Instagram Stories might vanish in seconds or overnight but they can have a huge positive impact for B2B brands – if they get it right.

Instagram is the fastest-growing social network, with 1 billion monthly active users and 5 per cent quarterly growth, Search Engine Journal reported in June.

“Stories have become wildly popular on Instagram, and the [number] of people publishing stories has eclipsed Snapchat’s entire userbase,” SEJ reports.

Facebook has also rolled out a ‘Stories’ feature, as have its other platforms, Messenger and WhatsApp. Social media marketing agency Block Party estimates Facebook Stories grew at 15 times the speed of news feeds from Q2 2016 to Q3 2017, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the focus on short-lived content is growing so fast it is becoming the dominant revenue generator.

“People feel more comfortable being themselves when their content is seen by smaller groups and [the posts] don’t stick around forever,” Wired reports.

This short-lived, or ‘ephemeral’ content is resonating in an extraordinary way with increasingly cynical and hard-to-reach audiences, but it lasts a maximum of 24 hours.

Businesses understand they need to start using short-lived content. Later’s The State of Instagram Marketing Report says 76 per cent of B2B respondents that don’t use Instagram Stories are interested in creating them this year, and 96 per cent of brands that already use the format will be increasing production.

There’s no doubt, with its massive, active and engaged user base, many platforms and expanded features, short-lived social media is a secret weapon for B2B brands. The key is using these formats for the right purpose, with the right audience and at the right time.

The big questions

It’s important to make sure your short-lived content plans fits in with your broader channel strategy before you start.

Make sure you consider:

  • What are your audiences’ channels of choice?
  • What type of content are your audiences open to receiving?
  • Do you have the creative expertise and resources, either in-house, or externally, to make authentic, timely, compelling short-lived content?
  • Does short-lived content match your long-term business needs? Instagram stories is good for building an audience and increasing brand awareness. Would the platform realistically meet your expectations?

Making a connection

Authenticity is more important than ever before. We have become increasingly immune to slick corporate messaging and can spot a marketing ‘sell’ a mile away. We’ve switched off – especially younger audiences, who are increasingly disengaged from mainstream media.

But brands brave enough to creatively show who they really are, and what they stand for, are in the box seat for success. By branching out beyond traditional marketing, brands can show themselves in a fresh way, creating deeper and more meaningful brand awareness and connection. Users who make a conscious decision to follow a brand on Snapchat or open an Instagram Story have a sense of trust in a brand, and an excitement about it. They are ultimately more likely to engage with that brand when it comes time to make a purchase.

Getting the feeling of authenticity right in a short, visual format requires thinking about content in a new way. TechCrunch‘s Josh Constine says, “Advertisers must rethink their message not as a headline, body text, and link, but as a background, overlays, and a feeling that lingers even if viewers don’t click through.”

And stories that provide that ‘feeling that lingers’ can be found everywhere, if brands know where to look.

Here’s some key questions to ask yourself: What do you do that is unknown and visual? Do you have a big event coming up? What makes your company culture, people and brand special? Your fresh, creative, authentic stories are in the answers to those questions.

Mailchimp is a B2B business with a dynamic company culture that often features on lists of the best places to work. In an effort to advertise this culture and attract future employees, the company encourages employees to take on creative ‘side hustles’ and showcases its employees’ hidden talents, creativity, quirks and personality on Instagram Stories.

The key to connecting with real people is showing real people, doing what they do in an authentic, honest way.

B2B instagram stories - mailchimp

Always tell a story

Like all great content, short-lived content must tell a story. Look to B2C publishers for inspiration – National Geographic, The Financial Times and Wired cleverly repurpose their long-form content to Instagram Stories, breaking down complex concepts into the most simple narrative over 10 frames, using simple visuals and graphics.

Storytellers have an array of creative tools to use in unique ways to tell compelling stories in short-lived content – video, geofilters, lenses, interactive polls and the ability to write and draw copy and graphics.

As a general rule, ask yourself why your audience would be interested in what you’re posting, before you do. And then post frequently enough to capture attention but not enough to spam people. If you don’t know the ideal number of frames or stories to produce, testing and optimisation will find those answers, and help you find the space where genuine engagement lives.

There’s can still be a funnel (once you have an engaged audience)

If your Instagram account has more than 10,000 followers, you can embed a link in your feed. Otherwise, the only spot for a link to your website is in the account’s bio.

For B2B brands that have already built an engaged community, there is the potential to turn every piece of short-lived content into a conversion.

B2B instagram stories - shopify

Shopify advertises a blog post that contains a lead-generating call to action.

Paid stories also provide the opportunity to build brand awareness or drive groups of people to converting pages. With indications Instagram Stories now make up 25% of total ad spend, the method is growing in popularity.

B2B Instagram Stories - Mumbrella

Mumbrella uses a paid Instagram Story to drive sign ups to their email newsletters.

For a generation, Instagram Stories are a key element of both the social media experience and their lives. B2B brands don’t need to be afraid of the content that disappears overnight. But if B2B ignores this critical platform, they just might end up disappearing, too.

Hannah Dixon contributed to the writing of this piece.

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