By: Kirsty Afful / June 7, 2017

Guide to Instagram Stories

Instagram stories can be the next revolutionary thing for your business. Instagram stories are a fun and creative way to engage with your followers, but they also contribute to brand awareness and growing engagement. This guide gives you all the tips you need to use Instagram stories to maximise your profit through driving traffic and making ecommerce sales.

Instagram stories were introduced in August 2016 and over time they have increasingly grown in similarity to features of Snapchat. However, although it is a similar concept, Instagram enhances Snapchat because of the ability to use it with your business. A regular person can share ephemeral photos and videos of themselves but a business can make simple photo and video sharing a new method of reaching an audience.

Instagram appeals to your average person and businesses as there is unique points for each side. If you want to promote a marketing campaign or drive ecommerce sales you can do this with Instagram stories, but also you can share fun and light-hearted content creating rapport with customers and developing a familiar relationship.

How to use Instagram stories
Creating a story of Instagram is super-simple. Instagram has released numerous new features to their stories over the last few months, so it may be difficult to keep up with all the changes. Here are the basic steps to upload an Instagram story.

  • Swipe right from your home screen or tap the camera icon found in the top left had corner. This opens the Instagram camera.
  • Take a photo by taping the button, or a video by holding it down. You can also edit this to make a boomerang, hands-free or rewind video.
  • Edit these by using some other buttons. The half-moon takes warm photos in low-light conditions. The thunderbolt turns flash on or off. The arrows in a square shape enable you to switch between front-facing and back-facing camera. The smiley face provides filters which are replicable of the Snapchat filters.
  • Uploading from your camera roll can be done by swiping up or down. These pictures must be taken within the last 24 hours.
  • Tap anywhere on the screen to write on the image. There are tools to edit the size and colour of the writing. Use the [email protected] sign to tag others or the ‘#’ to share a hashtag, the same way you would if making a caption. A new addition to Instagram allows you to search for stories by location and hashtags, therefore, people can find you just by searching a hashtag you use on your story.
  • The pen tool allows you to draw on your photo. There are numerous pen styles and an eraser tool so you can have fun with your creations.
  • Add stickers by selecting the button in the top right-hand corner or swiping up on your story. Again, similar to Snapchat, you can include a location sticker, a hashtag sticker and a selfie sticker, which you can save for future use.
  • Swipe left or right to add different filters.
  • When done, tap the next button and share. Couldn’t be easier.

Your story appears at the top of your follower’s feed, or from your profile by tapping your profile picture. To see how many views your story has received, whilst viewing your story, swipe up and it will display the number and names of the viewers on each photo/video of your story. If you opt-in, you can also view Instagram Insights on your Instagram stories. To do this, select the insights icon in the top right corner, scroll down and go to the ‘get started’ option in the stories section. When you open your business profile; impressions, reach and other metrics related to your stories will be included in your insights.

Hidden hacks to make your stories stand out

  • There are hidden colour options, so you can edit images to keep things consistent with your brand colours. To do this, tap the writing icon in the top right-hand corner and open the brush or text tool. If you hold down on any default colour option at the bottom of the screen to open the colour slider. Swipe across the slider to select a custom colour which matches your brand identity.
  • Add a drop shadow effect on your text by tapping the writing icon and typing in your text. Tap the icon again and type the same text in a different colour. Arrange the top layer to be slightly off-centre from the bottom layer. If you want to pin it to one location, hold down on it and select the pin option when it comes up.
  • Create a solid colour background when you want drawings and text, rather than a photo or video. Tap the pen icon and select a colour. Tap and hold the screen for 1-3 seconds until the screen is filled with solid colour. Use the marker or neon brush for a solid colour, or the chisel-tip brush for a translucent colour fill.
  • Mention other accounts in your stories to connect with other businesses. This helps others out, but also they can reciprocate and shout you out as well. This is done by simply adding text and putting the @ symbol and the username, the same way you would when captioning a regular picture. You can mention up to 10 accounts per story.
    Upload stories that are older than 24 hours by using Later’s free media library. This enables you to upload, store and manage your visual content. Therefore, if you get the perfect snap, but don’t have time to edit it and upload at the time. You can save it here and do it at a later date. If you save your photo or video here and then when you want to upload it to Instagram, save it to your camera roll and then go back onto Instagram and follow the usual steps.
  • Hide your story from specific users by going to either the gear icon on iOS or ellipsis on Android. Under accounts select ‘story settings’ then ‘hide my story from’, select the people you want and then select done.
  • Pause, skip and go back when watching stories by using different navigations when viewing the story. Tap on the left side to go back to previous photo or video, tap right to skip to next part of story, swipe from right to left to skip the user’s whole story and hold the screen to pause a story.

Creating an Instagram stories strategy
If your goal is to grow your Instagram engagement it is important to have a strategy in place for sharing content. Instagram has created an algorithm which enables people to find content they may be interested in if they don’t follow the creator’s account. This has also been incorporated into Instagram stories. Therefore, if you can get your story featured on the explore page, you can engage with a load of new followers, thus optimising when and how often you upload can increase your chances of engagement.

Instagram does not penalise you for posting too often to your story, unlike regular Instagram posts. This is because stories are only available for 24 hours and therefore, no pressure for Instagram to prioritise some posts over others on a feed. However, Instagram might not penalise you for posting too many, however, users have the ability to mute an individual’s story. This moves the story to the end of the queue and prevents auto play, therefore, if you have loads of posts and a user needs 10+ taps to move to the next account’s story, you’re probably going to get muted. The number you actually can post, will depend on your content and your viewers. Some people can get away with posting 10+ a day and this can be unique to the brand, however, for some more than a few a week may result in you being muted. Therefore, it is important to look at what works for you and if you have the time to plan and create that many stories, or if your time is better used elsewhere.

Another crucial factor to consider when maximising user engagement is when to post. For regular posts, posting when your followers are most active is key, however, Instagram stories are available at the top of the feed for 24 hours. If you post when half your followers are asleep, they will still see it when they wake up. If something needs to be current, then follow the rules of posting when your followers are most active, but in general there is no need to stress too much.

The mix between fun, light-hearted content and promotional content is key. Keeping your feed relaxed, develops rapport and users and more likely to want to interact with friendly and familiar people. Don’t bombard with promotional content since this will deter users as it becomes pressuring to purchase products. Posting something ‘real’ and showing a goofy side will help connect users, with plenty of tools to make your stories as creative as you like, whilst still connecting them with your brand.

As well as using tags and locations to enhance your discoverability, a recent introduction which allows adding links to stories is a big deal. This is the first time you can have a link that is not in the bio, thus going direct to source without having to go through numerous other steps before getting to the link. This has a large contribution to directing traffic to any relevant pages including products or blog posts.

If you are using Instagram for your business and haven’t started using Instagram stories, hopefully this guides gives you the motivation and all the tools you need to do so. It is quickly becoming one of the best channels to drive engagement, build brand awareness, make ecommerce scales and drive traffic. If you want to grow your business on Instagram, this is the next big thing for you.

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