If you’re here, you’re probably already posting videos and photos on your company’s Instagram account, and wondering about the Instagram Stories feature on the app. The stories feature shows users “stories” at a bar at the top of your home feed. Simply click the user’s icon to view their story—a short series of photos or videos that disappear after 24 hours.
By utilizing the stories feature, not only do you have a chance to be the first thing users see when they log on, but stories also help your brand get more visibility on Instagram, and give your followers more of your content to consume.
How Stories Work
At the top of your home feed, there’s a bar of circular profile photos. These are stories. Click on the profile photo to watch the story. Once you are finished with one user’s story, it will automatically play the next story.
To create a story, click your own profile icon in the top banner, with the blue plus button. You can also swipe left to open the camera for your story.
When creating your story, think about the purpose behind it. Are you updating followers about a new project? Are you encouraging them to buy a product? Are you telling a story? Think about what action you want your followers to take after seeing your story, such as visiting your profile or website, or tagging you in their photos. In order to do this, utilize Instagram’s features, such as adding a link to have followers swipe up, or asking a question with Instagram’s poll feature. The swipe up feature allow you to insert a link into your story, and have followers swipe up to go to that link. It’s a great feature for events, new products, long-form videos or blogs—anything you want to drive traffic to. The poll feature allows your followers to vote on questions. They can click either the left or right button and you get to see the results. This is great for surveying your users about what they want to see more of, or just asking relevant questions to keep your content rolling.
You can also allow the message feature on your story, so followers can reply and interact with your content. This can be turned on or off under the story settings.
If you’ve recently created a story, your profile photo will have a colorful ring around it, to let your followers know you were just active.
When in the “explore” tab of Instagram, you can see popular users stories. If your story becomes popular enough, you may be featured in the top stories of Instagram, driving tons of traffic to your account and showing your content to a whole new audience.
Posting an Instagram Story
Before you post a story of your own, watch a few. Learn the way users’ see your story and what you like and don’t like about other brands’ stories. Notice where Instagram puts the controls for story viewers, like the progress bar at the top, username in the upper corner, and message option at the bottom. If you place stickers, hashtags or usernames in the same area as the controls, users won’t be able to see important parts of your content. So, notice the way other stories look before you post your own to avoid any silly mistakes.
Once you feel confident enough to post a story, and you have the content to do so, it’s time to choose the format of your story. Sometimes, this is a simple task depending on the content. If you have a photo or video of a new product you want to show-off, then your format is already chosen for you. But, if you’re trying to get creative with promotions and use the story feature in different ways, you can choose from a variety of formats.
There’s normal, where you can take normal photos by pressing the center button once or take videos by holding it down. You can also upload old photos and videos by sliding your thumb up while on the story camera.
The next format Instagram offers is Boomerang. If you hold the button, your camera will quickly snap photos for 5 seconds and stitch them together, creating a looping video. Most often, Boomerang is used as a non-serious format for businesses to showcase company culture or the movement of a product. We suggest using it for fun stories, and using the standard video or photo format for more serious announcements or updates.
Another format Instagram offers is “SuperZoom.” When holding the button down, super zoom will zoom into the center of the frame three separate times, getting closer and closer to the object you’re focused on. This is often used by comedians and is a newer format Instagram offers.
If you slide over to “rewind,” you can create a video for your story that will post in reverse. Tap and hold the button to record around 20 seconds of video, and watch as the app plays it back to you in reverse. Like with all formats, after you capture your video you can edit it with filters, tags, and more.
Hands-free allows you to press the button and release, but the camera will continue recording video for 20 seconds. This format is great, obviously, if you want to record without having to keep your finger down on the shutter.
Finally, the last story format Instagram offers is “Stop Motion.” This format allows users to take a series of photos and will stitch the photos together in a montage.
Editing Your Instagram Story
Like discussed previously, make sure you have a purpose behind your story. Are you trying to drive people to a link? Start a hashtag campaign? Get feedback on your next project?
After you’ve decided the purpose behind your story and picked the appropriate format, you can edit your story to enhance it even further. Instagram has several filters, stickers, and more you can add to your story.
To add text, click the “Aa” in the upper right hand corner. Type out your content, and change the color as you’d like using the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. Make the text bigger or smaller by either using the slider on the left hand side or by using two fingers and pinching the text to manipulate the size.
To see the different filters, after you’ve created your story, swipe your finger to the right. Different filters will come up and you can preview how each filter makes your story look. To find different stickers, simply tap the square smiley face in the upper right hand corner. This will bring up a variety of stickers, including a location sticker, temperature sticker, and different stickers depending on the day of the week and the season.
Use the location sticker to let your audience know where you are. Users can click on your location and see it in their maps app and even get directions directly to you. It’s a great feature for physical stores or if you’re out and about to show your company travels.
You can also draw on your Instagram story. Simply click the pen in the upper right corner (next to the sticker button) to choose your tool. You can choose from a variety of different pen strokes, colors, and you can even adjust the width of the stroke with the slider on the left hand side. Experiment with the drawing tool, use it to emphasize text or stickers, or if you’ve got great handwriting, write out the text instead of typing it. Drawing is just another feature that you can use creatively to make your story stand out.
Once you’re finished creating your story, upload it to your story with the button “+ Your Story” on the left, next to the save button. If you want to save your story to your camera roll, use the save button to do so. You can even send your story directly to an individual or a group of users for example, employees, vendors, or a group of loyal customers.
Building Engagement with Instagram Stories
Instagram stories are a great way to build engagement with your followers. Allow uses to send messages replies to your story in story settings, enabling them to privately message you with their comments! You can even encourage followers to send their replies by pointing to the message box, or asking followers to tell you what they think!
Replies to your story will end up in your inbox in a private message, and you’ll can find your messages by clicking the airplane in the upper left hand corner of your home screen.
You can also build engagement by adding a poll, or linking to your site in your story as discussed before.
Analyzing Your Stories
Instagram allows users with business accounts to look at the analytics of their stories. There are two ways to view them: either go to your analytics bar (found on your profile, upper left hand corner) and scroll down to “stories.” You can also view your own story and get the analytics there.
Stories don’t have likes and comments like regular posts do, instead they show their own set of analytics. These are: impressions, viewers, replies, and swipes. Impressions show the number of times the photo was seen, viewers show the number of accounts that saw the photo, replies is the number of replies to your story, and swipes is the number of swipes away from your story.If you put a hashtag or location on your story, you can also see the number of times viewers “tapped” on the sticker.
Highlighting Your Stories
As of December 2017, Instagram added a “Story Highlights” banner to each user’s profile where they can save their favorite stories on their profile, and they will not disappear after the 24 hour period. This can be used to save your stories that feature a sale for over 24 hours, or an upcoming event graphic to remind your followers it’s coming up. Many retail accounts on Instagram use this feature to show their inventory, and will remove the story highlight once a product is sold out. Highlighting your story won’t give you more exposure on Instagram, but it gives users more content to consume when they are on your page. When you highlight your stories, the bar above your feed will now have circular icons of your highlighted stories.
How are you using Instagram stories for your business? Let us know in the comments!
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