Improve your social media 'Stories' in four simple steps

Improve your social media 'Stories' in four simple steps

Last month, Twitter became the latest social media platform to add short-form, time-locked content to users’ feeds with the advent of Twitter Fleets. Stories are now on pretty much every platform, with varying functionalities, but how do you make yours stand out?

Stories have almost become a platform within their own right. Their full-screen, immersive appearance has changed the behaviour of social media users forever – and marketers must take note of this marked transformation. Where previously followers might scroll through news feeds to dig out content, now we passively watch the stories roll. More than 500 million users watch Instagram stories daily, which means that brands are going to get lost if they’re not showing up in this space and engaging their followers with compelling content primed for this format.

For those marketers managing social media channels, it can often feel like all these new stories features are coming at us thick and fast and are just another thing we have to keep up to date with or find content for.

However, I believe stories are a really worthwhile tool. Recently Instagram told marketers that 1 in 5 Instagram stories leads to a direct message. This sort of lead generation or conversion rate is unlikely to be seen anywhere else. The opportunity for stories to open up a dialogue with your audience is huge, and more relevant for this type of content than any other you’ll find on social media. Using stories to encourage direct messaging, for example, often breaks down barriers to conversions. While people may not bother to fill out a contact form or send an email, they’re often happy to ping a DM, so use that to your advantage.  

Here are my top tips for creating compelling content in a format that works for stories across all platforms.

Focus on storytelling

Like every story, they need a beginning, a middle and an end. This is specific to stories over and above feed posts and needs careful consideration. At the beginning, it’s good to set the tone and explain what the audience is about to see, whether that’s just an image and copy or a full video explaining what’s to come. Explaining what you’re about to show the audience will help with viewer retention by giving them the option to swipe away if they don’t feel that content is relevant to them. The middle is your core creative content, containing the main message you want to deliver to your audience, and ending with a call to action. This might be directing viewers to another piece of content or encouraging a reaction/discussion.

Like feed posts, you must plan ahead

Because stories have such a short life span, I think the lack of permanency that feed posts have can fool marketers into leaving story content to the last minute. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and one I myself can sometimes be guilty of. Although they only show up for 24 hours, they still require the same level of planning and preparation as feed posts to remain strategic and consistent. Poor quality doesn’t wash with viewers – no matter how short the content is!

Leave the hard sell at the door

Polished, corporate content will not get brands very far. One of the most common mistakes I still frequently see is brands focusing on the product itself, rather than the benefit it brings. It’s a marketing fundamental that often gets lost in translation on social media. Stories give the opportunity to connect more authentically with audiences. User generated content is good here, especially if you’re tight on time. Sharing followers’ posts doesn’t require new content to be created but helps brands to maintain a presence and consistency. This has benefits beyond time saving, too; it gives the crucial social proof element, encouraging others to follow their behaviour.

Don’t be afraid to repurpose feed content

This is pretty simple – it’s a massive waste not to! The relationship between feed content and stories is symbiotic and balance is key. Stories should not be a direct reflection of your feed, neither should it be entirely divorced from it. Engagement, ultimately, is the aim, and that will look different across formats. While no one knows the algorithm, if followers are engaging with you in stories, they’re likely to be served more content from you in their organic feed. This works the other way, too, which is why it’s so important to view your social media presence as a unified content output, and this involves repurposing and adapting high-performing content on a regular basis.

If you’re still not sure where to start, here are some ideas for content to try on your stories:

  • Go beyond ‘yes/no’ polls with ‘this or that’ style quizzes or other interactive games that can also deliver deep insights about your audience
  • Ask for feedback on upcoming products
  • Deliver breaking news or announcements
  • Experiment with behind-the-scenes videos and interviews (broadcast live if you’re brave!)
  • Tease new content with countdowns
  • Host virtual live events using guest speakers, with interactive elements such as Q&As
  • Highlight compelling testimonials/reviews
  • Showcase user generated content that’s caught your eye
  • Let someone else take the reins with a customer, client or employee takeover

With all of the above, measuring engagement is crucial. The nature of stories makes them perfect for experimentation – nothing’s permanent (within reason!) so don’t be afraid to test and learn. The key, of course, is to ensure that you learn as much as you test.

Hear more top tips from Molly on episode 25 of the CIM Marketing Podcast, Have brands mastered social media?

CIM members can also view our exclusive webinar, Driving digital strategies for social media, on demand now to find out more.

Molly MacArthur Digital marketing manager Formerly CIM
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