, but it also might encourage other followers to do the same and engage their audiences who might not know about your brand yet. Now that’s what we call smart social leverage.

3. Go live.

In 2022, consumers will want personalized messaging. Instagram Lives are an easy way to connect with your audience and create that real-time engagement that consumers are starting to crave. 

In terms of visibility, Lives have the most potential to reach the broadest audience for three reasons: 1) Followers who have their notifications turned on will receive a push notification when you start broadcasting, 2) Lives appear at the beginning of Stories, and 3) Followers who weren’t able to watch while you were live can watch the livestream on your Story later.

Lives give your followers the ability to associate faces with your brand, so whoever is hosting needs to represent your brand’s values and stay consistent with your messaging. If your Live is styled as a relaxed Q&A, you might still want to prepare some potential answers. And if you are going to invite a guest for a talk, they better be well versed in your brand. 

Lives were THE thing during the height of the pandemic, but have since gotten far quieter as brands are going back to event life. That means if you’re smart, you’ll stay in it to win it on Lives with less competition and a more captive audience.

In Conclusion

While Stories only last 24 hours, integrating these engaging strategies into your 2022 Stories may create a memory with your audience that will last a lifetime. In the process of incorporating Stickers into your Stories, you might find that some work better than others. But, at the end of the day, Stories disappear, so there’s no harm in trying out new ways to interact with your followers. The goal should be to use Stickers in a way that makes sense to your content and your brand as a whole. 

Developing a cohesive digital marketing strategy that fits your brand will continue to be an essential component of your success, but it can be tricky. If your brand needs more support, Elevate My Brand is currently offering Digital Mindmap sessions that can help integrate the perfect Instagram Stories strategy for your brand. Contact us here to set up a meeting today!

“It’s about fostering connections with your audience.

bout the author: With a J.D./M.B.A. from Rutgers University, Laurel Mintz has created an agency serving both startups and blue-chip global brands like Facebook, Verizon Digital Media Group, PAW Patrol, and Zendesk. Laurel sits on the Board of Directors for NFTE (Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship), the Women Founders Network, and the UCLA Restaurant Conference. She is a mentor for The Women’s Global Leaders Initiative and advises LAVA (Los Angeles Venture Association). Her published work can be found in Entrepreneur, USA Today, The American Marketing Association, and C-Suite Quarterly Magazine. Laurel and the agency have recently won the W3 Silver Award for the PAW Patrol Road Patrol Campaign, the 2017 Patrick Soon-Shiong Innovation Award, the LABJ Women in Business Award, Comerica, and LA Lakers’ Women’s Business Award, amongst others.

Featured image: Smith House Photo

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