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Instagram, Marketing

How to Plan an Instagram Stories Campaign (+ Free Step-by-Step Guide)

Thinking about running an Instagram Stories campaign but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place!

There was a time when brands weren’t sure how Instagram Stories fit into their visual marketing. Was it for daily highlights? Behind-the-scenes content? Takeovers?  

Well, those days are definitely over. 

Businesses of all sizes are turning to Instagram Stories to run and promote their marketing campaigns — and they’ve been hugely successful!

To help you do the same, we put together our top tips on how to plan an Instagram Stories campaign (+ a free step-by-step guide that you can download below!):

instagram stories campaign

What is an Instagram Stories Campaign?

An Instagram Stories campaign is any marketing campaign that takes place on… you guessed it, Instagram Stories!

At the most basic level, it involves businesses sharing content on their Instagram Stories with the intention of achieving a marketing objective.

That objective can be broad, like building brand awareness, or it can be specific, like generating sales for a new product release.

Instagram Stories

Whatever your objective, your focus should be on creating high-quality, interactive content that inspires users to like, comment, and share. This is key to running a successful campaign!

Let’s look at an example from Great Jones. The modern cookware company recently took to Instagram Stories to promote their new “Holy Sheet” sheet pan.

Spanning 15 individual stories, the campaign begins with a fun-filled introduction to the product:

instagram stories campaign: great jones

It then runs through the product’s features and unique selling points:

instagram stories campaign: great jones

And finishes with a call-to-action prompting viewers to swipe up to purchase the product:

instagram stories campaign: great jones

But they didn’t stop there!

Great Jones also teased the new product in several Instagram feed posts (and on other social channels as well) and saved their stories campaign to their highlights so it’s front-and-center for new visitors to their profile:

instagram stories campaign: great jones

All of this is to say that while you can absolutely run a marketing campaign entirely on Instagram Stories, you can also treat stories as a single (but important!) touchpoint in your overall campaign.

Ready to run the best Instagram Stories campaign ever? Get the free guide below!

 

How to Plan an Instagram Stories Campaign

Now that we’ve covered what an Instagram Stories campaign is, let’s look at the specific steps you should take run your first campaign — everything from setting your goals to storyboarding your concept and measuring your success.

Step #1: Pick Your Campaign Goals

It’s pretty common to start the planning process of an Instagram campaign by defining your target audience, but we recommend starting with your campaign goals.

That’s because the goals you set will often influence the type of campaign you run, as well as the metrics you use to track your success.

So it’s important to spend some time really breaking down what you’re hoping to achieve whether that’s increasing brand awareness, promoting new products to driving ecommerce sales, or something else entirely!

instagram stories campaign

Once you’ve determined your campaign goals, it’s a good idea to put some thought into your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Your Instagram Stories campaign should eventually tie back to numbers, so make sure they’re measurable! For example, if you’re planning to promote a new product, then set a goal for how many units you want to sell during the campaign. If it’s a lead generation campaign, set a goal for how many emails you collect.

The more you can tie your stories campaign back to measurable results, the better.

IG stories

And don’t forget about your Instagram engagement metrics!

While your campaign might have nothing to do with engagement and everything to do with making sales, setting goals for the number of likes, comments, views, and shares you receive is still important!

Instagram Stories analytics

P.S. You can use Later Analytics to track the performance of your Instagram Stories campaign! 

With your campaign goals set, it’s time to define your target audience.

Keep in mind that depending on the goals of your campaign, your target audience could be very broad (and include users who don’t currently follow you) or it could be a narrow subset of your followers.

Here are a few questions to help you get on track: 

  • What kinds of content do they engage with?
  • Do they prefer photo-based stories or videos?
  • What stickers do they engage with the most?
  • What hashtags do they use and follow?
  • What communities are they a part of?

Once you can nail down your campaign goal and your target audience, you’ll have solid foundations to help plan and execute the rest of your campaign!

Step #2: Set a Timeline for Your Campaign

Is your Instagram marketing campaign tied to a real-life event, like a conference, in-store sale, or holiday? Does it coincide with a product launch?

Instagram Stories campaign: Otherland

Generally speaking, unless your campaign is tied to a larger event (like Pride Month, for example) or a long-term awareness campaign, it’s best to set a fairly concise timeline — usually a week at most.

That said, it really depends on the focus and goal of your campaign. Some campaigns need strict deadlines (like contests and giveaways) while others can be a little more open-ended. Just be careful not to let your campaign go for too long — otherwise, you risk losing steam!

Instagram Stories campaign: urban outfitters

If your campaign is tied to a specific date, let that act as your starting point and then build your timeline backward from there. This will give you a clear idea of how much lead time you’re working with and the potential scope of the campaign.

To give some perspective, we started planning a campaign to promote our Instagram Stories scheduling release about 1 month before the launch.

This involved building a strategy and brief, storyboarding the concept, designing the creative (including pre- and post-launch creative), and scheduling all of it in advance.

Instagram Stories scheduling

You may want to think about a launch timeline that runs something along the lines of:

  1. Pre-campaign hype: teasing or promoting the campaign before the launch
  2. Launch day: your day-of campaign content
  3. Post-campaign follow up: keeping the conversation going after the initial excitement has died down (user-generated content, customer reviews, etc.)

By breaking it down per day, or pre- and post-launch, you’ll be way more organized in your approach. And it can also help you think of creative ways to promote your campaign and drive as much engagement as possible.

Step #3: Decide on Your Strategy & Creative Direction

Now that you have your campaign goals and timeline locked in, it’s time for the fun part: what will your campaign look like?

It may sound like a fancy marketing term, but having an overarching creative direction is what will separate your campaign from your other day-to-day stories content — it’s what’s going to make it stand out.

Instagram Stories

Not sure where to start? There are four elements to your strategy and creative direction you need to think about.

First, you need to pin down the concept behind your campaign. This is essentially the overarching “big idea” that underpins your campaign content and messaging.

Your concept can be as simple or as in-depth as you like, but it should always tie back to your campaign goals.

For example, if your campaign is about promoting a new product launch, your concept should be focused around driving as many sales as possible (via Instagram’s product stickers, swipe-ups to your website, clicks on the link in your bio, etc.).

Instagram Stories campaign: reformation

Second, you need to define the overall visual style of your campaign. This should include a color palette, some inspirational imagery, a design style guide, or design templates that will work across your social channels.

If you already have a stories branding kit with your color palette, fonts, and filters all defined, kudos to you! If not, it’s a good idea to build one out so that your stories campaign stays on-brand and matches your overall aesthetic.

Take a peek at Warby Parker‘s recent Instagram Stories campaign to promote “Scout,” their new line of contact lenses. Notice how the campaign fits perfectly with their overall brand aesthetic?

instagram stories campaign: warby parker

Third, you need to outline your campaign message and editorial style.

This will help you fine-tune your content and make sure how you’re introducing, explaining or selling your product throughout the campaign remains consistent.

It’s a good idea to nail down a couple of terms or core messages you want to weave through each of your campaign assets.

Instagram Stories

Finally, it’s a good idea to establish what Instagram Stories features you’ll be using to promote your campaign.

For example, if your Instagram Stories campaign is centered around a time-sensitive giveaway, you could use Instagram’s countdown sticker to build interest:

instagram stories giveaway

Or if your campaign is about collecting user-generated content (UGC), you can use the hashtag sticker:

instagram stories

And don’t forget about AR effects! Now that Instagram’s Spark AR platform is open, any business can create and promote AR effects on Instagram.

instagram stories ar effects

While AR effects are still fairly under-used by businesses, there are really countless applications!

For example, cosmetic brands can use AR to let their followers virtually “try on” their products, while fashion brands can use AR to create virtual fitting rooms, allowing people to try on shirts, sunglasses, or entire outfits.

Basically, if you have the time and resources, incorporating AR effects into your campaign could be a great way to drive even more traction.

Step #4: Create a Storyboard for Your Campaign

Before you whip out your camera and start snapping a bunch of photos and videos, it’s a good idea to create a storyboard of your campaign to map out the details and make sure it all flows together.

Never heard of a storyboard? Basically, it’s a visual representation of how your campaign will unfold, from beginning to end. Think of it as a comic strip version of your campaign with notes about what’s happening in each individual story.

instagram stories campaign: OV

Let’s look at an example from OUAI Haircare. The modern haircare brand recently shared a series of Instagram Stories as part of a campaign to promote its “Chill Pills” bath bombs.

They start with several stories introducing the product and outlining how it benefits buyers:

instagram stories campaign: OUAI

Then they share a quick and snappy tutorial on how to use the product:

instagram stories campaign: OUAI

And finally, they share a call-to-action prompting viewers to swipe up to shop the product:

instagram stories campaign: OUAI

Notice how the campaign narrative quickly (and seamlessly) moves from introduction to education to promotion? This is exactly what you should try to do when sketching out the details of your campaign.

instagram stories storyboard

You’ll also want to spend some time figuring out how you’ll best convey your message, and what types of media you’ll need to support it.

For example, are you posting original photography, illustrations, GIFs, videos, or a mix of them all? Are you using close-up shots, flat lays, landscapes? How do you want your campaign to come to life?

All of this can go into your storyboard!

Want to learn more about storyboarding for Instagram Stories? It’s all in our free ebook! Sign up below and we’ll send it straight to you inbox: 

 

Step #5: Create Your Campaign Assets & Prep Your Content Calendar

Once you have your strategy, creative concept, and storyboard nailed down, you now get to create the actual assets for your stories campaign!

Your campaign assets would be things like photos, videos, graphics, GIFs, or anything else you’re planning for your social media campaign — of course, what assets you need will vary heavily depending on your concept and the scope of your campaign.

instagram stories storyboard

For example, if your campaign is about promoting a contest or giveaway, you’ll likely be creating photos and videos with the actual product, possibly some lifestyle shots, UGC, illustrations, and more.

As we said, this part of the planning process varies greatly, but the most important thing is that you are sticking to your creative direction and creating high-quality content for your social channels.

Step #6: Schedule Your Instagram Stories Campaign

Once you have all your content and assets, it’s time to put everything together and plan out your social media content calendar!

While you may have an official “launch” day, you might want to have a different timeline for social media or different launch “phases” — like we mentioned earlier.

Take Gretta for example. The serial-entrepreneur shared several “teasers” in the days and weeks before she announced a new product launch. And following the launch, Gretta shared a final story letting her followers know that they can find her announcement content in her highlights:

instagram stories campaign: gretta

When you’re planning your social media calendar, it’s also worth thinking about the lifespan of each piece of content — especially since Instagram Stories only last for 24 hours. Basically, you need to think of ways to keep your campaign top of mind!

Will you be posting new content every day? Every few days? What’s the optimal frequency to drive as much engagement as possible?

This is where Later’s intuitive and easy-to-use content calendar comes in handy: it lets you view all of your social media content together by day, week, or month.

You can also visually plan and schedule Instagram Stories right from your desktop. Here’s how to do it:

Step #1: Bulk upload your photos and videos for Instagram Stories.

Step #2: Drag and drop your stories onto the storyboard tool, and then re-arrange them to fit the look you want.instagram stories scheduling

Step #3: Add links or captions to your scheduled stories, which will be copied to your phone when it’s time to post.

instagram stories scheduling

Step #4: To schedule Instagram Stories, simply select the time and date from the drop-down menu beside the Save Story button.

instagram stories scheduling

Step #5: Get a notification on your phone when it’s time to post! Your stories will be downloaded to your phone and caption or links copied to your clipboard, making it easy to post Instagram Stories in seconds.

instagram stories scheduling

Ready to kick off your campaign? You can now plan, schedule and post Instagram Stories with Later! 

 

Step #7: Promote Your Instagram Stories Campaign

Once you’ve created and published the content for your Instagram Stories campaign, you want to get the most eyes on it as possible. And that’s where promotion comes in.

Beyond actually posting content to your feed, you need to build a strategy to promote it with hashtags, influencers, stories stickers, and more.

#1: Build Hype for Your Campaign with Instagram Stories Countdown Sticker

If you’re promoting an upcoming occasion (like an in-store sale, product launch, or event), you can add a sticker that counts down to a date and time that you set.

Your followers can then subscribe to your countdown event, which will send them a reminder when the time is up and your countdown is complete. So it’s a great way to build buzz around your campaign!

instagram stories sticker

If your campaign is centered around a product launch, you can also use Instagram’s new product launch sticker, which works very similarly to the countdown sticker.

It includes a product launch tag in-feed that lets people set reminders for the launch date, preview product details, and buy as soon as a product is available without leaving Instagram.

instagram stories sticker

#2: Partner with Relevant Influencers to Drum Up Excitement

Another great way to promote your Instagram Stories campaign is to work with influencers.

Typically the process of identifying the right influencers for your campaign is the same as we described above. The goal is to find relevant influencers, bloggers, or photographers who have a large social following and a strong engagement rate on their posts.

instagram influencer marketing

You can even work with a handful of influencers and have them post about your campaign on their channels. This gives you exposure to their audience, and it’s an easy way to get more people involved in your campaign.

#3: Create a Campaign Hashtag

We discussed this a little bit earlier, but even if you aren’t running a giveaway or UGC-style campaign, it’s almost always a good idea to create a branded hashtag to promote your Instagram marketing campaign.

The key here is to think about your brand identity and what message you want to convey, and then coming up with a creative hashtag that sums all of it up. The more creative, the better!

instagram stories finstagram stories featureeature

Step #8: Go Live for Launch Day

With your scheduled content ready to go, all you have to do is set your alarm and get ready to monitor the excitement, answer questions, and engage with your community.

Here are a couple of other things you might need to do on the big day to make sure your launch day goes smoothly:

#1: Update Your Instagram Bio

You may want or need to change the link in your bio to a specific campaign landing page or use a trackable link. You can also update your Instagram bio to include a call-to-action to purchase your new product at the link in your bio, or add the campaign messaging to your bio.

instagram bio

#2: Be Speedy With Your DM Responses

Now is not the time to leave your followers on read. Make sure you spend enough time responding, engaging and answering your followers’ questions across all your platforms.

You may need to enlist help from your wider team to achieve this, but it’s really important for valuing your community and also making sales!

#3: Reshare Content From Your Followers

There’s going to be a lot of chatter about your campaign and one of the best ways to show your appreciation for your followers’ positivity and excitement around your product is to reshare their posts!

The more user-generated hype you can share the better.

#4: Host a Live Q&A

Making yourself available on launch day to answer your followers’ questions really shows that you’re invested in the campaign.

If you can set time aside on launch day to host a live Q&A on Instagram or Facebook it’s a great way to keep the excitement levels up and the conversation flowing about your campaign.

Step #9: Track & Measure Your Instagram Stories Campaign Success

Now’s the time to check in on those goals and measure them!

Success looks different for every brand and business, but you should spend time reviewing how successful your campaign was and how it tallied up against your goals.

You can track your brand awareness KPIs, like engagement rate and impressions, along with leads, signups, and ecommerce purchases. But you’ll also want to take a holistic look at how your campaign performed and where you could improve for next time.

For example, you can glean insights about your followers’ preferences and what content resonated best with them, what medium they liked most, and what channel performed best.

All of this knowledge can then be put into your next stories campaign!

Looking for a way to keep track of your campaign success? Then you may want to check out Later’s Instagram Stories Analytics tool!

Unlike the analytics in the Instagram app, which only saves your stories metrics for 2 weeks, you’ll be able to analyze up to 3 months’ worth of Instagram Stories with Later!

instagram stories analytics

With Later’s Instagram Stories analytics, you can track and rank stories by impressions, reach, completion rate, average views per user, and the number of replies each story received.

And like your Instagram post analytics, you can also hone-in on your individual stories to learn more about how each of them performed over time. You can learn more about every Instagram Stories metric you need to know here.

instagram stories analytics

And like your Instagram post analytics, you can also hone-in on your individual stories to learn more about how each of them performed over time. You can learn more about every Instagram Stories metric you need to know here.

And that’s it!

Instagram Stories campaigns are an incredible way for brands and businesses to increase their brand awareness, grow their social following, and drive more sales — and they’re super easy to execute!

All it takes is some good planning and a little bit of creativity and you can easily run your own campaign.

Don’t forget to download your free guide to running your first Instagram Stories campaign! Just enter your info below and we’ll send the guide straight to your inbox!

Written By

Benjamin Chacon

Benjamin is a Content Marketing Strategist at Later and recent transplant from Toronto. You can follow his day-to-day on Instagram @benjaminchacs.