Instagram Stories for Brands: Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

Instagram Stories for brands. It seems like a no brainer…

The big question –> Is all that time, money, and energy you spend creating Instagram Stories worth it? That’s exactly what we are going to dig into.

Marketers are in a global battle for attention, not just from competitors, but from every person and business creating marketing content and ads.

Consumers are inundated with messages from the moment we wake up and reach for our phone, to the moment we put it down on the nightstand before closing our eyes.

Digital marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day.

It’s noisy out there.

So what’s the solution? How do marketers break through the clutter and ensure their brand messages reach their audience?

Instagram Stories for Brands: A Seemingly Powerful Combination of Reach and Storytelling

Instagram has the reach brands need.

Instagram Stories provide brands with the power of storytelling to break through the clutter.

The combination of reach and storytelling bring a lot of value to brands big and small.

The powerful opportunity has not been lost on marketers. Instagram Stories has skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years, with over 500 million users consuming Instagram Stories daily.

Brands are now spending a lot of time, money, and energy to create Instagram Stories.

The value proposition seems irresistible at first.

But many marketers are learning that Instagram Stories is not without it’s challenges.

The Biggest Problem with Instagram Stories for Brands

From the beginning of the digital age, through the past decade that’s seen content marketing explode, the biggest benefit of digital is that the content you create lasts forever.

Marketers spend a ton of time, money, and energy creating digital content.

But it’s all good because you know that the content will keep paying off for you over time.

You create the content once, and it lives forever online.

Until it doesn’t….

Instagram Stories are a unique marketing tool, but the biggest problem with Instagram Stories for brands is their shelf life.

Your team, or your agency, works to create incredible Instagram Stories that will stand out in a sea of Instagram Stories.

You approve it.

They post it.

And…

24 hours later it’s gone.

Time to start all over again.

95% of Your Followers Don’t See Your Instagram Story

Brands have to keep churning out Instagram Stories because they disappear after 24 hours, but also because the Instagram Story reach rate is incredibly low.

Socialinsider published some incredible Instagram Story research on reach rate. They calculated the reach rate as a percentage of the Story viewers on any given day divided by total followers.

Here’s what they found:

Handles with less than 10,000 followers have a reach rate of about 9%, which is almost double than of accounts with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers that get no more than 5% average reach rate.

Accounts with relatively more followers tend to reach a lower percentage of their followers with their Stories.

Brands that have more than 100,000 followers have a lower reach rate around 5%.

instagram stories for brands story reach
Image courtesy of socialinsider.io

Instagram Story Ads Are Expensive

Want to reach more people on Instagram?

Want your Instagram Story content to live longer than 24 hours?

Run Instagram Story Ads.

Instagram is increasingly becoming a pay to play business model for all, but especially large brands with big follower counts.

Instagram Stories Ads allow you to insert a short advertisement between users’ stories. The ads fit the format of a story, keeping the user experience consistent and the flow uninterrupted.

Instagram Story Ads are different than free Instagram Stories, but they feel similar to the end user.

Great solution, right?

Yes, as long as you have a marketing budget to support it.

It’s pay to play and Instagram Story Ads can get very expensive, very quickly.

U.S. marketers spend 31% of their Instagram ad budget on Stories.

The ad spend isn’t a problem for larger brands, but brands with smaller budgets can’t keep up.

Instagram Stories ROI

Want to drive people from your Instagram Story to your website or a product page?

No problem, just add the swipe up feature to your Instagram Story, which allows you to add an external link to your story.

Oh wait, you can only get the swipe up feature if you have a business account with more than 10,000 followers.

You see, Instagram want’s people to stay on their platform. They don’t want people to leave.

Big brands can increase their ROI on the time, money, and effort they put into Instagram Stories by adding the swipe up feature. Smaller brands, not so much.

That said, as we know, the more followers you have, the less organic reach you get for your Instagram Stories.

Basically Instagram is funneling everyone into Instagram Story Ads.

Big brands need them to extend their reach.

Small brands need them to leverage the swipe up feature.

Smart move by Instagram. Expensive for you.

Restrictive Instagram Story Creation

Instagram is a mobile app. We spend a ton of time on our phones, so it’s super convenient for most users.

Except for brands who have to coordinate multiple people and agencies for their Instagram Story content creation.

Companies use computers for content creation.

Since the Instagram platform is designed to be used via mobile device, there’s no option to post directly to Instagram from desktop. You need to either send content to your mobile device and publish manually, or use a third party tool like Agorapulse.

The Instagram Stories creation process for brands is filled with a ton of friction.

People scramble around creating images, videos, and copy for their Instagram Story.

All the assets are compiled, and sent to an individual who manages the account.

That person must download the files to their phone and then create the Instagram Story.

There are a few Instagram Story creation hacks that you can use to publish from desktop, but you have to modify source code settings from your Instagram page.

build instagram stories on desktop
Image courtesy of BIDYO.io

Video Content Restrictions for Instagram Stories

On top of all this, the actual media you can use is also restricted with Instagram Stories.

Video content in Instagram Stories can only be 15 seconds per page. Anything longer than that is cropped.

That means a lot of time is spent on editing video content to a 15 second soundbyte.

Video is expensive and time consuming to produce. Once you have it, the more places you can share it, the more you amortize those costs.

It would be a lot easier if you could just upload your existing 1 minute brand video. Instead, you must spend more time optimizing that video to work within Instagram Stories.

Instagram Stories for Brands is Basically Mass Marketing

In a world where consumers increasingly expect personalized experiences based on their interests, Instagram Stories is basically mass marketing.

There’s no follower segmentation that brands can take advantage of in order to target stories to specific audience segments.

Everyone sees the same story.

This means that marketers must take a broad approach to Instagram Story content creation.

You have to produce content that appeals to the masses.

Marketers know that the broader the content, the lower the conversion rates.

That’s why for every other digital tactic, marketers are looking to personalize the content to a 1:1 level or at least based on their customer personas.

Unfortunately, that’s impossible with Instagram Stories.

No First Party Data

With new regulations like GDPR and CCPA we are moving to a cookie-less world. Search giants like Google want to phase out third party cookies.

Why do third party cookies matter to marketers?

Because third party cookies provide the data we’ve been using for years to target ads to specific audience segments.

Without third party cookies, brands won’t be able to deliver personalized experiences to audiences.

The solution?

Brands must collect their own first party data.

Brands who use Instagram Stories are not able to collect any first party data on their followers. All story consumption data belongs to Instagram.

That means that you cannot directly target people who engaged in your last Instagram Story with an email blast, text campaign, or any other follow-up communication. Why? Because you don’t know who those people are. You have no data on them.

Having first party data on your target audience is going to be critical for brands going forward.

Just don’t count on collecting that first party data from your Instagram efforts.

An Alternative Instagram Stories for Brands

STORYSOFT is a content marketing platform built for brand storytelling.

We make it easy for marketers to create, share, and track their brand stories at scale.

Imagine if you could provide the same story-like experience as Instagram Stories, but it was:

  • Quick to create digital stories
  • Seamless to share stories on every channel
  • Easy to track results
alternative to instagram stories for brands

We are not saying that brands should never create Instagram Stories.

What we are saying is you should consider diverting some of the time, money, and energy that you spend creating Instagram Stories and test STORYSOFT stories.

STORYSOFT stories allow marketers to:

  • Create stories once, and reach audiences on any marketing channel
  • Amortize their investment of time, money, and energy over time because STORYSOFT stories live forever online
  • Add content without restriction
  • Build stories easily using desktop or mobile devices with our Story Builder
  • Personalize stories based on target audience personas
  • Collect first party data and seamlessly export it back to your CRM
  • Easily access integrated analytics without having to plug in third party reporting tools

We make brand storytelling simple, flexible, and insightful for marketers.

Experience the future of brand storytelling. Start a free trial.