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Amid the COVID-19 shutdowns and the broader human impacts of the pandemic, it's difficult for marketers to understand where they're placed, and how they can, and should, maintain connection with their audiences at this time. 

And while some of the research we have published in the last few weeks has shown that in the most part consumers are still open to brand messaging during the crisis, situational awareness is key, and reaching people 'in the right way' is essential to effectiveness.

As a result of this Instagram has shared some key tips on how brands can maintain audience connection via Instagram Stories and get the most out of Stories during COVID-19

     1.  'Make it easy for people to support your brand'

Instagram's first tip is to promote ways that people can support your business by using Instagram's new gift card and food ordering stickers in your Stories frames. You can then save your Stories as Highlights to maximise their reach and response.

     2.  'Uplift and inform'

Instagram advises that brands should also look to 'share positive stories around kindness and sacrifice, and support health and safety messages from trusted sources'.

This aligns with recent advice which indicates that consumers are looking to brands to provide accurate information, and assist in their local communities.

Instagram has also been advising brands to use tools like its Stay at Home sticker to reinforce key health messages.

     3.  'Share your story'

Instagram says that brands should look to share behind the scenes insights into what's really happening at their business as a result of COVID-19, and how they're looking to address key issues, and assist their suppliers and communities. This is a great way to continue to engage deeply whilst face to face meetings are off the table.

     4.  'Start a conversation'

Instagram suggests that brands use the question sticker to engage with customers and ask how they're feeling.

The platform also recommends using tools like the Countdown sticker to build engagement around digital events which we have seen used a great deal in the past weeks.

     5.  'Answer FAQs'

Instagram also suggests that brands consider using Stories to answer common questions they're receiving at this time, helping to clarify what's happening.

     6.  'Engage your community'

And finally, Instagram notes that Stories is 'where people like to express themselves', and brands can tap into this by providing challenges and templates for people to re-share in their Stories and tag their friends.

These are some good tips, and we hope will inspire your thinking on how you can incorporate Stories in your own approach if you haven’t yet done so.

This focus on Stories is set to continue to grow past the pandemic and indeed Facebook has repeatedly noted that Stories are on track to overtake the news feed as the primary social sharing destination, and as younger consumers who are more accustomed to Stories grow up, Stories does, indeed, look set to become the key way to communicate.

As such, it's worth marketers and brands getting accustomed to the format, and these tips could be the first steps towards improving your Stories presence and process, helping you better connect with more potential customers.

You can check out Instagram's Instagram Stories COVID-19 playbook here.