If you're a marketer, at some point, it's likely you're going to be asked the question, "Is it on brand?"
This is especially true for social media content. Companies with social media pages generally have a theme that relates to the organization. The use of colors, sensory details, and styling all contribute to the overall theme of a page. I, for one, love thematic Instagrams — they're so aesthetically pleasing.
When the colors, text, and photos all fit, I find myself going through all the content because it's so easy to look at — the same is true for Stories.
Sometimes, I come across posts that make me think, "How did this marketer turn a simple content idea into this engaging Instagram Story?" And, as always, curiosity got the best of me. I had a question, and I was ready to search for the answer.
Fortunately, I knew exactly who to look to for help. I wanted to know just how social media marketers choose the right pieces to include in Stories, so I turned to the experts. I asked HubSpot's marketers this question and compiled their tips.
Let's see what they had to say.
How to Pick and Adapt Instagram Story Content
- Look for buzzy, trendy content.
- Choose media that's easy to understand.
- Think about if you can make the story interactive.
- Decide if you can make the text sparse and actionable.
- Experiment, experiment, experiment.
- Be mindful of story length.
- Put yourself in the audience's shoes.
1. Look for buzzy, trendy content.
When choosing content to add to Instagram Stories, HubSpot Audience Growth Writer Pam Bump, asks herself a question: “Is the content buzz-worthy?”
"Trend or buzz-worthy content usually relates to a topic, trend, or piece of research that people in my industry are talking about or sharing on social media," she says. "If a topic is already being widely discussed and shared, it might be more engaging as a story on a social platform."
For instance, if you find that a hot topic in your industry is, say, personality tests, and you have a blog post all about them, think about how you can adapt that into a story.
Check out this example from HubSpot:
This story corresponds with a post about free personality tests. It takes the main ideas from the article and uses short, digestible sentences to recap the content. Additionally, the story's following tiles included a few of the options outlined in the blog:
This tile includes a "Swipe Up" function, so audiences can see the post and get details about the test. Remember, the swipe-up tool is a great one to use for backlinking. You can bring new browsers to your website without making them exit the app.
Sharing buzz-worthy content will throw your company into the conversation and keep the content fresh and topical on your page.
2. Choose media that's easy to comprehend.
When you want to adapt content, think about what can be split up into small, comprehensive pieces. If an audience member is scrolling through Instagram during their lunch break, it's likely that they're not interested in reading Stories that are full of text.
"Odds are, much of your audience is on Instagram looking for quick entertainment during a work break or daily commute," notes Kelsey Yamada, one of HubSpot's social media managers. "This is why my most important tip is to start your story actively rather than passively."
Yamada suggests that, to keep audiences engaged, "Grab the reader’s attention with an interactive element, interesting fast-fact, a video, or eye-popping graphic. Then, use the following pages of the story to go into depth about the topic."
Let's look at a visual:
This first tile asks the reader a question to get them thinking. The Story doesn't use much text, and instead, includes an interactive function — the emoji slider sticker. The next tile gives survey data to add background.
This content is easy for audiences to engage with as a quick brain break from their busy day. It takes data that was previously collected by HubSpot and turns it into a visually appealing guess-and-check for marketers.
You can use stats, like survey data, for Instagram Stories. Use short questions to engage users right off the bat, then use the following tiles to give them the full story.
3. Think about if you can make the story interactive.
One question Bump asks herself when choosing content for Stories is, "Can I make this content interactive?" For instance, you might have some less-than-glamorous topics covered on your blog or web pages, but take a look at them from a different perspective.
Bump notes, "Even a bland topic can be zested up with a quiz or poll. For example, sometimes, when adapting a post with heavy research into an Instagram Story, we’ll format the story like a quiz. Then the last page will offer readers the ability to swipe up to read more about the answers."
For example, this story was adapted from a post about the difference between millennials and Gen Z:
It might not be the most exciting topic, but using Instagram Stories can make the content interactive, raising the interest level of audiences. If I were to see this story before the blog post, I would stop in my tracks and ask myself, "I think I know the difference, but what does HubSpot have to say?"
Alternatively, if I saw the blog post, I might not want to engage. But this story makes the content fun, gives the value of the post, and brings readers to the content in a new format. If the last tile included a link to the post, you could boost the number of reads.
4. Decide if you can make the text sparse and actionable.
"One thing the social media teams I’ve worked with are mindful of are the amount of text and the amount of pages in each story. I’ve seen that more than a paragraph of text on one story page can result in reader fatigue, which, in turn, could cause people to drop out of your story," notes Yamada.
Remember, it's likely that your Instagram audiences are checking their feeds as a quick brain break or a source of entertainment. Bombarding them with text-filled stories will take away from that experience.
Instead of using a paragraph of text, include bullet points. This will break up text and allow for emojis, stickers, or other content that will make a story visually appealing.
"If you can include a swipe-up with more content, consider a less-is-more approach where you include a quick tip, poll, or quiz related to a topic. Then, encourage the reader to swipe-up to learn more about the topic," recommends Yamada. "If you can’t, but the story is more complex, consider breaking it up into a larger amount of pages."
5. Experiment, experiment, experiment.
What works for HubSpot's socials might not be the case for companies in different industries. So, remember to experiment with your content to find what works the best for your audience.
Bump recalls, "While you should do research and keep social media manager guidelines in mind as you craft a story strategy, don’t be afraid to try something different. For example, if you have a low drop off rate and most of your audience gets to the end of your Stories, you could experiment with a longer story to see how far they’ll get."
Don't be afraid to think outside of the box. Sometimes, new ideas are the ones that will be the winning ticket to better engagement. That sales metric that you're unsure about sharing? Experiment with it, and see if you can change the wording to make it enjoyable.
"Regardless of which experiments you do," Bump continues, "Be sure to start with a hypothesis, know which metrics you’ll be monitoring, and identify what you’ll do if the experiment works or doesn’t work. This will allow you to develop a strong set of learnings around your audience and their behaviors."
As for metrics to look for, Bump recommends looking at story views, impressions, swipe ups, and exits. Outside of the app, analyze overall Instagram traffic, or use a tracking URL. " If you include a swipe-up to your full web content, use a tracking URL, such as one made with HubSpot or Bit.ly, as your swipe-up link," she says.
"A tracking URL will allow you to see how many page views you received from the story. If you have a CMS with an analytics dashboard that can distinguish social media sources, like HubSpot, you can also see how much traffic your post has coming from Instagram."
6. Be mindful of story length.
We've talked a bit about keeping the audience's attention. The length of your story could impact their engagement. So when you're choosing content, think about how many tiles it would take to convey the message. Can you do this in less than five?
Yamada says, "If someone doesn’t get to the end of your story where a swipe-up link is located, they won’t swipe up. So, I try to keep Instagram Stories content within 4-5 pages if it will include a swipe-up."
Remember, in our personality test example, the story had five tiles. At the end of the last tile, there was a link to the corresponding blog post. This captures the reader's attention quickly and backlinks the source before they exit:
"Do your best to cut the content down to the biggest takeaways. If your audience wants all the details, provide a link to the source material in a swipe-up or in the DMs if anyone reaches out. If a piece of content can't be summarized and cut down, it's not the best fit for Stories," Yamada explains.
In the example above, the content explains a test the audience can take, where they can find it, and how to get more information. Basically, the story is used as a "preview" for the rest of the content. Is there content in your arsenal that's similar — like a study you just performed?
7. Put yourself in the audience's shoes.
Keeping your audience in mind is at the forefront of content creation. Remember to think about their motivation as much as their interests.
"Whenever I’ve adapted long-form content into Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook Stories, I’ve tried to imagine what my audience will be doing and thinking when they aimlessly tap through Stories and come across my brand’s," states Yamada.
Think about how you interact with Stories on Instagram. A story that's short, simple, and includes visual elements probably keeps you more interested than a story that's too busy, with a lot of moving parts. It's jarring to tap to a story and see a huge video with no explanation, right?
To choose content that your audience will be intrigued by, Bump encourages marketers to "Think about what your audience likes to see from you on Instagram. If you get a ton of engagement on sales-related content, for example, try adapting a blog post about sales into a short-form story."
As Yamada notes, "Adapting your existing content into stories will give it the opportunity to provide value on a different platform to a different audience." If your audience misses content you want to boost, or you want to present it in a different way, take to your Stories to give it more exposure.
Adapting your content into stories gives audiences a rounded view of what your brand is about from a different perspective.
"Why shouldn't more people see the awesome content you've already worked on creating?" she asks. "You'll also find yourself saving time when adapting content, as you won't have to create a whole new piece just for Stories. A win-win!"
These tips made me excited to jump into my content and see what I could turn into the next high-performing story. I can't wait to find new data or research that I can make more engaging with a few emojis. Plus, I feel more confident about what I can put out there. Knowing I have a solid direction now, I'm ready to be bold and experiment.