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When Instagram first introduced stories back in 2016, they set the social media world on fire. Suddenly, Snapchat was no longer the cool kid on the block when it came to ephemeral content. Instagram surprised us all by rolling the feature out, and soon, they left Snapchat well behind.
Anyone planning on building a successful Instagram account can no longer rely on having perfectly posed shots in their main feed. To create a truly engaging brand presence, you need to be using the Stories feature to your advantage too.
Stories 101: What are they and how do they work?
Stories on Instagram are images or videos you can share with your followers that will disappear after just 24 hours. They appear at the very top of the Instagram feed, where users can scroll through and watch the stories of their favorite accounts. They also appear on your own profile as a rainbow coloured ring around your profile photo.
Things you should be doing in your Stories
Stories are a fantastic way to boost your brand's presence on Instagram, as they give your followers even more content to enjoy. If you want to get the most of out this feature, here are some things you need to be sure to do.
Unlike in the main feed, Instagram won’t punish you for posting multiple stories a day. In fact, it’s more beneficial to post frequently than sporadically here. You don’t need to worry about spamming your followers feed either.
For some brands, posting every day may be too difficult though. You still need to plan what you’re going to post, and not everyone has the time and resources to plan that much content. And that’s fine too! Maybe you’ll only use Stories during special events or holidays to boost engagement. Just remember that whatever posting frequency you choose - you won’t be penalised for it.
One of the main reasons people love viewing Instagram stories is because they’re more fun and spur-of-the-moment than the polished in-feed images they’re so used to. Show your followers some of the behind the scenes of your brand.
Don’t worry about being silly or not looking your best. Stories are all about having fun! Show another side to yourself or your business. Those kinds of posts help to build a more solid and trusting relationship with your followers. They’ll feel like they’re really getting to know the person behind the account.
Make them engaging
Instagram offers the option to include polls in your stories - so use them! Asking your followers questions makes them feel valued and involved - a recipe for success. You can sue these polls to determine new product launches, or simply to ask which type of donut your followers prefer. Remember our last point? Have fun with it!
And, if your account has over 10k followers, you also have the option to include the “swipe up” feature. With this, you can include a direct link to your blog, website, or online store right there in your story. Be sure to utilise this feature if it’s available to you as it's a great way to boost your web traffic.
You’re on Instagram - so of course, you should be using hashtags! Using them in your stories can really boost your accounts reach and engagement. But, you don’t want to cover your awesome shots with hashtags, right?
All you need to do is write your list of hashtags as text, then minimise them as small as possible, and hide them behind a sticker, a GIF or more text! This way, you’re able to include a bunch of post boosting hashtags, without compromising your content!
What NOT to do in your Stories
Stories are great, but only if you use them right! There is a way that every brand can utilise this feature effectively, but there are also things to avoid. Be sure not to make these common mistakes when using Stories.
Super polished posts
This is what your feed is for. Stories are where you should be sharing more realistic and down to earth content. There isn’t really a place in your Stories for super-polished or hyper-posed images.
Play around more with stickers, face filters and boomerangs to make your content stand out from the crowd. If your account is well known for its awesome photography, then use this space to show how you set up a shot or cover the editing process.
Fail to plan, plan to fail
But, only using real content doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan. Failing to plan is planning to fail after all. This is especially important if you’re using Stories to document an event. There will be so much going on at the time; you will need to know ahead of the day exactly what you want to shoot and share.
Just like you do with your feed, it’s also a good idea to keep a cohesive theme running. If your brand theme is usually based on a certain colour, try and incorporate that into your stories. Use the same writing style in all your images, and make a decision before you start about using stickers, filters, and GIFs.
Instagram Stories are great for driving a tonne of engagement to your account, so you should definitely be crafting them for your account. Follow our tips above, and play around with your content until you’re happy. Because if you love what you’re producing, your followers will too.