Stories, first pioneered by Snapchat, are a storytelling format that enables users to piece together photos and videos taken throughout their everyday lives. After 24 hours, these Stories disappear into the abyss, making them as "realtime" and raw as a medium can get.

Soon after Snapchat's success reached mainstream attention, the copycats stepped forward. Today, Facebook, Instagram, and most recently YouTube have all rolled out their own version of Stories. In the coming years, it's likely even more platforms will follow suit.

Because Stories won't be disappearing any time soon, it's about time we start thinking of them as a serious marketing medium and less like a cute feature all the kids are using.

Here's how you can get started:

1. Take advantage of polls within Instagram Stories. 

In October, Instagram launched a feature that allows users to take interactive polls in their Stories. These polls are a fun, frictionless way to get your audience engaged and hear their thoughts on any and all topics. By having the opportunity to get your audience's two cents on a point or decision, you could save your brand time, money and energy. 

For example, you could use Instagram Polls to ask your followers which version of a landing page they prefer over another, or which jingle they like best for one of your upcoming advertisements. By getting insight into what your target customers want in a product or service prior to launch, you'll put yourself in a tremendous position to bolster your sales.

2. Create behind-the-scenes footage. 

One of the things the proliferation of Stories have proven is the value of authentic, uncut content in the eyes of audiences, so documenting your behind-the-scenes journey with Stories could prove fruitful.

According to Robert Cialdini's principle of reciprocity (which is a fancy way of saying humans are likely to return favors) would also be activated by doing this. In this context, if your audience could see the amount of hard work you've put into an upcoming project, they'd be more likely to buy it from you. 

Whether you're an artist toiling over an upcoming album or an author planning your next page, taking your audience along for the ride would be well worth your time. Let them know the roadblocks you're experiencing as well as the triumphs.

3. Increase web traffic using links in your Stories.

When it comes to sales on social media, the intimate connection accessible via Stories is only worthwhile if you're able to capitalize on the attention. The easiest way to do that is through direct links.

Lucky for us all, Instagram and Snapchat allow users to embed links in Stories. With this capability, you could link up merchandise you're trying to sell, your newsletter or any other products to keep the cash rolling in.

At my own agency, one of our clients (a lifestyle entrepreneur) saw a 9-percent opt-in rate for her email newsletter when she included a link to it in a Snapchat Story. When compared to the typical 2017 opt-in rate of 1.95-percent (according to BuzzSumo), it's clear this tactic can present a ripe opportunity.

4. Use Stories to tell an actual story. 

It's amazing how few brands are using Stories to tell, well, an actual story. Having a creative arc with a beginning, middle and end could be the thing that moves the needle for your social media sales. Storytelling is the backbone of all sales training, and nothing changes for Stories.

For example, let's say you're the owner of an outdoor footwear company and you're about to go on an exciting mountain hike. Consider creating a string of Instagram and Snapchat Stories documenting your journey ascending to the top.

Once you've shown your audience the view from the pinnacle, take a photo of the shoes you wore during the hike. Be sure to include a link so your audience can follow it directly if they'd like to purchase it for themselves.

5. Incentivize the use of Snapchat Geofilters.

Snapchat Geofilters are a terrific way to increase awareness for your brand on the platform. Your Geofilter could showcase an event your company is hosting, a product launch or something different.

In order to incentivize the use of your Geofilter, consider holding a contest where participants screenshot themselves using the filter, post it to Instagram and tag your brand in the photo for a chance to win a prize of your choice. One of my clients, a brewery, saw a 3.5X increase in their user-generated content on Instagram as a result of hosting such a contest.

Stories are still a relatively new medium across social media, so there's no better time than now to begin capitalizing on all they offer. This year, show some love to Stories by making room for them in your social media marketing strategy.