Written by Holly Phillips

August 30, 2021

When Instagram launched in 2010 as an image-sharing platform, its popularity blew up almost overnight. Amassing 25,000 users in a single day, there was no question that Instagram was going to be the next big thing in social media. Today, over a decade later, Instagram is one of the most-used platforms in the world. 

As of April 2021, Instagram is the sixth highest social media platform with the most active users, overshadowed only by Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Facebook. One of the keys to Instagram’s success has been its ability to continually introduce new features that quickly become immensely popular among users; and the addition of Stories is one of the platform’s greatest success stories… (no pun intended).

What are Instagram Stories?

If you’re relatively new to Instagram engagement or haven’t used the platform since its early years, you may be a bit unfamiliar with Stories. No need to rush to Google though — we’ve got you covered. 

Instagram Stories are time-sensitive posts that allow users to share brief compilations of photos and videos. They’re commonly used for marketing purposes on Instagram and can be viewed for just 24 hours after they’re posted, providing a great incentive for followers to view them before they disappear in a cloud of smoke, never to be seen again. OK, so maybe it’s not really that dramatic, but the allure of viewing a Story before it’s gone for good is very real. 

Introduced in 2016, the feature quickly skyrocketed in popularity and is now one of the most used features on social media for businesses, influencer marketing, and regular Instagram users alike. If you use Instagram for your business, Stories can be an incredibly valuable tool. 

How Stories work: the basics

Unlike regular photo or video posts, Stories do not appear in the usual gallery grid on Instagram profiles, but are instead subtly indicated by a fuschia-orange gradient — Instagram’s signature color palette — outline on the poster’s profile picture.

Among things that an Instagram Story can include are:

Stories posted by private accounts can only be viewed by the account’s followers, but Stories posted by public accounts are viewable by anyone. Brands can respond to Stories via a direct message (DM) quick reply, giving accounts the invaluable opportunity to interact directly with their target audience. Additionally, Business and Creator accounts are able to promote Stories as ads, increasing visibility and engagement. 

Stories have a maximum length of 15 seconds and can also include a number of exciting features, such as call-to-action (CTA) buttons to send users to specific link locations or social media pages. While Promoted Stories still disappear from the poster’s account page once a day has passed, they can be set to run as ads for as long as you want them to, allowing them to exist beyond the 24-hour lifespan a Story has on a profile page. For a more detailed dive into Instagram Story Ads, check out this complete beginner’s guide.

Why use Instagram Stories?

With the rise of ad-blocking software, those who wish to advertise online have had to grow more and more creative. Instagram Stories provide a perfect outlet for that creativity. We know that may seem hard to believe since Stories disappear after just 24 hours. So, why put effort into something that’s just going to go away and be forgotten? It’s a counterintuitive strategy, but it’s also an undeniably effective one.

ManyChat Instagram account

Major brands such as Converse, Taco Bell, Nordstrom, National Geographic, and more have all used Instagram Stories to market their brands and products. Whether you’re a big business, a small business, still working on building your brand, or just getting started with Instagram, Stories are an invaluable tool. But don’t take our word for it — the statistics are convincing enough.

Stories by the Numbers

According to Instagram’s own internal research, over 500 million users view Stories every single day; and 58% of users said they were more interested in a product or brand after seeing it featured in an Instagram Story. On average, 86% of Stories are watched all the way through to the end, which is a feat itself, especially at a time when skipping ads on YouTube or fast-forwarding through them on TV has become almost second nature to most people. 

Here are some other statistics that show the ever-growing value of Instagram Stories:

  • One-third of Instagram’s most-viewed Stories belong to businesses.
  • Approximately 20% of Stories posted by businesses receive DMs from users.
  • Half of surveyed Instagram users have gone to business websites to buy a product or service they saw in Stories.
  • Four million businesses use Stories every month for advertising.

Engaging your audience through Stories

The numbers don’t lie: Instagram Stories are hugely popular among users. As effective as they are for advertising, they’re also effective for keeping your audience engaged. Posting on social media is easy, but catching and, more importantly, keeping people’s attention? That’s more difficult. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when creating content for Stories.

Keep things quick and concise

In the age of social media, attention spans are just getting shorter and shorter. According to a study conducted by Facebook, the top-performing Stories were the shorter ones. They also usually were straight to the point, introducing branding early on. Because Stories don’t allow for very much time, it’s important to take advantage of every second of screen time. It may seem like a hassle to analyze each second in your Stories, but with only 15 of them to grab your audience’s attention, every second counts.

Automate Keyword Triggers to start conversations

It’s easy to start a conversation with a potential client or customer if you tell them exactly how to do it. Encourage viewers to engage by providing a keyword in your  Stories that can be messaged to you. With ManyChat’s Keywords feature, you can promote the use of a keyword in your Story and set up automation that occur when users message you the magic word or phrase. 

Keywords have nearly unlimited potential, allowing you to engage your audience in many different ways. Here are just a few ideas for engaging uses of keywords.

  • Automate responses that give discount codes or coupons.
  • Automate a flow to collect email addresses for newsletters and exclusive emails.
  • Automate responses that send users to specific web pages.
  • Enter users into giveaways and raffles.

And that’s just off the top of our heads! Keywords can really get the ball rolling when it comes to user engagement. For more inspiration, check out some of our integrations. If those aren’t enough and you want to get even more creative, take a gander at the thousands of possible Zapier integrations for ManyChat.

Be ready for live chat interactions

While automation can vastly improve your customer experience and retention rate, some things just require a human touch. If a user has an issue making a purchase or a question that they can’t find an answer to anywhere else,  having or not having a live support agent ready to step in can make or break an experience. 

Luckily, ManyChat has just the thing to help. Using Instagram DM Automation by ManyChat, you can set up as many live chat agents as you want who are ready and able to step in and chat one-on-one.

One of the best things about Instagram is that, like ManyChat, the brand is dedicated to improving the platform. We’re sure Stories will continue to grow as a feature, allowing for more creative ways to use it. 

Engaging with your audience isn’t a one-time thing; maintaining that engagement is something you have to keep chipping away at, and building customer loyalty takes time. So keep on using Stories and finding new ways to engage, and we’ll keep finding ways to help you.

Sign up for ManyChat’s Instagram DM Automation and start exploring ways to engage with your audience today!

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The contents of this blog were independently prepared and are for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ManyChat or any other party. Individual results may vary.