Instagram Stories: How the Supply Chain Can Use Them to Engage Prospects and Customers

Instagram Stories offer an on-trend platform for delivering targeted content to B2B buyers and building brand awareness with potential customers.

If you haven’t considered using Instagram as part of your social media marketing program, it might be time to change your mind.

As of December 2016, Instagram had over 600 million monthly active users, about half of whom are between the ages of 18 and 29. Why should supply chain and other B2B marketers pay attention to the social networking preferences and behaviors of millennials? Because 73% of millennial workers are involved in decisions to purchase products or services for their companies. Welcome to the new generation of B2B buyers.

What’s more, Instagram’s recently launched feature, Instagram Stories, offers marketers a new platform for content delivery that is wildly popular with this generation. But unlike other networks with short-term video-sharing opportunities (ahem, Snapchat), Stories can have a polished, professional feel that well suits B2B brands.

What are Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories are sequences of content that a user posts to his/her Instagram account over a 24-hour period. Besides photos, Stories can include videos, live and prerecorded, as well as Boomerangs, seconds-long motion clips that play forwards and backwards. The content plays as a continuous feed, creating a narrative about the user’s day — hence the term “Stories.”

Users may also customize their Stories with various design tools. Swipe to explore different filters, or add customizable stickers with time, weather, location, or even holiday greetings. You can also use a drawing tool to create your own masterpiece on your photos or videos.

Audiences can view the Stories of the users they follow within the 24-hour window after they are posted. They can find users with active Stories by scrolling the user icons at the top of the app. Or users can tell their followers that they’ve posted a story by tagging them, which notifies them through a direct message.

How you can supply chain and B2B marketers use Stories?

Instagram Stories aren’t just for friends showing friends what they’ve been up to. They’re a creative content-delivery platform that helps build rapport with followers, grow brand awareness, and educate potential buyers.

Here are 5 ways marketers might use Instagram Stories to engage their target audiences.

1. Deliver special offers and limited sales

Take advantage of this channel of communication to give special offers to followers tuning into your Stories. The time sensitivity of the 24-hour period will urge your buyers to engage with your Story and act quickly before the offer expires.

Direct followers to a special landing page or include a code right in the Story. As Social Media Examiner puts it, “The scarcity of Instagram Stories gives them power.”

JCrew’s promotion of the new Jane in Pink sunglasses offers an example of the clever use of Instagram Stories. The brand posted a combination of GIFs and photos teasing the pink sunglasses before announcing that there were a mere 50 pairs available for purchase through a link in its bio. This caused half of the merchandise to sell out in two hours.

2. Sign in for a takeover

Arrange to take over the Instagram account of a partner company or customer. It’s a fun way to draw attention from an existing, built-in audience. And it provides a mutually beneficial exchange of value for both parties.

As explained by media executive Gary Vaynerchuk, account takeovers offer a “backdoor approach to accessing new demographics.” The strategy is about “deepening relationships, gaining exposure, hacking distribution, and raising awareness.”

What’s more, account takeovers don’t require partners to hand over sensitive login information.  Simply send your content to your partner to upload. It’s win-win situation that allows both parties to reach a new audience and share new content with ease.

3. Go behind the scenes

This is a great way to humanize your company and let you customers see and experience your brand personality. Capture candid photos of meetings. Take your followers on an adventure or an offsite task. Have a new product? Share a picture of the early designs or the production process. It’s a way to get followers excited and intrigued as to what happens behind the doors of your company.

Happy Socks, a Swedish sock and underwear retailer and manufacturer, does this well. It features videos of what’s going on in the office, birthday celebrations, and other candid moments.

4. Q&As

Get really personal with your customers by answering their questions via 10-second videos. One of Instagram’s community managers, Jeffrey Gerson, did this and found it to be a great success. This allows your viewers to feel as though they are really being heard since they are watching you talk about their questions as opposed to just reading typed answers online. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase the personalities of your employees and social media team while directly interacting with your audience.

4. At a loss? Ask your followers!

Give the people what they want — They may have some great ideas that you’d never considered. Survey your followers by posting a graphic of some options while leaving it open-ended as well. Have them respond in direct messages or comments with what they want to see from your social media. For example, Red Bull had their audience send the thumbs-up emoji in direct messages through Instagram Chat for the Story topic they most wanted to see published.

These five options provide your team with a starting point to begin exploring Instagram Stories. It’s an exciting tool to add some creativity and have some fun with your social media strategy.

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