Instagram Stories: Now with Ads

Instagram Stories might be a feature ripped from Snapchat, but it’s arguably one of the most successful things Instagram has done since adding video in 2013. Instagram now has 600 million users, and 25% of them watch stories every day. This is driving more video views than ever before, so adding advertisements between user stories, something Snapchat already does, is kind of a no brainer.

150 million people watch Instagram Stories every day

What’s yet to be seen is how often users actively engage with this content instead of just passively watching it. Not that views aren’t important, but brands like seeing engagement. Instagram says 20% of stories receive a direct message from a viewer, but we don’t know how many of these messages are sent to brands vs the number sent between friends.

So is this new ad type worth using? Probably. The best way is to run a test and see how your fans react. Here’s why:

1/3 of the most viewed stories are from businesses

The fact that most brands have well curated Instagram feeds has lead to 70% of users following a brand. Social strategist were quick to learn that winning on Instagram meant making beautiful content that stayed authentic to the platform. So brands mimic fan’s style of shooting and editing, using user generated content for many of their posts.

Get ready for that same strategy in stories. Instagram is leading brands in this direction because content that blends into user content retains attention. Airbnb’s Eric Toda, who ran a beta test using stories ads, encourages a storytelling-first strategy:

“Immersive storytelling through Instagram Stories engages and invites our community to be part of an adventure.”

In their 15 second ads, they lead with content that looks like something any user might post before delivering a branded message.

Social Fan’s Video + Your Editing Team = Your Next Social Ad?

Maybe, but only if you have some great UGC video to work with. If you don’t already have brand ambassadors who regularly send you quality video, start building that program now. Hint: Everyone likes free products, but you’ll need a budget for higher quality work.

It’s also a good time to find an audio solution, because 70% of users are watching stories with the sound on. That’s in stark contrast to videos on Facebook, where 85% of videos are watched without audio. The lesson — make sure your creative fits the platform.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” — Something Snapchat employees must be muttering a lot these days

Instagram or Snapchat?

They both have ads in stories, so why choose one over the other? Consider where you already have a fan base as well as the demographic you’re trying to reach. Both platforms are expanding their fanbases to older audiences, but Snapchat still skews significantly younger than Instagram, and that won’t change anytime soon.