With another update and new features to the Instagram Stories platform, it's obvious how hard Instagram is pushing this new tool. And, with now more users than Snapchat, Instagram is going for the jugular to take down their rival (if you can really call them rivals).
I have not been shy about my thoughts on Stories - I don't like them... for me.
I honestly think they can be great and a lot of people use them really well. And Stories have taken Instagram back to what it used to be - raw, unedited, "insta" content to share with your friends and family. They keep adding tools and features to make the platform more robust and, consequently, more valuable to marketers. These are all good things!
But, back to my point, you have to find out if they work for you and your audience. For me, personally, my brand doesn't translate to Stories and it isn't really my style. So I prefer not to use them all that often. Although, I have found plenty of reasons to use them. And, my audience tends to be the more "traditional" Instagram user, preferring to scroll the feed, not through Stories. So I get better engagement and exposure using the normal Instagram content.
So, you need to experiment to see if Instagram Stories work for you and your audience. They don't have to be goofy and silly with weird stickers or text. They can be professional and clean. You can choose color schemes or content that stay aligned with your branding. You can find unique ways to make Stories your own. But until you actually try it, and give it a genuine effort, you can't just write them off 😉
With that being said, you may be wondering how to actually use Stories effectively for your business. There are plenty of other blog posts out there on this topic and they all recommend the same (ahem... lame) examples: behind-the-scenes, inspiration, product promotions, frequently asked questions, and so on.
Yes, those are all great ideas, and they work. But there are so many other ways you can get creative!
Here are 5 ways you can more creative with your Instagram Stories:
A Day In The Life Series
If you really want to take your behind-the-scenes to a new level, do a day-in-the-life series. Show how you or your employees get through a day of work. From starting the day, to arriving at work, to a short video of a meeting, then off to lunch, and an afternoon project, etc. How many cups of coffee do you go through? Do you drink a smoothie or green juice. Do you crush a giant cheeseburger for lunch?
Are you someone who travels for work? Share what a day of travel is like for you.
Do you have a unique clientele? People would love to see the inner world that goes on, and makes them more comfortable coming to work with you!
Get personal with your behind the scenes content and let people into your world.
Think of how this could personalize or build trust as a lawyer, or a tattoo artist, or the CEO of a company, or any other business industry.
DIY or Tutorials
Tutorials are great for food bloggers, or craft bloggers, to show how the item they're showcasing is created. But this can extend to so many other people!
I recently recommended an example for restaurants to use this tactic. If a restaurant is offering a special that evening, share a series of photos and videos that show how that dish is made, encouraging the customers to make it for themselves. You're not giving away any trade secrets, just helping your audience create a fun new dish for themselves. And, let's face it, nothing ever tastes as good when you cook it at home for yourself! But this method builds trust and loyalty in your audience. And, since the Stories disappear after 24 hours, it's an exclusive opportunity to get that recipe from you, just like the one-time opportunity to try the special in the restaurant.
A florist could do the same thing, showcasing how to create an arrangement they're working on. A pet groomer could share tips on grooming practices - using examples from their salon, as they're working. A retail store could show how to pair accessories with different outfits. A web designer could show the steps in install a widget or update a theme.
The key to remember is that these pieces of content only last 24 hours, so you want to keep the content fresh and fun, while still being valuable and entertaining. If you can make a regular series out of this content, and your audience knows to expect it, they'll tune in to catch them.
Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
If you use your blog, your website, or your social media to set yourself apart as a leader in your industry, you may want to get creative with Instagram Stories. I say creative, because you have to keep the content short and sweet. The images rotate quickly, so you can have much text on an image, and videos are only 10 seconds. And most people won't stick around for more than 5 or 6 clips. So you have to be quick and to the point.
But if you do this effectively to share tips, opinions, ideas, solutions, and other value based content, you can easily set yourself apart from all the random crap other people are sharing via Stories.
You may have to do a series, where each day for three days you share a portion of the whole piece. This allows you to space out your content for this micro-sharing, while also getting your audience to tune in regularly for the next piece of the content.
Again, it's about getting creative with your content strategy!
Promote Instagram Live Sessions
For as much as I don't love Instagram Stories, I love me some Instagram Live! And I host a live broadcast every other Wednesday at 7:30 pm ET, talking about social media "stuff". Since I'm doing it on Instagram Live and you can't announce it or schedule it, I use Stories to remind my audience it's coming. I start a series of posts about 24 hours prior to the live broadcast that let them know I'll be live, what time, and the topic I'll be talking about. This usually helps drive significant traffic to my live broadcasts.
So, if you're using Instagram Live, and even if you don't have a set schedule, tease out the announcement in advance to help drive more viewers to the live broadcast.
Get Audience Insights
Your audience wants to talk to you! They're often just waiting for you to ask. And since engagement on Stories is in the form of direct messages, it keeps the feedback private. That means their comment isn't publicly on display on your public post, for everyone to read. Nope! It's in your inbox where you two can have a private conversation about that topic.
So, if you want real insights - what your audience wants more of, what they're struggling with, what they're happy about, or any other question that allows you to better serve them - ask them!
Use a series of Stories to ask the question or set the tone for the information you're looking for. Then, quite directly, ask them to respond via DM. You'll be surprised how much feedback you actually get!
While these are 5 tips I hope give you some fresh ideas on using Instagram Stories, I also recorded a whole video with a bunch of other tips. That video is exclusive to my Instagram marketing community, Profit Your Profile.
And, if you've used Instagram Stories in a creative and rewarding way, I'd love to hear what you did. Chime in with what you did in the comments below!