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4 marketing strategies for using Instagram Stories to gain a competitive advantage

by | Feb 21, 2023 | Public Relations

Here’s a riddle for you—which format is more interactive on Instagram? Is it Reels, Stories, or Posts? Drum roll please…it’s Instagram Stories.

If you skip publishing content on your Instagram feed for a week, your audience won’t skip a beat. But, if you stop interacting with your audience via Stories, they’ll notice as soon as possible.

And the result? Lackluster engagement and a dropoff in sales.

The potential ad audience on Instagram—996 million—comes via Instagram Stories. So don’t underestimate the power of adding Instagram Stories to your marketing strategy.

In this article, we’ll share four strategies you can leverage to gain a competitive advantage with Instagram Stories (plus two bonus tips to explode your growth).

Are you ready to learn more? Let’s dive in.

Strategy #1: Invite interaction

Adding an interactive sticker to your Instagram Story allows viewers to answer questions, engage in polls, ask questions, and join the conversation with your business in real-time.

For example, MOS promotes banking for college students through Instagram Stories. They use polls and quizzes to engage with their audience.

6 marketing strategies for using Instagram Stories to gain a competitive advantage

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Why it works: The brand uses Instagram’s quiz sticker feature to interact with its audience.

They have:

  • Asked engaging questions
  • Provided their audience with different choices
  • Included context behind the questions
  • Highlighted them in a different color

Doing this helps in garnering more engagement. Plus, adding a solid color background helps readers focus on the quiz more than the imagery.

How to implement: Decide the questions and the options you’ll give your audience.

Next, use the quiz sticker, add the questions and options, and share them on your Instagram story. Finally, include brand colors in the background—to bring the branding element to your stories.

To interact with your audience better, add context to your questions—either in the same story where you started the quiz or in the previous story before you started playing the quiz.

Just like the quiz sticker, there are a variety of other stickers you can leverage to interact with your audience.

How? Simply use the “Add a link” sticker on your stories.

Here’s how Smartsheet uses Instagram Stories to add an original event post and a registration link to promote the event to modern project managers who utilize Gantt charts, workflow automation, etc.

6 marketing strategies for using Instagram Stories to gain a competitive advantage

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Why it works: The brand shared the event announcement on its Instagram feed.

Then, they published it on their Instagram Stories. They have used the “Add a link” sticker and included the link to their event registration landing page—this way, the viewers can click on the registration link directly from the story. Easy as pie!

How to implement: Decide what you want to promote—an event, a specific product, or a website.

Now, understand how you want to display it on your Instagram story—by exporting the image directly to the story or creating an Instagram post.

If you create an Instagram post or Reel showcasing your products, you can always share it on your story. To give context, you can add text like “New Product Launch.”

Use the “Add a link” sticker, add your product page link or event registration link, and share it with your audience.

Strategy #2: Share educational content

Educational content is always a winner. Why? Because it provides value to your audience.

So, interact with your audience in stories and share educational content with them.

Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Share one-minute weekly tips in text or video format
  • Record mini videos that focus on how-tos or product demos
  • Post weekly niche-specific quizzes
  • Share user-generated informational content that your customers tag you in

Look at how Smartsheet uses Instagram Stories to educate its customers using pre-existing content assets.

6 marketing strategies for using Instagram Stories to gain a competitive advantage

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Why it works: The brand uses its existing content asset, a case study, to educate its audience about an important topic. They have exported the thumbnail to their Instagram story, added a title to the story, and a link to the case study with an interactive sticker.

To ensure viewers understand what the story is about, they have used the action word (learn) in the copy followed by additional information.

Also, they’ve tagged their client—this lets their customer view their story and share it on their profile to boost the reach.

How to implement: First, decide whether you’ll share your existing content on your stories or create the content from scratch.

If you plan to use existing content, list the content assets, you’ll use—case studies, ebooks, blog posts, or webinars.

Once you hone in one the content, embed the thumbnail into your Instagram Stories, and include the “Add a link” sticker.

Copy the link to your content asset and publish the story. And voila, watch the traffic flow directly to your existing content.

Strategy #3: Use the “Close Friends” feature to sell

The Close Friends feature is a convenient way to share specific stories privately with selected followers. Many brands and businesses leverage this feature to monetize their audience.

How? By adding their engaged audience to their close friend’s list and sharing exclusive content with them.

For example, Socials Studio sells its ebooks through Instagram Stories. People who have bought the ebook are added to a Close Friends list, where they get informational content on Instagram Stories.

6 marketing strategies for using Instagram Stories to gain a competitive advantage

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Why it works: The brand has a paid template they sell via Instagram Stories using the “Add a link” feature.

People who purchase the template get access to their Close Friends List, where they receive more actionable content daily from the brand. This keeps customers engaged even after they have purchased from them.

How to implement: First, decide whether you want to add your existing customers to the Close Friends List or people interested in your products and services.

To do this, use the poll feature and ask people in your Instagram Stories about it. Next, add these people to your Close Friends List.

Here’s a simple 2-step process on how to do it:

  1. Open the Instagram app on Android or iOS. Tap your avatar in the bottom right corner. Tap the menu on the top right and select Close Friends.
  2. You’ll see a Get Started screen. Tap on it. There’s a list of suggested people (your followers) to add to your list. Select the people you want to add and tap on Create List.

Strategy #4: Leverage partnerships with brands and influencers

If your goal is to boost your sales and increase brand awareness, partner with brands and influencers in your niche.

Collaborating with influencers increases the discoverability of your products and services, further amplifying your sales. You can amplify this strategy by collaborating with influencers and sharing videos on your Instagram Stories where influencers either use or mention your product.

For example, if you run a cleaning business that sells car cleaning products like floor mat cleaner, interior cleaner, leather cleaner, or tire shine—collaborating with a car influencer is an effective strategy.

There’s tons of information available about influencers in every niche. A quick Google search will do the trick. Here’s heavydsparks that has over 3 million followers.

6 marketing strategies for using Instagram Stories to gain a competitive advantage

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Here’s another example. Valentine’s Day is around the corner, so a local Fort Lauderdale florist wants to leverage Instagram Stories to promote products and flash deals.

They decide to go with a micro-influencer strategy and invite them out to their shop to pick out some fresh flowers. Here’s an example of a micro-influencer with around 2,000 followers:

6 marketing strategies for using Instagram Stories to gain a competitive advantage

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When the influencer records and shares Instagram Stories picking out some beautiful flowers in the shop (along with a link and geotag), they are influencing their followers to check out the shop for themselves. Honestly, who can say no to fresh flowers?

The result is an influx of traffic to the local shop, with people looking to purchase Valentine’s or Galentine’s Day flowers for their loved ones. It’s a win-win.

Tips to level up your Instagram Stories

Here are a few bonus trips to take your Instagram Stories to new heights:

Tip #1: Publish the best visual content

Because Instagram is a visual platform, your images must be visually appealing. When you take pictures, make sure:

  • Shoot in natural lighting or try to take them outdoors
  • Learn how to set up your shot—use flatlays, backdrops, and props
  • Edit your images using the image editor to improve them and add filters that go with your Instagram theme

Tip #2: Make use of Instagram Highlights

As you know, Instagram Stories last only for 24 hours, but there’s a way you can make them stay for longer on your account. How? By adding stories to the Instagram Highlights section.

Using Instagram Highlights is a helpful way to tell new visitors about your brand, your work, and the products you sell. To create an Instagram Highlight:

  1. Open the Instagram app on Android or iOS.
  2. Navigate to the top-right corner of the profile and click on the three dots.
  3. Tap on Archive.
  4. You’ll see all the Instagram Stories you’ve published.
  5. Tap on the story and view it.
  6. At the bottom of the story, you’ll see the Highlight option.
  7. Give it a name if it’s the first Highlight you’re creating.
  8. Once done, you can view it on your Instagram profile.
  9. If you want to change the cover image of the Highlights, tap on the Highlight you created.
  10. Long press on the Highlight, and you’ll see multiple options. Select Edit Highlight.
  11. Click on Edit cover and change it.

Use Instagram Stories to grow your business

Well, folks, it’s been a great journey learning the ins and outs of using Instagram Stories.

By now, you should have a solid understanding of how to leverage this powerhouse of a social media platform to gain a competitive advantage and drive growth for your business.

But remember, Instagram Stories are all about being timely and relevant, so don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with new features and trends.

With the right planning, Instagram Stories can be the key to taking your marketing efforts to the next level.

Happy posting!

Jeremy Moser
Jeremy is co-founder & CEO at uSERP, a digital PR and SEO agency working with brands like Monday, ActiveCampaign, Hotjar, and more. He also buys and builds SaaS companies like Wordable.io and writes for publications like Entrepreneur and Search Engine Journal.

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