Instagram Stories capture an audience’s attention by offering authentic, immediate, time-sensitive content. They’re effective in part because Instagram’s audience is huge. As of September 2017, Instagram reported that it had 800 million monthly active users and 500 million daily active users. Three hundred million of those daily users use Instagram Stories. In late 2017 SimplyMeasured found that 50% of all businesses on Instagram had posted a Story in the last month and one in five organic Stories from businesses got a direct message in response.
Instagram Stories can be a single short video, an image or a series of videos or images. The videos are just 15 seconds long but savvy businesses can do a lot with 15 seconds. Stories stay live for 24 hours and then disappear forever. Instagram Stories appear at the top of the app, which makes them an excellent way to keep your brand front and center. Every time the Story is updated a colorful ring appears around your profile picture in the Story feed indicating to your followers that you’ve added something new!
Before Stories, Instagram limited links to a single, editable link in the profile. Now businesses with at least 10,000 followers can attach a link directly to each Story. Users simply swipe up to access the link. There are hundreds of ways to put that link to work.
How to Promote Your Business Using Instagram Stories
There are many different ways to use Stories to promote your business. For best results, make sure your Stories contain more than just promotional material. Mix in some light-hearted and informational posts to keep your audience coming back for more.
Here are five ways you can use Instagram Stories to promote your business:
- Build Content. The quick videos in Stories offer a great framework for a quick tutorial or a Q and A session. Quotes and lists also work well and you can use an image to promote your latest blog post or tease content that is arriving soon. If you’re worried about losing the content once the Story has expired, consider using Instagram Highlights or one of the many tools available to save it to your profile.
- Foster Authenticity. Instagram Stories are a unique way to offer your audience a peak behind the curtain of your business. It’s still important to keep things professional, but you can quickly build trust by showing the audience part of the process. Show your workroom, the team warm up or part of an early draft of a design project. Everyone enjoys feeling like an insider. Instagram Stories let your audience feel like they’re right there with you.
- Create a Special Offer. The 24-hour window on Instagram Stories creates a built-in sense of urgency. Use it to create a limited time, Instagram-only coupon with a code directly on the Story, or link out to a landing page. Consider posting offers regularly to give your audience an incentive to check your account often.
- Build anticipation. Do you have big announcement to share? Are you running a contest? Tease it with a countdown in your Instagram Stories. Reveal the announcement piece by piece over a series of videos, or create a teaser poster and let that stand on its own.
- Get Immediate Feedback. Instagram Stories have a poll feature that lets you ask one question with two options for answers. Users can click their answer right in the Story and immediately see the results. It’s a great way to engage with your audience.
You can use this feature for market research on all kinds of things from which colours to offer your product in to whether or not to book a second night for a workshop. The feature can also be used for light-hearted questions that let you connect with the audience on a more personal level.
Getting Started with Instagram Stories
First, make sure that your Instagram account is set up a business account. An Instagram business account gives you two main advantages: access to analytics and the ability to add a link to your Story (if you have at least 10,000 followers). It is possible to use Stories on a personal account, but there are no options for analytics.
Once you’ve got a business account simply log in to Instagram and either click on your own profile image to start recording or click the plus sign at the bottom of the app to choose from your camera roll. There’s a prompt to choose if you want to post to Stories or to the Feed. Instagram Stories should be 1080px wide by 1920px tall with an aspect ratio of 9:16. If you don’t have a designer on staff, try an online tool like Canva or use one of these free Instagram story templates from Buffer.
Don’t forget to add a location sticker to your Story when appropriate. Location stickers increase discoverability and are particularly effective for restaurants and brick-and-mortar stores. You can tag your city, a nearby landmark or your business name. Also consider adding a hashtag. All the regular rules of hashtags apply to Instagram Stories as well. A well-chosen hashtag increases the chances that your audience will find you.