8 Reasons Why You Should Use Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories are fun, but they’re also a brilliant way of building better connections with your audience. Keep reading to find out how.
When you open up Instagram, what do you do next? Scroll down your feed or swipe through Stories along the top?
In June 2018, Facebook revealed the results of research it carried out across nearly 10,000 people in Brazil, Indonesia, the UK and the US aged 13 – 55 who use Instagram at least once a week. The results were, if not wholly surprising, super useful to get a better understanding of what the difference actually is between Instagram Stories and the Instagram feed.
For live, unfiltered, behind-the-scenes content, the respondents said they head straight to Instagram Stories. Think football stars preparing for a big game, or fashion influencers trying on outfits before a show.
To find information and discover new products and brands, the Instagram feed was their first port of call.
So what does this mean for you?
It highlights the opportunity to engage with your audience more deeply through real-time, authentic content.
And guess what? When video started gaining traction on Facebook a couple of years ago, the social network tweaked its algorithm to favour… yup, you guessed it, video. And since Instagram is now owned by Facebook, it’s highly likely that in the not-too-distant future we’ll see the temperamental algorithm lean heavily toward video content, too.
So that’s why it’s smart to start getting familiar with Instagram Stories sooner rather than later.
Hey – if we can’t beat the algorithm, we might as well join it!
Here’s 8 reasons why you should make Instagram Stories part of your strategy.
1. Instagram Stories Increase Your Discoverability
Instagram is all about bringing people together and creating communities of shared interests. On traditional Instagram posts, one of the ways it does this is with the location tag. Adding a venue or city name to the location field increases the chances of others who’ve shared your experience finding you. And it works the same way for Instagram Stories.
Add a geotag or hashtag + location and your Story will be added to that location’s official Story. This showcases your content to a whole new audience that doesn’t already follow you.
2. Instagram Stories Can Be Posted Any Time of Day
Unlike traditional Instagram posts that are impacted hugely by the time of day you choose to post, Instagram Stories can be shared anytime and remain live for 24 hours.
This increases the chances of your content actually being seen. It means that, unlike the Instagram feed, which penalises a user’s post if it doesn’t receive traction in the first minute of posting, your Story being seen depends on how swipe-happy your followers are.
3. Instagram Stories Drive Traffic
Increasingly, swipe-ups are leading to sign-ups. According to DigiDay, food Instagram channel So Yummy averages a 2.3% swipe-through rate on its Stories, which accounts for 10 – 15% of its email newsletter subscribers. That proves what an incredibly good audience acquisition tool Instagram Stories can be.
Like anything on Instagram, it’s worth testing-and-learning to understand what works for you. There’s a fine line between self-promotion and coming off as too “sales-y”, however it’s encouraging to know that it’s a strategy working for some.
Unfortunately, for now, adding links into Instagram Stories is reserved for accounts with 10k followers or more. But as Instagram is always changing, this might not be the case in the future.
4. Instagram Story Highlights Are Your Permanent Showcase
Released at the end of 2017, Instagram’s feature Story “Highlights” are a collection of Stories that can be grouped together and saved on your Instagram profile indefinitely.
You can use Highlights to draw attention to something evergreen – e.g. a general Q&A or brand story – or maintain buzz around something timely – e.g. a new clothing collection or a limited-time-only offer. It could even be as simple as a blog series on your website.
The big bonus of Highlights is that they’re permanent (until you choose to delete them). For existing followers, you don’t have to worry about people missing out because they skipped scrolling through Instagram that day. And for new followers, they’re a fantastic way of showcasing who you are and what your brand is all about as soon as they land on your page.
Some ideas for Stories Highlights include:
Your bio/brand story
A day in the life
You’ve probably noticed some of your favourite Instagrammers getting creative with their Highlights. Using branded “covers” or “icons” helps to reinforce your brand’s identity and makes content easier to navigate and engage with.
5. Instagram Stories Create Deeper Connections With Your Audience
In 2019, people are craving authenticity more than ever before. They don’t want staged, highly edited photographs taken in far flung destinations that everyone knows cost $$$ to travel to. They want relatable, real human beings.
And that’s where Instagram Stories comes in. A simple way to forge deeper connections with your audience.
After all, there’s nothing more intimate than someone speaking to a camera, whether that’s face-to-camera, or the sound of their voice as they give a room tour or showcase a new product. It’s why people love reality television (when it actually was “real” back in the days before staged Made in Chelsea!) and YouTube daily vlogs – because they feel as if they’re really getting to know someone.
Obviously getting “personal” means something a little different depending on what kind of business you’re running. And it doesn’t mean *you* always have to feature.
Instagram Stories inspiration
If you’re a solo-preneur you could:
Promote blog posts creatively
Take your audience on a typical day-in-the-life of an entrepreneur
Host a live Q&A
Feature your customers and their stories of how your service/product helped them
Share a tour of your workspace
Demo some of the tools that help you stay productive
If you’re a small team you could:
Feature your customers and their stories of how your service/product helped them
Film interesting moments of an upcoming event
Demo your service/product
Share sneak peeks of a soon-to-launch service/product
Host a live Q&A
Introduce members of your team
You can see there is some cross-over between the two – your specific brand voice/identity will dictate how much you feel comfortable sharing.
One idea that’s suitable for any content creator is to head outside and take some photos of your location. These photos will help your audience place you – you’re not a digital entity living in the Instagram-sphere. You’re a living, breathing human being that drinks coffee from your local café just like them.
The main lesson for Stories is not to overthink it too much. Let your personality shine through.
6. Instagram Stories Encourage Creativity
At the end of 2018, Instagram introduced a ton of new customizable stickers to encourage Story creativity and interactivity. The following were added:
Hashtag – these can be location-based or your own branded hashtag.
Mention – now you can add someone’s profile handle to your Story – they are notified once tagged.
Location – adding a location expands your reach and connects you to followers at the same event/in the same area.
Question – perfect for crowdsourcing ideas and getting feedback to open-ended questions.
Poll – similar to a question sticker, except this time you’re giving people two answers to choose from. This can either be ‘yes’/’no’, or your own custom answers.
Product – available through the Shopping on Instagram integration, these enable you to tag products in your Story and send users straight through to the product page.
Music – add a soundtrack to your Stories with music from Spotify.
Emoji slider – ask your audience a question and give them the option of responding with an emoji slider (scale of 1 – 10).
GIF – looping graphics that not only serve to add humour or further context to your story, but a dynamic way to add animated CTA’s to your Stories.
Date – perfect for future “throwback” Stories further down the road.
Countdown – ideal if you’re about to launch a new product, or you’re getting close to an important milestone in your business/personal life
The stickers can be used individually or layered one on top of the other.
And while their value might not be instantly obvious, they have huge potential to not only showcase your personality, but also engage your audience in a new way.
7. Instagram Stories Are Great For Instant Feedback
According to Instagram, the algorithm doesn’t show preferential treatment to either Stories or traditional posts – the main factor at play is the quality of the content.
While that might be true, it’s also true that 400 million people use Instagram Stories on a daily basis and 39% of users become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it on Instagram Stories.
That’s what makes Stories the perfect vehicle for instant feedback on a new idea or product.
Using the stickers above, you can ask open-ended questions or guide people with a series of polls (much like a survey) to gauge their opinion. That opens up the possibility of a real-time dialogue with your customers and potential customers – the marketer’s dream.
8. Instagram Stories Are The Future
I said it at the top of the article, and I’ll reiterate again that videos are only going to get more important.
Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox revealed that Stories grew 15x faster than news feeds across all social networks from 2016 to 2017. That’s why we saw so many new Stories features roll out across 2017 and 2018 – because Facebook follows the growth.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you’ve missed the boat. Instagram Stories is still relatively young, and many brands and businesses are yet to capitalise on its possibilities – mainly, I believe, because of “perfection paralysis”. Over-thinking what to share and worrying that they need to create something beautiful.
Don’t fret. People come to Instagram Stories expecting casual, unfiltered glimpses into people’s lives. They are used to seeing videos from their friends, which is why they are comfortable viewing “imperfect” content from a brand.
The less your story looks like an advert, the better.
*Pro tip* Wondering how to save Instagram Stories?
It’s a question that comes up again and again, so here’s my guide on how to save down your very favourite Instagram Stories for the future.
Step 1) Open up your Stories and click on your profile image
Step 2) In the bottom right hand corner, click on the 3 vertical dots
Step 3) Save your Story into your gallery for future use!
Brands and people crushing it on Instagram Stories
It’s always good to see who else out there is using Instagram Stories well. It can serve as a great source of inspiration and show you what’s really possible – beyond just cute dog face filters!
Fashion retailer Everlane prides itself on its philosophy of “radical transparency”. The brand partners with ethical factories around the world and pulls back the curtain on production processes to show consumers it’s serious about creating clothes consciously.
It wants its customers to know exactly where their clothing comes from, and uses Stories to share factory tours and live Q&As with the hashtag #TransparencyTuesday to drive home the message of openness and honesty.
Food Instagrammer Samira Kazan a.k.a. Alpha Foodie has an exquisite feed full of images that look more like art than food. It’s the kind of account you marvel at, without holding out any hope of ever reproducing the recipe at home.
And that’s why her Stories are so clever. She breaks down recipes – including frozen yogurt, chia pudding and pomegranate molasses – and asks for audience feedback as she goes along, encouraging engagement and demystifying the process of cooking and the beautifully impossible images into simple steps.
Stop motion superstar Rachel Ryle uses Instagram Stories to give us a sneak peek into her everyday life. Since her feed is filled solely with the mesmerising output of her talent and *hours* of hard work, Stories offers a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes.
She shares videos of her new home city, New York, and what it takes to create one of her animated Instagram posts.
Fashion retailer J Crew uses Stories in a variety of ways. It shares customer reviews, phone wallpapers for people to download, and links to its rewards scheme with enticing Stories that promise discounts and exclusive offers for those that sign up.
While its current Stories aren’t as “casual” as some other brands’, J Crew isn’t afraid of taking its slick catalogue imagery and customizing it with stickers, CTAs and emojis to drive engagement.
Conclusion: Why You Should Use Instagram Stories
Creating engaging Instagram Stories that open a window onto your business or personal life is more important than ever before. Who doesn’t want instant feedback and the opportunity to get experimental without spending hours on creative?
Start thinking about how you can make the most of Stories today and don’t forget to:
Make sure whatever website you’re driving users to is mobile-optimised!
Have you experimented with Instagram Stories yet? How have you found it? Let me know in the comments below!