Instagram Stories: A Beginner’s Guide for Small Businesses

Digital marketing has seen constant and significant changes over the past few years, and what’s hot today might not be hot anymore in as little as one week’s time. Due to this constant state of digital flux, businesses and marketers are always on the lookout for new methods of creating and promoting their products and services.

Instagram Stories LogoThe use of video is one of the leading ways of reaching out to a brand’s followers and is currently one of the most-viewed forms of content. According to recent data, 43% of people want to see more video content from marketers.

Creating Instagram Stories is an excellent way to start integrating video marketing in your strategy and has more than 250 million active daily users.

Mega statistics aside, it’s also a fun and easy way to create content for your brand if you know what you’re doing.

Our beginner’s guide for small businesses can help with that and will show you how to make the most of this feature and maintain a strong level of engagement among your followers.

Let’s begin with the basics.

What is Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories is a feature of the app that allows you to share multiple photos and videos stitched together into a slideshow ‘story’ of your choosing that then disappears 24 hours after posting.

instagram stories vs snapchatAlthough it’s not a new and innovative social media concept (it’s conceptually a Snapchat clone), its userbase has blossomed and currently surpasses that of Snapchat. At present, Instagram Stories is still not used as often as it should be by smaller businesses as a creative and engaging way of using targeted digital storytelling for your brand’s visual content.

Let’s get back to the ephemeral nature of Stories. Though the content only lasts for one day and cannot be watched again after that, Stories are a simple, effective, and fast way of delivering content straight to your followers. Another advantage is that while your brand’s followers can see your Story, they cannot like, comment, or react to it.

This is beneficial because it increases the percentage of direct engagement of the followers with the brand. If one wants to interact with a Story, the only ways of doing so are by simply watching it or by sending a DM, or Direct Message, straight from the Stories section.

How do Instagram Stories work?

When building your Story, you can add as many photos and videos as you like to achieve your desired effect.

add instagram stories buttonWith video, you’re able to use slow-motion, boomerang, live, hyperlapse, pre-recorded, and re-wind content; the possibilities are endless. Once you select your preferred content, they will be put together, one after another, just like a slideshow. The Story can be edited and personalized to fit the brand’s image and message.

Once you have your content lined up,  you can easily make the content more captivating and fun with various add-on effects. You can enhance it by adding a filter, a text, or a drawing in one simple tap of the screen. Try adding sounds or background music to them as well to deliver a more intimate experience.

Why is sound important? Check out these statistics:

“As of January 2017, 70% of Instagram Stories are watched with the sound on, 20% of Stories result in a direct message from viewers, and 150 million Instagrammers use Stories on a daily basis.” –Social Media Week

Analytics and Insights

Make sure your Instagram account is signed up with a Business Account to allow you to explore and have full use of the insights of the platform. Once you do, you must opt in to start tracking the insights of your Stories.

Within the Business Tools section, you will find all of the data about your Stories’ reach, impressions, replies, and the exit rate of the followers while they were viewing.

instagram for business analyticsThe amount of follower data that you can receive from Instagram Stories is incredible.

This data offers an abundance of insight about your customers’ preferences as well as their reactions to your previously posted content.
Additionally, you’ll have direct access to your followers not only by answering their Direct Messages, but also by scrolling through the list of viewers and going onto their profiles.

Advertising with Stories

Instagram advertising performance statistics show that “…75% of Instagram users take action, such as visiting a website, after looking at an Instagram advertising post.”

Specifically to Stories,

“It’s the first time that Instagram has provided advertisers with the ability to display full-screen advertisements inside the app, giving you a chance to hold the user’s entire active focus, even if just for a moment.” -Brian Barr

Initially, Stories advertising was only available to a select 30 international companies (such as Nike, Netflix, Qantas etc.) as a preliminary test. As of March 2017, they are available to all businesses worldwide.

Instagram Stories ads are not only immersive full-screen advertisements that tell the story of your brand, but they are also a great way of calling your target audience to action.

Advertising Instagram Stories AdsAs a small business owner or marketer, you can use all of the targeting, reach, and measurement insights to personalize your ad Story and reach out to the best audiences for your brand.

An ad can consist of either a photo, an image carousel, or a 15-second video that will appear in between the stories of other Instagram users. There is a ‘Sponsored’ label that will appear just under your business’ name and a menu icon in the top right hand corner.

When a user taps the icon, it will reveal a choice of two options: ‘learn more’ or ‘hide ad.’ It is important to add a call-to-action button to your advertisement as it can have a resounding impact on getting an immediate reaction from your followers.

To create an Instagram Stories Ad there are three options: by using Ads Manager, the API, or Power Editor. Advertising through Facebook is likely the easiest option for most people.

Creative tips for your Stories

1) Show your brand behind the scenes

People are curious to know what a brand is like behind closed doors, so why not show them? Consider spotlighting employees, showing their daily activities, or how your product or service is developed.

2) Offer daily tips

Your audience will be delighted to receive useful information and will be encouraged to check back daily and potentially engage

3) Reward your audience

Give back to your followers by rewarding them with special offers and incentives. Why not share a discount code or provide a limited-time offer to those who are socially loyal to your brand?

4) Always add a call to action

Whether it’s learn more, swipe up, buy now, or click link in bio, your audience should always be directed to do something next. Whether your goal is to increase sales or drive traffic to your website, this is a fantastic opportunity to encourage the behavior of your viewers.

5) Organize a Q&A

By simply using the Live tool in Stories, you can interact and engage with your followers in real time!

6) Offer sneak peeks

Before launching a new service or product, offer sneak peeks to grow excitement among your customers and make they want to stay updated along the way.

7) Involve guests

Try inviting special guests, industry experts, or social influencers to sporadically take over your Instagram Stories. This can help to keep things fresh and encourage new people to find and follow you.

Questions or thoughts? Let us know some of your favorite Instagram Story ideas for business in the comments!