Instagram has been quite the hype the last few years. What started as a teen photo-sharing app with wacky filters became an amazing business tool that is projected to rack in $1.86 billion in revenue this year as its user base growth outpaces general social network usage. There was nothing that could stop Instagram.
However, relatively recently Snapchat started to step on the photo-sharing app’s toes. What makes Snapchat so special, you ask? The ephemeral nature of the content. Your followers know that the post will disappear in 10 seconds, so they pay attention to it. And in our fast-paced world of media oversaturation, 10 seconds is a lot of time spent on your message!
So, Instagram came out with Stories. Yup, they didn’t bother to invent a new name for the feature. Either way, now that Instagram Stories are here, let’s explore, experiment and use them to our advantage!
If you want to be on top of the marketing game, but are still observing Snapchat from the sidelines, this is a perfect chance to experiment with creating ephemeral content and see how you like it. Plus, if you already have a following on Instagram, you will start seeing the impact it makes right away – no need to start building an audience from scratch.
What you need to know about Instagram Stories
If you do use Snapchat for personal or business purposes, Instagram Stories interface will be very familiar to you.
The photos and videos you post to your Stories will disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in feed. They really disappear. When people you’re following add new content to their Stories, you will see a pink circle around their profile image in two places: up top your newsfeed and directly in their profiles.
What I love about Stories is that you can upload your Hyperlapse and Boomerang (two other offerings by Instagram) videos in there too! Plus, it wouldn’t be Stories without filters and ability to draw and write on top of photos!
The functionality of the feature is pretty similar to that of Snapchat; you have control over how to progress in the Stories by going back and forth. Stories follow the privacy settings of your account. However, likes and comments won’t be public like with regular posts; although, you can also set custom privacy setting if you don’t want your followers to see specific Stories.
Why Instagram stories
When Instagram first came on the market, their biggest differentiator from the rest of the big boys was a sense of immediacy. What seems like centuries ago, Instagram was sweet simple platform for sharing images of your lattes and pretty sunsets.
However, as Instagram matured and started attracting more and more artists and marketers, images became more staged and orchestrated. These days, you will rarely see a big account sharing less-than-perfect images.
Stories will, in a sense, bring back the good times.
So, how can you use Instagram Stories for business?
Behind the scenes
What’s a better way to use this new ephemeral feature than to draw a curtain on your business? People absolutely love to feel like they belong to the insider circle. Amplify the feeling of exclusivity by creating Stories instead of sharing it permanently on your feed.
You can really take this one creatively. On one hand, you might do sneak peeks of new products and heighten their interest with a sense of curiosity.
You might let your employees take over an account for a day. Again, it will be fun and engaging and let the personality of your company shine through.
People like to make business with people, so show them your human side! Allow them to see your day-to-day operations, such as a production line, a day at the office, or testing new products. If you have a creative business, show a part of your creative process, like how you retouch an image or create a design for a future line of dresses.
You don’t have to be worried about people stealing your ideas, really! I doubt you will disclose all of the secrets of your trade in a 5-second video snippet or an image.
If you are a one-man band, or if you are the face of your brand, get a bit personal. Show them your fun side and what you do outside of work. Maybe you’ll want to introduce your followers to your dog or cat, or brag about beautiful Sunday weather where you live, or share a beautiful foam drawing on your cappuccino. Hey, I don’t judge you! If anything, it shows you’re real and you are multifaceted.
Which brings me to an important point to keep in mind: the rise of Snapchat, and now the Stories feature, is at least partly due to the informational overload. We are bombarded with ads, news, articles, and friends’ posts everywhere we go. So, Snapchat and Instagram Stories go back to the roots. They make conversations feel intimate again, even though you may have hundreds of thousands of followers who will watch your Story.
Use Stories as a way to get personal and intimate. Don’t just shove your content down their throats. Be organic. Be human.
Promo codes and other goodies
Want to see who your true followers are? Share a super-exclusive promo code in Instagram Stories! You can test how many times that code was used, which will give you a pretty good idea how engaged and active your followers are. They will love their little reward and feel appreciated. Plus, it will entice more people to watch the Stories in the future and pay attention to your messages.
Of course, you can simply open your Story and swipe up to see how many views your Story got and who those people are, but, in my opinion, that number is pretty generic and not really insightful. People could have accidentally clicked on your Story, simply swiped through them, or – who knows – anything else could happen. To measure quality versus quantity, you can incorporate something that requires an action on their part.
Stories is the perfect way to give your followers a shoutout. Maybe you received a great testimonial or noticed one member of your community being very helpful and knowledgeable. Just give them a shoutout in the Stories. They will be so touched! And you will be very personable and likable. What’s a better way to create and strengthen those relationships online?
Instagram Stories also may be a great vehicle for quick tips and short how-tos. Have you ever heard an advice that was so simple, yet so powerful you wanted to scream?
Think of the little ingenious details that make your everyday tasks easier, faster, or more fun. What makes you more productive? Where do you start your creative process? What little details are often overlooked?
Sharing little snippets of wisdom will only make you look knowledgeable and caring (because, you know, sharing is caring). It will also give your followers an extra reason to watch your Stories to get those tips and nuggets.
Photos you love that don’t quite fit in to the feed
I am sure we’ve all had that moment where we really like the image or the photo we took, but it just doesn’t quite fit the overall branding of the Instagram feed. You might have spent half an hour looking at it, playing with filters, but you feel like something is still off.
You have two options here:
- Post it anyway and screw the entire flow of your feed, or
- Share it via Stories!
If you have content that is relevant to your topics, but doesn’t quite fit aesthetically, publish it through Stories!
A word of advice though: I am not saying clutter your Stories with irrelevant low-quality content and annoy your followers. Use this tactic sporadically only when you really want to share an image that doesn’t make the cut to be added to the feed.
However, remember that Stories, although disappear in 24 hours, are still part of your profile. Think of it as an extension of your regular feed. Use it creatively, try and test different things, be personal, but still be true to your overall branding and positioning. Do not abuse Stories to publish irrelevant content or you’ll deter away your followers.
Instagram Stories provides a cool option to test out creating ephemeral content, if you’re not already doing so on Snapchat. Plus, it’s an amazing opportunity to become closer with your followers, show your human and silly side, and strengthen the community.
Don’t overdo it by posting low-quality content, yet allow it to be less “polished” than the stuff that gets posted to the actual feed.
“Instagram has always been a place to share the moments you want to remember. Now you can share your highlights and everything in between, too,” the official post suggests. So, don’t be afraid to open up and have fun!
What other content ideas do you have for Instagram Stories? Have you seen success with the feature? Share in the comment section below!