By: Alexander Bussey
Instagram stories are a relatively new feature; first launched by the app in August 2017. Similar to Snapchat stories, Instagram allows you to share a selection of pre-arranged photos, videos and/or graphics with your entire following ? which is a great tool, specifically when featuring new products and/or publicizing a specific event.?
Once posted, Instagram stories are only viewable for 24 hours, but their strong focus on narrative storytelling makes them a powerful, unique tool for any small business. They can oftentimes have a much stronger impact than a solitary photo or image posts, particularly if you are trying to convey a complicated, nuanced or time-sensitive message.
Because they appear at the very top of the app, Instagram stories also allow you to bypass the platform?s newsfeed algorithm, which tends to prioritize personal content over posts from businesses and other commercial entities.?
To help you make the most of this stand-out feature, we have produced a hands-on guide that outlines:
- How to set up, tag and publish a story
- Content ideas for your Instagram stories
- How to promote/share your story
Setting Up An Instagram Story
First, you need to know how Instagram stories are created. If you navigate to the top left corner of the Instagram app, you should see a camera icon. Once you touch the icon, your phone?s camera will open (within the app) and present you with several options, including:
These are all types of story, and each one has a slightly different function. Boomerang loops three seconds of video content; Live broadcasts what you are filming to Instagram in real time; Superzoom allows you to zoom in on an image and offers a variety of filters; Rewind records your videos backward; Hands-Free allows content to be recorded without having to hold down the record button.
As you can probably imagine, each of these different story types can be very useful contingent upon your content, but it is important to understand the basic proponents of Instagram story features before you can start using them effectively. So, for the purpose of this guide, we will use the ?Normal? setting.?
This mode allows you to take a picture (by clicking the white button in the center of the screen) or a short video (by holding the same button down). You can also import photo or video files from your phone?s camera roll by selecting the picture icon towards the bottom left of the screen.?
Once you have collected your story content, you?ll be given the opportunity to modify the image using filters, text or stickers before you publish the image or video to your story. You can also choose to upload the content directly to your story, or hand-select the people that can see it from your follower list.?
Once the story is posted, you have the option to delete it at any point; you also have options to save, share as the story as a post or modify exactly who is able to (or not to) view your story.
While it is a fairly straightforward process, it can be quite intimidating if you are not familiar with the ?menus.? The speed with which content can be uploaded, published and altered is expedient, so if you are new to Instagram, we recommend practicing with content on your personal account to get a comfortable feel for the process. ?
Choosing The Right Content
Once you have practiced creating a story, you need to work out what you actually want to post. As mentioned above, stories present a unique opportunity to reach out and grab the attention of your followers, but it is also important to ensure that you are publishing interesting, relevant content via the story feature. Lackluster, dull content results in poor engagement, and might ultimately encourage followers to ignore future stories.
To help you out, we have presented 3 different story ideas or archetypes that are used by businesses like the New York Times, Etsy and Ben & Jerry’s.
1. The Announcement
The 24-hour life cycle of Instagram stories means that they already have a strong association with highly-relevant or time-sensitive content. This means that Instagram stories are an ideal way to publicize product releases, flash sales or events. Using Instagram stories to announce an upcoming seminar, a new app or day of online discounts will help generate quite a buzz and get follows engaged with your announcement.?
In fact, several studies have shown that stories are much more useful than general posts when it comes to time-sensitive content, and it is also noteworthy that companies like Ben & Jerry?s always use stories to announce headline news. Using Instagram stories for this purpose demonstrates that you understand the protocol and the interest of your followers. Your users will be poised to click your stories as soon as they see them, and you will naturally train them to assume that future updates are worth their attention.
If you are going to utilize your Instagram story to announce important news, keep in mind that simplicity is key. You want to select images (or videos) that showcase promotional material, event spaces or product imagery, and you ideally want to focus on using the text or sticker functions to present relevant information, such as:
- The time and date of an event or launch
- Location (if relevant)?
- Brief details about the news
- A strong ?call to action?
An example of a good story announcement would be a picture of a recently launched and/or new product, followed by a short video of its unboxing, and a final image that includes the details of the launch date and a link to your brand website.?
2. The Tutorial
Tutorial stories are a great way to garner engagement and do not have to be long or complex. All you need to do is consider a product, service or activity related to your business, and demonstrate to your audience how it works in a few short video clips.
The benefits of tutorial stories are two-fold. Firstly, they tap into your audience’s innate desire to learn new things and master new skills. Secondly, they demonstrate your knowledge and promote the idea that your business is interested in adding value.?
Tutorial stories can also help to highlight the lesser-known features of a product as well, which might boost conversions. This type of story is widely used by Etsy, to show their followers how to make DIY cards, bath bombs, etc., by featuring different artists and contributors. But you are not limited to these ideas! We have seen brands use Instagram stories to walk their followers through:
- The ins and outs of changing a water filter?
- The ideal way to clean their sofa cushions
- The process of building raised borders in a garden
- Setting up a Twitter page
The point is to add real value and sustenance to your story content, so if you know there is something your audience often struggles with or could benefit from being made aware of, use a tutorial story to address it! Again, simplicity is key. Ideally, you want a short selection of annotated images (or video clips) that show your audience exactly what to do. Best practice is to limit this type of content to 3-4 ?pages? ? anything that needs more explanation is not suitable.?
Tutorial stories are much-improved by Instagram?s stickers and text features too, so make sure you play around with these options before you post.?
3. Behind The Scenes Content
Instagram stories also provide you with a rare opportunity to bring your followers ?backstage,? and show them some of the intimate, inner-workings of your business. This helps to humanize your brand and sheds light on the day-to-day activities that you and/or your team take part in, which is usually of great interest to followers.
The New York Times uses this story archetype regularly; posting a sequence of images that feature their journalists conducting interesting interviews or wrapping up articles. This invests followers in the brand and serves as an interesting counterpoint to more stuffy or curated content. It?s also a great place to showcase light humor and feature a happy and engaged workforce. We advise that you are careful and attuned to keep things professional.
The best ?behind-the-scenes? style stories have a strong, central focus and a consistent tone. They might showcase a particular part of office life or a single aspect of your business ? honing in on ?a day in the life of a delivery driver? or your staff?s weekly meetings. It is best to keep these interesting but brief. Your audience will appreciate the opportunity to peek inside your business, but they don?t want or need to know all the gory details.
An example of a ?behind-the-scenes? story might be 3 short videos that focus on the day-to-day activities of an account manager. One video might showcase 10-15 seconds of them leading an important meeting, followed by an image of them strategizing with team members in a break-out room, and finished with a short clip of them congratulating the team on a job well done.
Some General Notes on Building Stories
If you are struggling to identify subject matter, try to storyboard ideas, images, and sequences before you begin generating content. Instagram stories with a strong narrative are always better than ad-hoc sequences, and it is worth taking the time to ensure your ideas are properly developed. Try to think about the message or specific information you are trying to communicate, and how each part of your story serves that end goal.
Do not forget about location tagging, text, and stickers! These small details can make a story twice as relevant, and they are a fun way to help communicate specific and additional information to your followers.?
Sharing Your Story: Publishing Your Post
Once you have selected a story type and created your content, you will be ready to publish the finished piece. To ensure that it reaches as many people as possible, publish it to your story and make sure to use relevant hashtags.?
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags but we would generally recommend sticking within 15-20 so that you don?t overwhelm your viewers or trip the inbuilt spam filter. The best hashtags will vary according to the content in your story, but you can use free services like Keyword Tool to search for relevant tags and view similar content from your competitors.
If you have any questions about creating an Instagram story, get in touch using our website. We?re always more than happy to offer assistance ? we love teaching people about this powerful little feature!
You can also share your stories with us. We would love to see what you create!