How Brands Can Harness the Power of Links in Instagram Stories

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If you’re not already familiar with Instagram’s Snapchat-aimed Stories update, you should be.  With over 500 Million active users on its platform, Brands, Publishers, and Influencers alike are constantly discovering new ways to engage with Instagrammers on the Mobile giant.

With Stories, Instagram offers a “front page” of disappearing Snapchat-like full-screen content that lives at the top of all users’ feeds.  I predict Stories, with their gated, extremely consumable format, will soon dominate the way Instagrammers interact with brands on the mobile app.  And this newcomer is only getting more sophisticated.

Recently, Instagram upped its bid into Stories by allowing users to add clickable tags and to this content.  Tapping a handle tagged inside an Instagram story now takes a user to that person’s page – a feature that previously only lived in the comments.

Obviously, influencers will be capitalizing on the changes and will be discovering a plethora of new ways to harness them for the good of their sponsors over the coming months.  It makes sense – 750,000 users follow Todrick Hall, who sends them to Fiat’s page via a link in his story.  That much we can expect (and have seen).  But how can brands follow suit?

Here are some creative and powerful ways I’ve come up with to supercharge your brand’s Instagram by enriching your Stories with links and mentions.

1. Promote your Storytellers

It’s no secret: Influencer marketing has become a key tool in any solid marketing suite, and the growth of its popularity only seems to quicken by the second.  In a recent Adweek survey, most marketers said they plan to spend between 50,000 and 100,000 per influencer program in 2017.

But money isn’t all that influencers are in it for – their brand growth is of equal or greater value.  The recent addition of mentions to Instagram stories offers a unique win-win to brands and moguls alike.

Brands can tease interesting content on their own feed – say, a Q&A, a contest, or some behind the scenes exclusive.  By using mentions, they can then direct users to an Influencer running point on content and messaging.  And vice versa.  Users are driven in both directions and content is shared as a conversation.

Users who want the full experience will need to engage with every page involved – and mentions make the process natural.  This diversion from standard campaign formats we’ve previously seen on Instagram will end up driving much more traffic for all.  Taking

2. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours

Why should this be so attractive to marketers?  With powerful influencers becoming more and more in-demand, they can begin to pick and choose their sponsorships.

Brands, take note: treat your influencers like your customers.  The more engaging your campaigns are, the more they will be inclined to advocate for you in the future.  A conversational format is one way for them to get to know your brand in a non-transactional, yet professional way that also decreases the chance of alienating their own native following.

3. Q&A back and forth

The same goes for Q&A by both internal and external thought leaders and experts.  Is there a member of your company who is (or deserves to be) an influencer in their own right?  Use the power of the conversation to make sure your followers are intertwined.

The more users engage with a prolific representative of your brand, the stronger your brand grows.  It’s all about interconnectivity.

4. Involve the community

One way that top accounts are engaging with their followers is the promise of exposure.  Contests, Q&A’s, and time-sensitive hashtags can be the highlight of your user’s social experience for that day.

Take J. Crew’s #ShinyPonies campaign, for example.  From a community perspective, posting a picture of your favorite shoes in accordance to a contest’s rules is a small price to pay for the chance to be recognized by a community you care about (and grow your own following in turn).  User-generated content promotes on- and off-line engagement with your products – by taking the same approach on stories, you will capitalize on those who don’t take the time to scroll through their entire feeds.

Your contest will live on right at the top of Instagram, where eyeballs go first.  And turnover is quick.  No drawn-out RFP process necessary.

TIP: When running a contest over Instagram Stories, a Brand should absolutely make it known ahead of time that winners will be announced and featured in Stories – and then follow through.

The promise of more followers to the average user makes that #OOTD contest all the more attractive, so give ample notice.  Those who browse casually through your stories will catch your feature and be more inclined to join in for next time.

5. Megaphone your entire brand suite

Remember when I mentioned interconnectivity?  That should go for the multiple products, companies, and accounts your brand is associated with.  Have a new fashion line you want to promote?  Mention it.  Running a social good campaign?

Tag it and send your followers on a journey that makes your company story more and more a part of their own.

6. “See More” – turn your story into a Performance Marketing Campaign

With the Mentions update also comes the addition to link to external content.  This could have incredible clout for fashion brands to link out to the products they showcase on their Stories.

Rolling out to verified brands and influencers, the feature allows users to swipe up to “See More” at the bottom of their screen, taking them wherever the poster desires.  As we discussed in our last post, Shopper Marketing is on the rise in Instagram, and performance-based initiatives are slowly working their way into the Social Interaction behemoth.

The only hurdle is user experience.  By integrating links with stories, Brands and Influencers alike will be using the utterly tempting “See More” CTA to take the work out of navigating off-app to relevant shopping carts and lookbooks.

The math is now entirely simplified: See that dress she’s wearing?  Click once and you can get that much closer to rocking it even better (while checking out other products).  No more disconnect.

The more and more I investigate Instagram’s Stories update, the more it truly bears all the markings of a “front page”.  The content is snackable, varied, and up-to-the minute.  With solid new functionality rolling in at a staggering pace, Marketers would be wise to adopt these recent changes in both their Performance and Brand marketing strategies.  And as always, Watch the Influencers.  You might pick up another winning tip or two.