Instagram and Facebook stories are increasingly on the radar for many brands, and understandably so. According to Instagram, 200 million+ accounts look at a business profile each day, two out of three business profile visits are from non-followers and a third of the most viewed Stories on Instagram come from businesses.

These platforms offer a huge opportunity for brands to connect with customers but with growing competition for views, throwing up generic content is not going to cut it. Your social content must be bespoke, look and sound fantastic and have a distinctive style to have a chance of capturing your audience’s attention.

Here are some tips on how to make your social content shine:

1. Exceptional visuals stand out

Some estimates say that each of us scrolls, on average, the equivalent distance of the height of the Empire State building in our social feeds every day. So, when it comes to creating social media campaigns for Instagram and Facebook Stories, one of the main considerations should be to ensure exceptional visuals. You can have the best creative idea, but it will mean nothing to an audience if the visuals fail to engage.

While you don’t always need Dougal Wilson directing or the most expensive CGI artist creating a photo-real elephant, you do need something that looks good enough to hold the user’s attention, and properly reflects the value of your brand. Even if you’re adapting a TV campaign for social media there are unique visual considerations to making it ‘scroll-stopping’.

2. Brand up front

It may seem obvious but if I had a pound for every time I’ve seen a social media ad without the logo or branding displayed from the start, or at least introduced within the first 1.5 seconds, I’d be on a yacht somewhere!

Branding is more than just a logo, so it’s important to utilise the set house styles and fonts to echo the brand throughout the video. While it’s fine to shake things up creatively, there must be a nod to a recognisable visual in order to alert the user to the brand.

John Lewis’ recent stories for home styling immediately alert the audience to its recognisable brand before launching into attractive imagery and video presenting different ways to use new homewares.

3. Be fast, and then even faster

It should go without saying (but judging by some content I’ve seen it’s not), the creative idea and visuals for a social media video should always be fast-paced and grab attention. It needs to be literally ‘thumb stopping’ and get to the point, fast!

If you think about the time and effort that goes into (most) television campaigns, social media ads should be no exception. Users don’t hang around and social ads should always be quicker than a TV spot, especially if content is mostly animation-based.

Oreo, the world’s favourite cookie, not only does great TV ads but follows this golden rule on social media with punchy, bite-sized video and animated ads on its Instagram feed that are highly distinctive and engaging for a busy scroller.

4. Design for vertical

Forget the traditional 16:9 landscape format when it comes to crafting a social media ad for Stories and even the Facebook Feed. Using the full ‘Real-Estate’ 9:16 aspect ratio will allow more impressive imagery on screen and make your post more impressive.

The Parallel Studio’s ‘Life in Vertical’ animation for Instagram Stories perfectly illustrates what you can achieve by being creative with space. Stacking landscape video and images into multiple tiles in the vertical screen is also an excellent technique to maximise content. Use these split screens to tell multiple parts of the narrative at the same time or show before and after comparisons.

Fashion brand Asos also uses these different functions to great effect, luring shoppers into the story with a compilation video that leads into shots of the individual products.

5. Belong on the platform

Finally, it is imperative to make social media ads feel native, especially for Stories. Be playful, adding bespoke techniques such as Boomerang, tap-to-hold, rewind, stickers, @mentions, face filters, pin, superzoom, or GIFs. These help the story or feed video feel less like an ad and more like it has been created organically.

Treatwell are masters of these tools; check out the latest examples via the brand’s stories highlights. The Instagram for Business account is great for case studies and staying abreast of new features.

More on social media from Econsultancy