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The Rise of Ephemeral Content: How To Use Stories For Business 

2019 was the year that Stories exploded. It all started with SnapChat and their self-destruct message, photo and video functionality. Instagram, however, soon took over with the introduction of Instagram Stories in 2016 – a slideshow format of photos and video that last only 24 hours. Instagram Stories are now watched by 500 million of us daily, with 300 million of us watching stories on Facebook. Even WhatsApp has quietly introduced a Stories functionality on the messenger app, which is getting pre-teens hooked on the format even before their first venture into social media proper. 

This type of online content is called ephemeral content, meaning content that disappears after a certain period of time. The marketing industry predicts that Instagram Stories will overtake the main news feed in popularity by the end of 2020. I, for one, know that my Stories regularly gain more engagement than my grid posts, and when I’m looking to catch up on accounts that I love to follow, you can guarantee that their Stories icon will be highlighted at the top of my feed, encouraging me to dive straight into their Stories.  This all underlines why it is now more important than ever for businesses to integrate Stories into their social media strategy. 

What’s Behind Our Love Affair With Stories?

The rise of ephemeral content is no surprise. It speaks to the root of social media’s original purpose – It’s spontaneous and raw, capturing life’s mini-moments on the go. At a time where personal branding rules, it offers unfiltered, behind-the-scenes access like no other social media platform. Its fleeting lifespan also creates an element of exclusivity which entices consumers. It relies on fear of missing out (FOMO) to encourage followers to regularly connect with brands and influencers for their latest updates. If you miss a Story, then it’s gone!

How Can Businesses Utilise Stories?

Instagram and Facebook Stories are the perfect platform for businesses to showcase the personality behind the brand. It allows you to TELL rather than SELL your company which is a  fundamental ingredient to social media marketing success. Remember, people buy into people, they don’t buy into things. As followers, we immediately feel a greater and deeper connection to brands which are humanized and reveal the people behind the product or service. This connection drives sales.

Stories also allow businesses to interact with their customers and clients in an entirely different way. There are a number of highly interactive and original features in both Instagram and Facebook Stories which can really fuel direct-to-consumer communications. For example, there are polls, questions, quiz stickers, location stickers and even searchable hashtag stickers, all of which encourage followers to engage and join conversations about and with your brand. Followers feel that responding to Stories means their comments, questions and poll answers are influencing the direction of the brand; this further increases brand loyalty.

If you are promoting events you can create stickers to countdown to tickets being on sale, acts being announced, or merchandise being released, with followers able to set a reminder directly from the Story – pretty cool!  If you are an ecommerce business, you can even add product stickers to your Stories to increase shopability. For businesses with over 10K followers on Instagram, there is a “Swipe Up” button which can direct consumers directly to your website.  

How Can Businesses Create Stories Relevant To Their Followers?

Think of Stories as a “Day In The Life” feature. Post photo and video content about your day-to-day operations, inspirations and musings. Don’t be afraid to show your personality as individuals and as a business. Long gone are the days when businesses had to remain formal at all times! Let your imagination and creativity run wild, and explore all the functions to see what engages your followers successfully. Use a mix of hashtags on your stories to make them searchable and attract new followers to your brand.

It’s fine to sprinkle in promotional posts too, as long you are following the 80/20 rule – 80% of your content should be behind-the-scenes and a resource with only 20% as directly promotional.  Here are 5 content ideas:

  1. Video/photo of your office /workspace.
  2. Introduce yourself to camera.
  3. Share content from your main newsfeed.
  4. Share user-generated content which inspires you.
  5. Share user-generated content about current hashtag holidays, for example #ValentinesDay or #NationalChipWeek – whatever is relevant to your business!

Instagram Hack! – You can actually save your Stories into highlight buttons on your Instagram profile which turns your profile into a mini-website and helps you showcase different aspects of your business. Create branded Story Highlights easily in Canva to organise your Stories into themes or topics, and reference them in your grid posts to drive followers to check our past highlights they may have missed. When followers start to regularly watch your Stories, Instagram will prioritise your Stories in the follower’s Story reel, enabling them to never miss a moment!

Interactive, behind-the-scenes content will increase brand awareness, customer loyalty and ultimately sales. This is the beauty and power of Stories. 

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