How can I use Instagram stories for my business?
"I don't get it. What's the point of Instagram Stories?" I get questions like that a lot when I demonstrate Stories to people. Let me explain why you should be using Stories as part of your digital marketing.
A brief guide to Instagram Stories
A Story is a post that's only visible for 24 hours. It's usually a photo or short video presented in vertical format - that is, it's viewed in the way we normally hold our phones, without the need to rotate it.
Stories are often fun, quirky and in the moment. The image is often overlaid with short text or stickers, such as tags or animated gifs. Stories are displayed in succession, each one on the screen for just a few seconds before the next one pops up.
They are referred to as ephemeral content - that is, they have a short life. That said, they can be attached to your profile as Highlights, meaning they become visible indefinitely.
Right now, Stories are presented in a separate newsfeed. You either view the 'traditional' newsfeed of posts, or the Story newsfeed. It's likely that the two will merge, becoming a single newsfeed containing both. Time will tell whether Instagram introduces this, and whether people will like it.
So what's the point of Instagram Stories?
Coming back to the question so many people ask - the point is that people, particularly younger people, love them.
According to Instagram, over 500 million people look at Stories every day. That's more than everyone using Twitter, and almost as many as everyone using LinkedIn. It's a massive audience.
It's also a growing audience. Stories are capturing attention.
The question shouldn't really be, what's the point? It should be, how can I use Stories for my business?
Okay, so how can I use Stories for my business?
Unsure about how to create a Story? I recommend setting up an Instagram account you can use for testing or playing around with Stories. Call it something random, like 'Cucumber and Brown' (that's one of my test accounts) or 'Grim Rhubarb' (a phrase that no one is using on Instagram). Use that account to mess around with posting.
No one will know it's your account, so you won't be judged on what you post. Use it to learn how to set up Stories. Play with the different options such as Boomerang, Superzoom and even going live on video.
Starting to use Instagram Stories in your business
Think of Stories as exactly that - a story or stories around your business. There's the ongoing story of what's going on, day to day, and within that are sub-stories, such as developing a new product, attending a show or delivering a special order.
Keep at it. As with all social media, it takes time to build an audience. Don't give up after a week because only about five people saw your Stories. Give it time.
Use stickers. They're an integral part of the Story experience, so don't hold back.
Have more than one Story active at a time. Each one is only on screen for a few seconds, so you need several to make an impact. Because their life is just 24 hours, this means you need to keep creating them.
Plan ahead. Think of Story opportunities that are coming up and make time to create them.
Take time to look at Stories from others. Be inspired by what they do, see what you like and don't like about what they're doing. Engage with their Stories with comments and taps.
More tips for creating Stories
Consider using stories to
- Showcase a particular product or service
- Share a quick tip with your audience
- Announce an offer or opportunity
- Give a fun peek behind the scenes
- Share a mini case study of work you've done
- Be imaginative! There are no 'rights and wrongs' when it comes to using Stories in your business. Be real, be yourself, and do what you're comfortable with.
Experiment with new features as they arrive.