When Instagram Stories first came on the scene, I was hesitant to accept the new feature. Instagram’s new “story” feature, announced in 2016, mimicked Snapchat’s story feature almost perfectly. In fact, there was a good-hearted, albeit sassy exchange between the product owners for Snapchat and Instagram around the release. Initially, I felt a similar sentiment as the Snapchat exec and didn’t quite see the value of Instagram Stories, as Snapchat already had the feature. Fast-forward three years: I primarily use Instagram Stories, almost completely forgoing Snapchat. So why the shift?
Instagram Stories takes advantage of your account’s audience
Snapchat was created to send disappearing images and video to close friends; the “story” feature was added to extend the life of those stories for 24 hours. Instagram was created to be a more public photo-sharing app. Inevitably, the audiences one could garner on Instagram was much larger than on Snapchat. Individuals, as well as brands, quickly flocked to Instagram to share stories—simply because their audience was already there. Instagram has more than 1 billion monthly active users while Snapchat only has 300 million. Instagram Stories has grown in popularity—with over 400 stories created every day.
There are a lot of different ways to use Instagram Stories to boost your social media marketing and grow your business.
They allow you to effortlessly create captivating images and video to share with your audience using the tools built into the app.
So let’s start with the basics—what kind of stories can you create? There are nine different formats that you can use when posting a story.
- Type: Text-based posts against a variety of colored backgrounds.
- Music: Posts that feature excerpts from songs you choose.
- Live: Live streams that allow your audience to comment in real-time. You can re-share them as a post afterward.
- Normal: Take photos or record videos.
- Boomerang: A 1-second looping video.
- Focus: Portraits that focus on the subject’s face, blurring out the background.
- Superzoom: Dramatically zoom in on your subject from afar, using a variety of humorous effects, like Paparazzi or Surprise.
- Rewind: Record a video that will play back in reverse.
- Hands-free: Record a video without having to hold down the “record” button.
Think through your story
As a brand, Instagram Stories should be a planned part of your overall social strategy. While Stories allows you to capture engaging content out in the world and in the moment, they can still tell a story (pun intended) and achieve a goal. Create a content calendar for Instagram stories just as you would any other story, and build content around that goal.
Create content ahead of time
Though Instagram Stories allows you to create “on-the-go,” this doesn’t mean all of your content has to be created that way. Thinking through your story strategy ahead of time allows you to create and introduce content, start conversations or drive to a call-to-action. Build out a story framework using pre-created content and fill in the gaps with anything else that needs to be captured in real-time. Tools like Canva are great for story templates that can easily be uploaded.
Story features like polls and questions allow you to engage with your audience and get their feedback. Ask their opinion or allow them to ask your brand questions that you can then respond to. If you have more than 10,000 followers, you can add links—allowing you to drive your users into a deeper experience with your brand. Creating a two-way conversation allows them to feel like they’re truly a part of the experience.
Not only are there many formats in which to capture photos and video, there are many ways to customize content. Filters, text, stickers, hashtags, gifs, mentions and locations are great ways to make your content more engaging. Showcase your brand by adding custom gifs, adding a hashtag or changing the text colors to match your brand.
Instagram Stories has proven to be the ultimate player in a crowded social media field. Creating consistent story content for brands and individuals can be difficult—but those who do will have a clear leg up on their competition.