Social Media Marketing

Businesses Leverage Instagram Stories to New Heights

Instagram’s Stories feature, which launched one year ago, has achieved widespread engagement among businesses that want to raise their brand awareness and expand their e-commerce penetration, the company said Wednesday.

The tool, launched in August 2016, allows users to create digital slide shows out of photos and videos in order to convey a story. Businesses ranging from Taco Bell to J.Crew and Starbucks have used Stories to give a behind-the-scenes peek at new products, launch limited sales, or get instant customer feedback about new initiatives.

More than 250 million daily active users are on Stories, compared to rival Snapchat’s 166 million, Instagram said.

Half of all businesses on Instagram produced an Instagram Story just in the last month, and one of every five organic stories from business members resulted in a direct message, the company claimed.

“That suggests businesses are exploring Stories as a means of interacting with existing and potential customers, and that some are succeeding pretty well in those efforts,” Pund-IT Principal Analyst Charles King told the E-Commerce Times.

Increased Engagement

Instagram rolled out Stories to boost member engagement, and statistics indicate the strategy worked in terms of increased time spent on the service. Users under age 25 currently spend an average of 32 minutes a day on Instagram, while users over 25 spend an average of 24 minutes a day on the service, according to the company.

Instagram has added new features and tools to help businesses engage customers on the social media site. There now are more than 15 million business profiles on Instagram, up sharply since March when there were about 8 million. More than 1 million advertisers currently use the site.

Sixty percent of Instagram users have discovered new products on the site, the company said. Seventy-five percent of Instagram users said they have taken action after being inspired by a post on the site.

One-third of the most-viewed posts on Instagram were from businesses, Instagram said.

“Several retailers have used Stories to some success for promotions and sales events,” noted Michael Jude, a research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“These, by necessity, have been aimed at particular age and income demographics, so the resonance of this form of promotion is still limited in the general marketplace,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Fashion Trend

Due to its visual nature, Instagram Stories has been very strong with fashion brands like Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Dolce and Gabbana, said Zach Fuller, an analyst at Midia Research.

However, top fashion models like Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski do even better than the brands, he told the E-Commerce Times. Stories have proven to be an effective tool for individuals to leverage their direct relationship with an audience in brand partnerships.

To illustrate its effectiveness, Instagram cited two businesses that have used it to raise awareness of their products. Fashion brand Vitaly ran a mobile-only campaign using dynamic ads to retarget customers who had expressed an interest in certain products but had not bought them.

The campaign allowed Vitaly to reach more than 243,000 people and achieve a 3.9x return on advertising spend, according to Instagram.

Instagram is not the only social media site to build relationships with businesses. Facebook, Twitter, Snap, and other sites all have worked to build their capabilities with retailers and other businesses that have used the sites to launch new products, to provide customer service, and to seek feedback on company policies, among other things.

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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