As a company or organisation hoping to make a social media impression, understanding what Snapchat and Instagram Stories can do for your brand is key.

With both their growing user bases, Snapchat and Instagram can be leveraged to increase impressions, brand awareness and of course, potentially lead to sales and revenue. Stories are another way to make your brand stand out through social, beyond a typical photo or video post.

What Are ‘Stories’?

“Stories” allow the sharing of photos and videos with your followers. The key feature is that these photos or videos disappear after a 24 hour period. The feature can provide a very different feel or aesthetic than the usual Valencia post on Instagram; coming across as more on-the-fly or spontaneous. Developed by Snapchat, and later adopted as a feature by Instagram, many were quick to cry copycat – yet Instagram’s choice to embrace Stories comes across as less of a mimic and more of a natural progression on how we want social media to be: authentic, interactive and less contrived.

That’s why many brands are seeing this as less of a fad, and more as a way to get creative with the message, tone, and purpose of their social media. A polished post may get likes, comments and show the best side of your product or service, but many brands are understanding that Stories can create dimension and show a company from another side. Here are some ways you could include Stories as part of your brand and social media strategy:

1. Announce News, Accolades or Awards

Brands with a very specific aesthetic, post-style or method of marketing with Instagram may be hesitant to muck it up with a screenshot of an email or a press release; even if it’s celebratory news. Some brands are also just cautious of being too self-promotional in their social media. This makes Stories an excellent middle ground: it gives brands the chance to share exciting news and press, without worrying about disrupting the tone or images of their profile. Many brands are even starting to use Stories as the ‘news centre’, such as pop culture channel E! News, who share celebrity headlines all in easy, digestible graphics. This allows the reader to get the information they seek, with the option to continue reading via the website if they wish to do so.

2. Influencers, User-Generated Content and Q&As

Another great way to start using Stories is to create original content with brand influencers, or even typical customers. While celebrity Q&As via Stories from fan-submitted questions are a defining example of how a larger brand can leverage this feature, much smaller companies can use this feature to foster customer loyalty too. For example, the capabilities for many brands to create location-targeted geofilters for Snapchat means many ways to get customers to engage in a fun way. This can be heightened further by asking customers to submit their Snaps to the brand to get goodies or promotions. This call-to-action to customers to share their Snaps also allows a chance to measure ROI, and see who is actually engaging; a sometimes difficult measure to do with Snapchat.

3. Behind-the-Scenes (BTS)

It’s easy to associate this type of post with a sense of VIP or exclusiveness. It’s also easy to think of the many fashion brands and magazine that use BTS posts on Snapchat to give users an inside look before the runway show. But most users don’t need this type of glam to do this for their own brand successfully. Whether it’s a company trade show, an annual conference or a quick interview with a keynote speaker before they hit the stage, these posts translate well as Stories are all about conveying intimacy between the user and the follower.

4. Share Discounts or Promotions

It’s not unusual for a brand to share web-only promotion codes, or special offers via email newsletters — or even to the first 10 people to like a specific post on their Instagram profile. Doing this also in Stories is a great way to train followers to always check for special deals. Not to mention it’s also a great way to measure and get conversions. 100 users may view your Stories, but if only 1 user redeems the special promo code, perhaps focusing efforts on this type of marketing can be limited, or dialed down. Of course, don’t be afraid try more than a couple times; remember, it disappears in 24 hours so you want to give your audience a chance to tune in!

5. Tell An ‘Actual’ Story

While an obvious sounding tip, don’t underestimate that brands that can forget to do this. Using the short video feature in Instagram or Snapchat Stories to tell a narrative in a series of visual chapters can get followers engaged. For example, athleisure brand Beyond Yoga uses their Instagram Stories feed to share the story of a woman throughout her run around town; all while of course she sports various pieces of workout gear from their collection. The key point is to remain innovative and get creative. Users notice when a brand is looking to try something different — and again, because it disappears in 24 hours, you don’t have to feel afraid of something that fails to fly or doesn’t receive a large reception. Remember, view counts are only viewable by the profile owner.

What’s Better for Brands?

It’s tough to pit Instagram and Snapchat against each other, yet brands with limited resources or valued time are itching to understand which one stands to have the best ROI.

While Snapchat invented the Stories feature on their own platform, Instagram’s adoption of the feature does allow brands to experiment with a platform they’re already grown accustomed to. Snapchat’s geofilters, improved API, and younger-skewed demographic is attractive to brands, but it’s hard to compete with familiarity. Not to mention the numbers brands see with Instagram Stories help to make the decision pretty clear. Ad Age reports that when using first using Stories, athletic brand Nike saw over 800,000 views in 24 hours on Instagram compared to the 66,000 views they receive on Snapchat. As a brand, those impression sizes are pretty convincing; and truly means more eyes are seeing the post and paying attention.

How to Start

There’s no limitation or major difficulty in getting started. Like any social media strategy, it’s all about evaluating a purpose, tone, and ways you want to measure your activity. Is there a particular goal in mind that you think Stories could accomplish in your social media strategy? Do you want to establish a presence on Snapchat, or is your company on Instagram already and Stories are meant to compliment your current goals and strategy?

Asking the right questions before starting is the best way to ensure it’s not all in vain. But with the right messaging, Stories can add a boost to your audience, give you a chance to be creative, fun, or test something new — no matter your brand!

When building your brand online, a website is a great asset to help reach your customer base and communicate your services – what you do and how you do it.

However, websites have their limitations which is why more organisations are turning to social media to elevate their brand. In fact, combined with a simple, user-friendly website, social media can enable you to – reach even more potential customers.

If you’re looking to create content that resonates with your online customers, why choose Instagram? According to Sprout Social, Instagram has the highest brand engagement among the many social media platforms out there and boasts more than 400 million users. This means that in the six short years since it was launched, it has made a huge impact!

Capturing the moment through photographs is effective, so it’s no surprise that many huge companies like NordstromStarbucksLorna Jane, and even FedEx, understand how Instagram can resonate and bring brand awareness to their products and leverage its potential. No matter the type or range of services you provide, Instagram can give your company the opportunity to expand what your brand means by giving a voice and aesthetic beyond just your website.

Capturing the essence of your company and brand, engaging meaningfully with your audience and creating engaging content can be challenging. Here are some easy tips to help you make the most of your social media efforts.

Finding that Magic Hashtag Number

In order to create engagement and find an Instagram community that resonates with your brand or company, ensure you’re using hashtags that get your content out there to the people who should see it. Hashtag communities are essential to Instagram, which is why it’s important to use relevant hashtags and the right number of tags, too. The key is ensuring you’re using the most relevant keywords, and not just hashtags that will get you noticed. For example, websites like Top-Hashtag will generate similar hashtags for you based on a specific keyword search, but not everything generated will sound right to market your product. Think about users you are interacting with, users you would like to interact with and ensure hashtags stay relevant to what you’re saying; in each post and as a company.

Be Brand Specific…

Does your company have a tagline already used in your promotional endeavours? Or, if not, why not create one that can be used as a hashtag for Instagram? Think of how it would work in the Instagram universe and how it could target your dream demographic. For example, the camera company GoPro uses the hashtag #goprogirl to get their female users to tag their images captured with a GoPro product. It creates brand engagement, encourages users to share how they use GoPro products for a chance to get featured, and best of all, it generates content for one of GoPro’s niche demographics: women. Think critically about hashtags that define your company, or how a hashtag can expand your brand to a group you think your product should be reaching.

…But, Be General, Too

Focus is always good, but there are some general hashtags you should consider to ensure your content reaches more people. For example, if your product is coffee, why stop at just your company name, or hashtagging your company tagline? Are you highlighting a specific type of coffee? Are the beans Arabic? Is it a #latte? Sometimes a clever hashtag is key, but other times, keeping it simple means you might reach all the coffee lovers out there.

Location, Location, Location

Hashtag relevance can change depending on who and where your brand is looking to target its users. Sites like Trendsmap allows you to search popular hashtags and user profile handles to see the popularity and use around the world. This can be important if you are crafting a post around your Norway audiences, and you want to ensure the hashtag is also popular among those global users.

Every Hashtag Counts

Many people forget that it’s not just the hashtags in your image’s caption that count. In fact, you or your followers can comment with additional hashtags to cache your post in that hashtag search as well. This allows you to update or add additional relevant hashtags without editing your caption, or removing your photo.

Keep It Discreet

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While too many hashtags can alter the message in your caption, you can always add additional hidden hashtags in your post. Use a text editor (such as the Notes app on an iPhone), to draft your caption, enter a couple periods to break the text, then input additional hashtags that will be hidden from your viewers in their newsfeed. By doing this, your post will appear in your followers’ newsfeeds with the caption, and the hashtags will be hidden by a “more” button. This enables you to use a few more hashtags without making it blaringly obvious to your followers you’re doing so.

Appreciate Your Community

More times than not, companies aren’t thinking about the people they interact with on social media, and how they could impact their brand, sales or bring awareness to their services or products. Ensure that users who comment on your content are being responded to in a timely manner. To make it personal, also ensure you’re using their “@” handle to tag them in your responses. This allows them to feel they’ve been heard and creates a friendly, approachable voice associated to your brand and image.

Go Above and Beyond

Some big-name companies follow their company name and associated hashtags to pick up anytime their brand is mentioned on social media, and ensure they respond to users – no matter the subject. This level of dedication is admired and while not everyone can have this access of time or resources, most users would agree definitely leaves an impression. If you can’t do this, try to think of some other ways to engage with your customers that go above and beyond the standard.

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Seek Fan Content

Users react differently when a company’s product is shared by their network friends rather than the company itself. This type of product showcasing appears as more trustworthy. Hashtags are a great way to petition your followers and customer base to create posts highlighting your service; a giveaway might even help generate this content quicker.

Start a Hashtag Giveaway

As mentioned above, creating an Instagram contest can bring awareness to your brand and products and help generate customer-made content. Also, if you make one of the requisites of the giveaway for users to follow your profile, you’re sure to get your follower base boosted. It might mean giving away one of your more coveted products, but it could result in some serious engagement and follower traction.

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Find Your Influencers

While you might get mixed signals on whether or not social media influencers actually work, getting an influencer to advertise your product could be as effective as regular paid advertising and allows your products to reach new Instagram communities beyond your own. It might just mean giving a piece of the pie to the influencer as well; or at least free swag for them to compose the needed social media post showcasing your gear.

Consider Paid Advertising

With Instagram’s “Sponsored” posting, you can boost a particular paid post that adheres to Instagram’s main theme. Small nuances that can benefit you, such as a “Call to Action” button, an ability to click through to a website of your choice, and a swipe through “Carousel” style post means you can have fun telling your brand story; all the while knowing you’re reaching a user base outside your own followers list.

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Incorporate Your Other Customer Bases…

If you’re active with your customers in other ways such as through email newsletters or other social networks, think of ways to incorporate your Instagram profile. Embedding your Instagram highlights in your newsletter, or showcasing a great customer within your newsletter each week is a great way to build and showcase your Instagram account. Facebook, which owns Instagram, also does a great job in ensuring sharing content from Instagram is easy as a tap or click.

…But Still Remain Exclusive

To counter the above, sometimes sharing isn’t caring. While it’s great to promote some of your Instagram highlights to your other networks, it’s important you still give a reason for users to follow and visit your Instagram page. Sharing exclusive information, company promotions, or doing specific giveaways on Instagram ensures interest is still piqued and engagement remains high.

Now you’re ready to expand your company’s brand via Instagram! Much like traditional marketing, it’s all about finding your niche demographic, and being innovative to ensure you continue to keep your followers interested — and stay ahead of your competitors. What outstanding ideas do you have ready to make your brand stand out from the rest?

With many brands looking to create video that catches the attention of followers and new customers, live video through social media is growing as an attractive option.

Once seen as a niche feature, more and more brands are understanding how live video can expand their social reach, while bringing increased versatility to the content they share.

Many popular platforms provide integrated live features for consumer as well as organizational use; this includes:

Facebook Live

It’s been close to a year since Facebook introduced it’s live video feature, but with an intense marketing push (and some death in competition), it feels like Facebook has been the leader of live video for a while. While not necessarily true, their large user base does bring livestreaming to the mainstream, and makes it easy to find an audience.

Simply clicking the “Live” button on the top left corner of your newsfeed will take you to your camera where streaming happens as soon as you click “Go Live”, notifying your friends and followers in the process.

Twitter and Periscope

Twitter had a turbulent 2016, but still managed to add a few updates to its live video capabilities. The biggest update included adding some features of Periscope — it’s standalone live video app — into Twitter’s own iPhone and Android app. In order to compete with Facebook, Twitter also added 360 degree live video capabilities for select users.

In Periscope, hit the “Go Live” button to stream to your followers immediately. In Twitter, the newly added live feature is accessible by clicking the “Live” icon under your status update box, after you click the “Compose” button.
 

Instagram

Branching out from the Instagram Stories feature launched in 2016, Instagram added live video under the camera icon on the top left of the app. Once clicked, a new “Live” option will be at the bottom of your screen. Click “Start Live Video” for your followers to be notified about your livestream.

What makes Instagram stand out is that once your live video ends, it’s gone from the platform entirely. While it’s unclear whether Instagram keeps the video in their own cloud, your live video won’t appear on your profile, your Story feed or the newsfeed of your followers once you end it the broadcast.

YouTube

Live capabilities for YouTube have been around since 2011, which isn’t surprising for a social media platform that relies on user video as its sole content. Yet YouTube only established live streaming via its app last year, catching up with Facebook’s own mobile features.

With a verified YouTube account, enable “Live Streaming” through Creator Studio tools, and you’re ready to go. Once done, you can choose “Stream Now” to start broadcasting right away, or choose “Events” for additional previewing options and scheduling of your live event. Going live through the YouTube smartphone app or via a desktop webcam are the clearest methods of broadcasting to your subscribers.

LiveStream

Founded in 2007, LiveStream was once a leader of live video in an empty market, but with this feature now embedded in larger social media giants like Facebook and Instagram, it doesn’t make much sense to be on a service that only does live video (especially if your existing audience is on another platform). Nevertheless, companies like Spotify, TED, New York Times and CNET all use LiveStream for live programming. It also isn’t complicated.

A simple tap of the “Go Live” button will have you broadcasted to an audience in no time.

Twitch

For brands with a video game demographic, Twitch is the best live streaming service. Given the popularity of the site for video game walkthrough videos, eSports and talk shows on the mentioned subjects, it can mean your creative live content is paired with similar videos from others in your industry.

Setting up your livestream is not as easy as tapping a button on your smartphone (due to the majority of streams being video game live plays), but a more techy setup may be worth it if you’re catering to the right audience.

How Much Does It Have to Cost?

The cost of live video does depend on the type of setup you’re looking to put together, as well as how professional in quality you want your stream to be. While platforms like Instagram with only mobile capability make for a free yet mandatory choice to record via smartphone, platforms like Facebook Live, YouTube and LiveStream all provide other recording options.

Using your phone can still be a solid option for recording; just add an external microphone and a grip stand or tripod to stabilize the camera before going live. This will allow for mobile freedom without the broadcast needing a steady cameraman.

For desktop broadcasting, using your own computer’s webcam or USB-powered cam, partnered with a broadcasting software like the open-source OBS will also work too. But for more professional quality broadcasting that you plan to do often, perhaps seek the consulting services of LiveStream, or even professional equipment, such as NewTek, used by many professional broadcasters and news stations. This would be recommended if your company plans to heavily invest in live content, and you feel expensive equipment would be a necessity.

Will The Trend Last?

With video being on every marketer’s mind for 2017, live video will definitely stick around and be part of many brands’ campaign strategies. Brands like Play-Doh are already using live video to showcase products in half-hour segments, whereas brands like Benefit and Birchbox are thinking of live content so much, they’re looking for staff who are comfortable with being ready for camera.

Plus, with the added spontaneity of live video, brands can be less fearful of a lower broadcast budget and not having to worry about editing the video later . These perks elevate live broadcasting; especially if video editing or a production team isn’t something you have on-hand.

How to Pick Your Best Live Platform?

If asking whether you should consider live broadcasting in your social media plan, that does depend on your company’s bandwidth, overall social strategy, and your tone and brand image. If you feel live video is a step in the right direction for you, make sure you follow where your existing social media audience already is for optimal views and conversation. For example, if Facebook is where your followers tend to migrate, trying out live video there makes the most sense.

Once the platform is decided on, the next step is to analyze who your active audience is; what do they like to see from you in social content, what gets the most engagement, and is that something that can be elaborated on through live video? If these questions generate interesting content that best represents your brand, live video might be a step in the right direction. It might be a work in progress, but it could bring out a facet of your brand that regular video, photos or your typical social marketing may be leaving out.

Will live video enhance the experience with your customers or clients further? Will it add another facet to your brand that you feel you may not hit yet? Think about this clearly, and plan content that can be exciting live video. While we always want content to be a runaway success, this can take time to align with what your audience wants to see. Be prepared, be relaxed and have fun creating something that puts your company into the exciting terrain of live social content!

The World Wide Web became publicly available in 1991. Twenty-six years later, we are now experiencing the web everywhere we go: on our commute, at work, and even right before we go to bed. With the latest developments in technology and design, web designs have drastically evolved to enhance our experience in today’s digital age. Not only are web designs more attractive now than they were in the early 90s, they’re also much more user-friendly and easier to develop. If we were to take a step back and see how web designs have grown over the years, it would resemble a booming millennial. Here’s what we’ve seen.

The burgeoning infant (HTML): 1994–1995

Web designs were very basic in the early 90s, and employed mainly web safe colours, fonts, and tables. It wasn’t much to look at but, at the time, this hardly matters. People were excited enough that they had access to the Internet.

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This is also a period when HTML tables were often used to arrange text, images, into rows and columns of cells. For the most part, this limits web design as everything’s confined to rigid tables and cells.

The potty-trained toddler (CSS): 1994–2000s

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) came into the picture in 1994, and is commonly used today. This provides a cleaner and simpler approach to laying out designs, where designers can set a sheet of visual rules to automate the font size, headers, background, and etc. of a page. This also made it easier for designers to have consistent layouts throughout the entire site.

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Web usage became common during this era. This is a time when WordPress, Blogger, and user-friendly guides made it easier for people to create websites.

The rowdy kindergartener (JavaScript): 1995

Web developers were learning JavaScript like ABCs. This programming language came out in response to the limitations of HTML, and enabled developers to create interactive effects within web browsers that appeared as separate pop-ups. Unfortunately, JavaScript content is notorious for its bright and ugly colours, garish ads, making the page extremely busy. This era also marks the advent of annoying pop-ups.

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The playful child (Flash): 1996–2007

Flash rolled out around the same time as CSS. It’s a multimedia software that enables designers to create variety of shapes, layouts, animations, interactions, and fonts. Using the Flash plugin (and a lot of patience and loading time), designers could pack fancier creative expressions and interactive content into a resizable file format and send it to the browser for display. Flash marks a golden era for splash pages, animations, and all kinds of interactive web effects.