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Just when you think you have a firm understanding of the possibilities provided by the social media world, something changes, and you’re left scrambling to get up to speed. That’s essentially what happened to a lot of digital agencies when Instagram revealed the predictably-titled IGTV back in June, further expanding the promotional possibilities already bolstered by the addition of Instagram Stories in 2016.

Used in tandem, these tools open up a huge range of possibilities for forward-thinking marketers, allowing them to use fresh tactics to bring in relevant leads. In this piece, we’re going to look at how you can do this effectively, getting the most out of Instagram’s incredible market reach. Let’s get started.

A picture from an event

A picture from an event

What are Instagram Stories and IGTV?

In case you’re unfamiliar with their finer points, let’s start by reviewing what these features actually allow you to do:

Instagram Stories allow a creator (to use Instagram’s preferred term) to post ephemeral content — everything is deleted after 24 hours. They can provide video, audio, and images, and add rich elements on tops of them, such as text, stickers, and even polls. When a user opens up a particular creator’s story, they can scroll through a timeline of content from the previous day — what they can’t do is comment on any of that content. Instead of being about in-depth interaction, it’s more about putting on a show for the user.

IGTV builds on Stories in some ways while folding in some standard options, bridging the gap somewhat. Accessible through a separate app or regular Instagram, IGTV content can be long-form (up to an hour per video), must be oriented vertically (it’s intended to be mobile-first), and — unlike Stories — is permanently accessible and can be commented on like standard Instagram posts.

Ultimately, each one of these features is an evolution of Instagram video, with Stories emphasizing short and spontaneous content, and IGTV now allowing creators to stretch their creative muscles and really embrace the possibilities of the medium.

How big brands are using these options

So, with Stories has been around for two years, and IGTV two months, how have the industry giants been using these tools? Well, it’s tough to pick out the best examples because they’ve all since been deleted (such is the curse of Stories), but thankfully some elements have been preserved for posterity — so let’s take a look at a couple of examples from InfluencerDB’s terrific piece on top Stories:

Screenshot of Airbnb's Instagram stories

Screenshot of Airbnb’s Instagram stories

Firstly, this great approach from Airbnb is delightfully efficient. Opening with an incredibly-simple question (“Where are we?!”), it spurs engagement through a poll asking people to guess the location based on an image, then continues the hints by sharing an image from a user. Add up the time it took to take the middle photo and add the text, and you have… well, not much time. Not only did this drum up activity in the form of guesses, but it neatly led to the follow-up question of where the users were, allowing further image curation.

Screenshot of Spotify's Instagram stories

Screenshot of Spotify’s Instagram stories

I also really like this example from Spotify. Using bold, sumptuous colors with excellent contrast, it got users hooked by doling out interesting bite-sized stories across several updates, and culminated in an ad for the service.

In many ways, these stories function like more interesting landing pages, but instead of focusing on features, they take the busker-style approach of putting on an entertaining show and then allowing the pleased user at the end to return some of that value through showing support.

As for IGTV, it’s still early going, but Netflix did take the bold move of stretching this frankly-strange exhibition of burger consumption to fill an entire hour in what was evidently their version of YouTube’s maxed-out 10-hour installments of popular songs, memes, and GIFs. It’s going to be really interesting to see how marketing teams get creative with it.

How you can use them to generate leads

Now that we’ve covered what these features are, and how some brands have used them already, we can get into the meat of this piece: how you can use Stories and IGTV to generate sales for whatever it is you’re trying to sell. Let’s list a few great ways!

Hype up an offer with mystery and FOMO

Few things draw people in more than some mystery, and Instagram Stories are perfect for setting out cryptic snippets to make people wonder. Suppose that you were soon to be offering a 20% discount on a warm hat — you could put out an image saying “Mystery offer arriving in [X] hours”, then an image of someone looking cold and a caption along the lines of “Get a head start against the cold this winter with our mystery deal, arriving soon…”.

Following that, you could provide a poll asking people what level of discount you should offer: 5%, 10%, or 20%? (Everyone would, of course, pick 20%, even though most of them would know your intentions!) And with that amount solidified, you could provide a silhouette of the product with a caption of “You want a 20% discount? You got it. Mystery product reveals coming soon, but act fast — stock will go quickly!”.

If you lay it all out effectively, then by the time you post a short video clip introducing the hat in question and confirming that it’s now on sale at 20% off, you should have a decent number of prospective customers who already feel invested in the item and will thus be more likely to buy it (they should also have developed a much greater interest in your brand).

Demonstrate authority and add value through guides

Plenty of leads in the business world come not from materials focusing on specific products but in response to demonstrations of expertise. Whenever an industry expert gives a presentation on a particular topic, they stand an excellent chance of getting some queries afterward, helping them to build relationships that make the sales process much easier.

Because it supports long-form video, IGTV makes it possible for a brand to produce and supply elaborate video content that can reach users extremely easily, and companies can take advantage of this by providing lengthy video guides of the kind that would previously have been uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, or some other such platform.

Imagine that you own a gadget site that offers assorted gizmos to a young-skewing target audience, making Instagram a very important promotional channel. Rather than trying to send visitors to your Instagram account elsewhere for further information, you can offer them a full introductory series, taking them all the way from videos showcasing product features in an easy-to-follow way to a general roundup of everything they can achieve with different gadgets.

Not only will this leave your Instagram followers more likely to be sold on your products, but it will also get your channel some buzz for being a go-to place for advice on the corresponding subject matter, winning you more social shares and getting even more traffic. Think about the kind of content that might win over the all-important influencers, and deliver it.

Show personality to earn trust before you pitch

It’s more important than ever before to show humanity when you’re trying to sell to people. They have so many options that they can be extremely picky about the companies they want to buy from and/or work with, and if you don’t do anything to win their empathy and goodwill, they’re very unlikely to find you sufficiently memorable or trustworthy.

Through Instagram Stories and IGTV, you can add flair to your promotion, with the former being perfect for layered compilations of whimsical fragments and the latter being superb for in-depth speaking-directly-to-camera messages. The more you get to know about how someone thinks, what they sound like, and how they act, the more you come to empathize with them and root for them to succeed.

Think about a classic welcome video, for instance. You could record a ten-minute video of your company head just speaking to the camera, explaining the history, values, and goals of the business, and listing how people can approach you to seek further information or provide feedback. Even if someone only watches 20 seconds of it, it will humanize your brand, and they’ll see you as more trustworthy simply by having recorded such a lengthy intro.

After that, if any of those viewers happened to think of something else they wanted to know about your industry, which brand would they want to reach out to? Probably the one that seemed most human and empathetic. Show some openness and transparency and you’ll earn massively more interest.

Wrapping up

Instagram has over a billion active users by now, and its new focus on video is going to let it eat into YouTube’s slice of the market, so it isn’t something you can afford to overlook. If you’re not using video content already, what are you waiting for? By mixing up timely video snippets to form engaging stories and producing high-quality long-form content to add value and show humanity, you can turn Instagram into your top marketing channel. Give it a try.

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