Social media is in the grips of a new breed of content introduced by Snapchat and growing in popularity with some of the more established platforms – stories. These disappearing photos and videos might be short-lived pieces of content, up and gone in 24 hours. But if you want to crush 2018, they’ll definitely find a place in your marketing strategy.

Stories, and in particular Instagram Stories, have emerged as one of the best ways to engage with your loyal followers while remaining accessible to new audiences, and they’ve changed the way we use Instagram – it’s no longer just an online photo album chock-full of motivational selfies, food and sunset pics.

Why should your business bother with Instagram Stories?

Some marketers and business owners might be wondering what’s to be gained from putting effort into content that will just disappear after a few hours. The answer is everything!

This type of content encourages authentic sharing and is not only addictive but proven to work by the huge growth and success of Snapchat. It’s informal, the content is easily and quickly created, it doesn’t feel too monetised or corporate, and it appeals to developing and mature audiences alike.

Aside from that, if you need more convincing, Instagram has reported Stories has 250m daily users. So how should you use Instagram Stories?

Getting attention

Hashtags are widely used on Instagram to attract an audience; however, hashtagging your Instagram Stories will require a bit more thought than ordinary Instagram posts. The hashtags on your Stories could direct your viewers to others’ content, so only use your own hashtags. This way, if your hashtag is used by a viewer using your product in their own story, it’ll direct other viewers to content relating to your brand.

Mention your handle and website in your Stories to encourage people to go to your bio and click on your website link. A call to action is the best way to end a story, remember that you will only have your viewers’ attention for a few moments so be explicit about what you want them to do or they’ll swipe straight and forget about you like a bad Tinder bio.

Your own TV channel

Instagram Stories may be designed for easily consumable, temporary content but it still requires a strategy and some forward thought. Random posting is the preserve of ordinary users but businesses and brands need to treat Instagram Stories content the same way they would any other marketing content.

Try treating your Stories channel like your own TV channel, with regular content at predictable times that your viewers will come to anticipate. Creating content this way – thinking in advance of what you’re putting out there – will enhance your viewers’ experience.

Take creative risks

The temporary nature of your Instagram Story is perfect for creative risks. If you want to test something out, Instagram Stories gives you the freedom to trial new content in which you might not have complete confidence. If it gets good reception, you can consider using it on your main Instagram feed.

Stories also give you the flexibility to repost content from other channels without interfering with your Instagram gallery’s journey. And if you have any customer-created content, you can share those in your Instagram Story and generate some goodwill among influencers.

Support your Stories by taking them live with Instagram Live. It’s a versatile and fun way to engage viewers in real time and if you have a successful session, you can upload it to your Stories. Some simple ideas to get you started with Instagram Live is running a contest, doing a Q&A, vlogging, or amateur(ish) journalism covering an event.

Get stuck in

Like any new social media platform, Instagram Stories will take some getting used to but don’t let that stop you from integrating it into your strategy immediately. The best way to learn what works is to get stuck in and test new ideas.

So be creative and trust that the audience will respond to your genuine attempts to engage with them. Your 2018 marketing strategy won’t be complete without Instagram Stories.