While regular Instagram posts are designed for your very best content, Stories are designed to be used more frequently but with more ‘average’ posts. The idea is that it’s a fun way to share off the cuff moments you might not want on your regular feeds and show a different side to your account’s personality. This means you can publish them more often and, therefore, provide the opportunity to engage even more with your followers, and it also gives your posts a real-time value.
Creating Instagram Stories couldn’t be easier. All it takes is a simple tap on your profile picture on the Stories row, located at the top of your Home screen. This activates the camera where you can shoot a video or select something from the last 24 hours from your camera roll and click ‘+ your story’. There are a few options for formatting your posts to Stories, including Normal, Boomerang, Slow Motion, Rewind and Hands-Free. Make the choice of a GIF, a video played in reverse or a standard photo/video and, voila, you’ve created a story!
Stories can help keep your followers engaged
Why, as a business, would I waste time posting lots of substandard content? How can I use this to my advantage? Firstly, the Stories disappear after 24 hours, which forces your followers to log in frequently and check out your profile to see any new Stories before they disappear. This drives users to your business profile more often. It also humanizes your business, because the photos and videos tend to be more raw and relevant to a particular moment in time.
Although posts are technically designed to be of a lesser standard than regular posts, as a business, you’ll still need to think through your strategy. Using Stories during the right moments can be crucial. For example, if you’re having a sale or your business has an exciting event happening, posting some Stories can help your followers feel more connected to your brand and encourage more people to engage. You can also appeal to your followers’ sense of fun here, by posting more casual and witty photos and captions, rather than the more structured, rigid and ‘perfect’ posts on your official feed. This helps your audience feel more relaxed, and again more connected, to your brand.
How to boost the visibility and engagement of your Stories
As a result of Instagram making changes to its algorithm and moving away from its original chronological approach, it is possible your posts aren’t always showing up on your followers’ feeds. The algorithm predicts which posts are of the most interest to users, based on previous engagement, and those will be highest on their feed. However, Instagram Stories do not use the algorithm in this way. As a result, if you post in your Stories, it will show up at the top of their Stories feed at the time of posting. This is important in maintaining visibility with your followers.
To boost engagement and visibility further, you can tag people in the description of your Stories and decorate them with emojis, doodles and text to make them more in line with your brand. 85% of videos on Facebook are watched without sound so it’s reasonable to assume the same for videos and stories on Instagram, making the extra text on your content even more important. You can also add in your location, and when Instagram creates its location Stories if yours has created enough engagement it could potentially be featured, giving you that added element of visibility. The same can be said for adding in hashtags.
Adding polls to your Stories can boost user engagement while at the same time, give you vital insight into your target audience. There are two options when creating polls; A/B options or a slider option. The slider is more fun, but the A/B choice gives you more data. You can add in a question, such as, “Will you join me for a Live broadcast tonight?” with “Yes” or “No” answers; or to drive more engagement and excitement, you could use it to ask your audience what prize to give for your latest contest with descriptive answers; or to gain insight you could give future blog options or new product options. Just remember to check the results before the story expires in 24 hours.
Use Instagram Stories to drive users to your other content
Perhaps the single most important aspect of how to successfully use Instagram Stories is to take advantage of adding in a link. Aside from your bio, this is the only place on Instagram you can add in links. This is huge. Couple this will the fact you can add in flashy doodles to point out said link, it’s a potential goldmine. This is only available to business profiles, meaning not just anyone can capitalize on this. To add in a link, just click the chain link icon at the top of your story. Once a link is added, a See More option appears at the bottom but it’s a good idea to add in some text of your own to direct people to the link, for example, ‘Swipe up for the full post!’.
Although adding in links is a wonderful opportunity, be careful not to bombard users or post images just for the sake of adding a link. The posts should still add value to your marketing strategy, with the link as an added bonus. For example, if you are using Stories to show off a DIY project, you could include a link to your website with a full tutorial of instructions for the project.
Always make sure you edit!
The amount of flexibility given with posting to Stories is increased exponentially in comparison to a regular post. You don’t just have filters, you have stickers, graphics, texts, face filters or coloured backgrounds. From a psychological standpoint, anything that increases the exposure, warmth and contrast is going to be a winner. According to a group of Georgia Tech researchers who teamed up with Yahoo! labs, un-edited images are a no go, as they give the impression to your audience they weren’t worth the time to adjust. The same team found that the right colour adjustments have a significant impact on your audience engagement. Warmer colours, such as red and yellow, elicited feelings of cheerfulness, fun and excitement, leading to an increase in the number of comments by up to 45%! In support of the psychological colour theory, basic filters like Mayfair, Rise, Valencia, Hefe and Nashville will maximize your engagement, whereas Lo-Fi and X-Pro II are much darker and are unlikely to garner as many likes or comments. When adding in backgrounds or text, keep it light, sunny and colourful as opposed to dark or blue.
Make sure you aren’t using too many filters, emojis, text, doodles, links etc as these can put off your followers or cause them to unfollow or block them. Sprout Social found that irritating brand behaviours such as too many visuals or noises can cause 51% of your viewers to unfollow you.
As you can see, there are so many ways to use Instagram Stories. Whether you’re looking for market insight, higher engagement or a more personal connection with your followers, posting Instagram Stories is a great way to grow your business and influence.