How to Use Instagram Stories Effectively for Your Business

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In 2016 Instagram introduced Stories to its platform (see link) – a game changing tool that allowed users to post as much as they like without over-cluttering their feeds. Inspired by Snapchat, the content disappears within 24 hours of posting. Though you can save Stories to your business profile homepage, in the form of a highlight (see link). The story can be anything from a static image, to a video, to gif-like images called ‘Boomerangs’.

If this is all new to you, we can help clarify. We aim to share the benefits of incorporating the feature into your social media strategy, and some tips on how to ensure you receive maximum engagement from your audience.

How can Instagram Stories benefit your business?

If you’re debating the potential of this platform, here are some statistics to think about: Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users (link here) making it the third most popular social network. Of those 1 billion users, 400 million users are viewing stories on Instagram on a daily basis (link here) . And finally, 33% of the most-viewed stories come from business accounts (link here). Add in the fact that Stories are discoverable to users who don’t even follow you yet; it is clear that this platform is valuable to any business. (see link).

Create a connection with your audience

The design of Stories is also beneficial for business accounts, for example, the display of the story expands across the whole screen, ensuring viewers are not distracted by other content. This design ensures you capture your audience’s attention wholly and creates a feeling of closeness with the viewer. Stories enables you to talk directly to your audience, making it a more intimate form of communication.

Stories helps you beat the tyranny of Instagram’s unpredictable algorithm

Recently, it seems as though the new Instagram algorithm makes it harder than ever to reach your audience, as posts are no longer getting the amount of exposure that they used to (see link)

However, using more features of the app regularly and consistently can help you climb higher on your followers feed. Creating a story about your post can help drive traffic to your post and ultimately your whole feed (see link) 

Additionally, Instagram are continually innovating its features, which includes incorporating Stories into the main feed. So, even if your followers have missed your Story at the top of the homepage they may be reminded whilst scrolling.

How can businesses use Instagram Stories?

Post consistently

Consistency is key to beating Instagram’s unforgiving algorithm and this also applies to Stories. You don’t need to post every day but create a consistent pace that works for you, and stick to this schedule; for example, this could be 3 or 4 times a week.

Let your audience see behind the scenes

Main feeds can become overly corporate or business like. Therefore, Stories is a great space for you to show a more casual, relatable and more human side to your business (see link). A great way to interact casually with your audience is by giving them glimpses into the everyday goings-on of your business.

Don’t assume anything is too dull or mundane as these posts can be the most engaging. This type of content often relates more to your audience than the picture-perfect content most social media feeds are filled with. Did someone come into work with an amusingly bright shirt? Share it! Anything funny or outrageous can be incredibly entertaining. This allows your audience to see a side of your business they may rarely see; enriching your brand with personality.

Behind the scenes posts can also be a great opportunity to show viewers what goes into the production of your products or services. This kind of content gives your viewers exclusive insights into the workings of your business and can be very informative and engaging.

@BleachLondon often showcase backstage ‘behind the scenes’ footage on their Instagram Story. Image credit: https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17953903870191736/

Post your community

Stories can be used to showcase user-generated content. User-generated content is so valuable to marketers as it is free content that has been proven to be highly engaging (see link)! If a customer has posted about your brand, you can post this to your own story. This helps build loyalty as the audience will feel valued and like they are a part of your brand. Additionally, other customers find user-generated-content more credible and trustworthy (as long as the customer is not #sponsored). People relate more to user-generated content as it is more authentic. And so, user-generated content is the digital equivalent of word-of-moth marketing, which marketers can easily use through Instagram Stories.  

@ASOS’s ‘As Seen On You’ Instagram Story highlight reposts their customer’s content. Image credit: https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17937215410308010/

Designing the perfect story campaign

Create an actual ‘story’

Ensure every day of posting has a beginning, middle and end (see link). Make sure there is a flow, and each element relates to the last one. For example, an Instagram story could follow the story of your day: Beginning: saying good morning, what are your plans/goals for the day. Middle: document yourself completing your tasks, post about anything interesting that happens in the day. Ending: saying goodbye or goodnight and concluding your thoughts on the day.

@Glossier often sign off their Story for the day with a gif of a smiling face waving goodbye. Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/stories/glossier/

Consider the design

Consider the design of your stories, what colours, typefaces, backgrounds, styles etc. will you use? Choose elements which work together and reflect the look and feel of your branding. Using a similar visual language to your branding and feed posts will ensure that your audience will recognise you instantly (see link). Don’t forget to add text even if you are recording a video as most people don’t have the volume on when they are watching stories, and so you may be missing out on engaging with a large percentage of viewers. This doesn’t mean you need to add subtitles, just give the audience an insight into what you are talking about.

Use call to actions

Don’t just wait for your audience to check out your website after they have viewed your story – directly tell them to with a call to action link! Use your story as a promotional platform by posting about new products or offers you have on your site, then adding in a ‘swipe up’ link allows viewers to instantly be directed to your site so they can make a purchase. Though it is important to note that Instagram only allows this feature currently for verified accounts or those with 10k plus followers (see link)

@BeautyBaycom using the call to action ‘See More’ feature. Image credit: https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17913997735059475/

How to increase engagement with Instagram Stories

Ask your audience questions, polls and quizzes  

New features allow you to request your audience to ask you questions, or you can reverse the sticker and ask your audience questions. This feature can be used as a valuable market research tool, as you may ask your audience for feedback on your services. For example, if you are a content creator you may ask your audience what kind of content they are loving lately, and you can use this information to plan new projects.

Adding polls or quizzes into your story is a great way to allow your audience to interact with you, as answering polls/quizzes takes minimal effort from the consumers perspective. This allows your audience to know you care about their opinion and it also provides you with an insight into how your followers think (see link). Keep the questions fun and simple and you should see engagement increase.

@Glossier use the ask feature to encourage conversations between themselves and their followers. Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/18044774740047666/

Encourage DM’s

As aforementioned, stories can be very intimate opportunities for personal connections with your audience. So much so that 1 in 5 organic stories results in a direct message (See link) Promptly responding to direct messages strengthens relationships with your audience and further encourages brand loyalty.

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