Should You Advertise on Instagram Stories?

Early in March, Instagram announced that all businesses could now use its Stories function to place advertising. Previously, ads could only be paid for if they appeared in the algorithmic timeline that Instagram users scroll through.

Instagram had piloted the Stories experience with 30 companies before it rolled it out to all business users. According to a blog post Instagram published with the announcement, Airbnb, which was part of the pilot group of companies, found big success in ad terms with its placement: “Airbnb ran a series of 15-second video adverts in stories to build awareness and buzz around its largest product launch to date: experiences on Airbnb. With its stories campaign, the company saw a double-digit point increase in advert recall. Additionally, when people were asked to identify a company for travellers to find and book local tours, activities and experiences, the campaign saw a statistically significant lift in those that selected Airbnb.”

If you base it purely on the numbers, there is good reason to use the Stories function for advertising. According to AdWeek, since launching the feature in August 2016, Instagram has amassed 150 million daily users (according to figures in January 2017). But there are other reasons why a smaller company might opt for Instagram Stories rather than the conventional scroll method if it chooses to place an ad. All signs point to the fact that ephemeral content is viewed more favourably by users, and more likely to result in the kind of engagement that advertisers want. As Entrepreneur wrote, “because Stories are short snippets, Instagrammers know that they have 10-15 seconds to spend on this content before it changes to the next thing. They are really, truly paying attention to what they are watching. Ten seconds of undivided attention on your product taking up the whole screen without being spammy — now that’s an amazing offer.”

While it undoubtedly represents a great opportunity, advertisers might struggle a little more to get it right with Stories because the content that fits in there is less highly produced than they might be used to. As Hootsuite put it, “Your Instagram Story should be fun and engaging, but it doesn’t have to be as polished as the content you post in your feed. This is a great opportunity for creativity and experimentation.”

So, if you want to take advantage of the latest way to advertise your business on Instagram, here are some best practice tips to get you started:

Make it dynamic: Remember, an Instagram Stories ad is not a newsfeed ad. Your content needs to dynamic, not static, so a simple picture—even if highly edited—won’t do. Videos or boomerangs work best—just make sure they’re not overproduced and feel authentic. If you’re going for a still shot, make use of Instagram’s editing features including emojis, drawing tools, and filters.

Go vertical: One of the constraints of the Stories function is that it’s a narrow, vertical frame you’re given to work with. Whatever you choose to post as your ad, make sure it’s optimized for this format. Remember, just because it works as a regular Instagram post doesn’t mean it will work as a Story, so make sure you adjust your content accordingly.

Promote your story: Stories only last for 24 hours, so if you put a lot of time and energy into creating one, you’re going to want to make sure it gets maximum eyeballs. Consider posting a “teaser” via your regular Instagram profile, encouraging your followers to check out your Story and what they might find there.

Include CTAs: Your Story should have a purpose. Whether you’re trying to get your target audience to click through to your website or sign up for your newsletter or special offers, make sure you give people a call to action to act on if their interest is piqued.