by Laura Owens
Instagram stories have just become one of the newest and coolest features on the app. They are short little videos and images that operate as a fun way to update your follower throughout the day.
For businesses, small or big, Instagram stories are a great way to grow your business online and encourage engagement with your audience and within your brand. Now, the term ‘brand’ is hard to define. It refers to all aspects of your business and company and how you market yourself. If you have a ‘brand’ or if you ‘brand’ yourself, you probably have a logo, a color scheme, a certain recognizable image, real or imaginary, that you put out into the world that is undeniably you.
As you grow your business, or if you’re just starting out, you figure out your brand and have one by the time you get social media. This image of your business, and yourself by proxy, is influential on social media, and all of your posts should fit your brand image, including your Instagram stories.
There are four main reasons to use Instagram stories: engagement, interaction, takeovers, and cross-promotion.
Engagement is the act of creating content that engages your audience and builds the foundation for good interactions. Basically, you want people to have a positive reaction to your content and do something, whether that’s a like, a follow, a swipe-up, a comment, or something else. Instagram stories are a fun and reliable way to build engagement because you can make fun content that a wide audience can see and respond to.
Interaction is what comes after engagement. It’s that like, comment, follow, etc. But interaction isn’t one-sided, once your audience initiates an interaction, you have to respond. Instagram stories have a lot of options where this two-way interaction is possible. All of the stickers, emojis, polls, and sliders start that first interaction and keeps your audience engaged.
Takeovers, once you’ve grown your brand and have some influential connections and relationships, can help to grow your audience and expose you to a whole new group of people. For the reason above, growing your brand and influence, and then partaking in Instagram takeovers could be great for your business. This is more for a business with an already large reach and influence, though it can be attained by any business through handwork and perseverance.
Cross-promotion is pretty straightforward, its when you promote something across a couple of different channels, platforms, services, etc. On Instagram, you can promote yourself through your posts, stories, and IGTV, which is just a longer video on Instagram. It’s a good idea to cross-promote yourself throughout Instagram. For example, you post a picture of one of your new products. You could then create an Instagram story about that new post, and then possibly another story specifically about the product, maybe using it or something fun from behind the scenes.
As I briefly mentioned above, there a bunch of fun little features you can use on your Instagram stories. I’ll touch on some of the major ones, how and why to use them, and maybe some examples, though I am no expert with stickers and such, so be warned.
First, there are different video options, such as boomerang, zoom, rewind, and stop motion. It’s truly up to you on how you use these. There are so many ways to use them and each one has its pros and cons. Try them all out, find your favorite, use it all the time, you do you.
Along with the video options, there are filters that can be applied after you’ve taken a video or picture. The best way to learn is just to play around with them. You are bound to find a crazy filter that is just perfect for your brand! And of course, there’s text, color, and other tools as well.
Something small but incredibly important is the location sticker. It’s just a sticker that you add to the story that displays your location. Now, the whole reason this one sticker is so important is that your story may be added to a location’s story, which means that more people could see that story, get interested, and check you out. Location stickers equal more exposure. Use them. Hashtag stickers follow the same pattern, but aren’t as important, though I do suggest you use them.
Some other stickers include the GIF sticker; small little stickers that move and add character to your Instagram story. These stickers may be small, but they add something special. As always, play around with them, there is no going wrong with playing with stickers, except when they rip. That’s the worst.
Another fun feature is the polls. These are another way to boost engagement and interaction. There are two poll option: A/B and slider. The A/B poll is when you ask your audience whether they like option A or option B (summer or winter, vanilla or chocolate, beach or pool, dog or cat, etc.).The slider is like a rating of 1 to 10 with a changeable graphic. You can use emojis to personalize the slider to each occasion.
When you post products or anything about your business, you might want to link to a relevant URL your website. This is called the swipe-up feature. At the moment, it’s only available to accounts with 10,000+ followers and business accounts.
Another cool thing is that you can add other people’s posts to your story. Say another account mentions you in a post, you can add that post to your story and thank them or respond somehow, in kind, and feature them on your account in turn. Along with sharing other account’s posts, you can add your own posts to your story!
Although Instagram stories disappear within 24 hours, there is a way to feature them on your profile in the highlights section. You can add some of your favorite or most informative stories to your highlights section and they will be permanent on your profile page. By doing this, you can create sections that describe your brand, business, products, anything you want. You can direct people to this area so they can better understand you as a business.
Now that I’ve described all that you can add to your creative content, I will give you ideas on content you could use for your Instagram stories.
Of course, you can feature products or services. Instagram stories is a good way to feature what you do and why you do it well, and if you can, link to the product on your website. Along the same lines but a little different is that you could feature testimonials from your customers on your stories. This could help build the relationship you have with your customers and audience; you trust your audience and customers enough to tell others your strong points.
Some fun content that doesn’t take any time to make is behind-the-scenes videos and team-building stuff. These are just one-off posts that make you and your business seem like real human beings and gives your whole business some humanity. It’s good to these every once in a while, its just a little something that makes you feel closer to your customers.
You could pay for Instagram story ads. They’re similar to regular Instagram stories but different at the same time. They’re paid for by you and can be targeted towards certain demographics. They’ll also show up in random people’s stories, as long as they fit the targeting criteria. Ads are an opportunity to get your business seen by a lot of people, but sometimes, its not the right move for businesses. As with all marketing, you have to try it out and see if it fits your business. If it doesn’t, don’t use them.
The best way to learn this and see what works for you is to try everything before you decide its right for your business. It would be a real shame if you dedicated yourself to a marketing strategy and it did the opposite of what you wanted. So, try everything at least once, and if doesn’t work, let it go. And remember, most marketing strategies don’t work magic overnight, so don’t give up right away either.
Laura Owens is a senior at Endicott College studying English Language and Literature. She is a self-taught baker and loves to read, with a collection of over 740 books!