Have you been using Instagram Stories to grow your brand?
If not, now is the time to start! And if you already are, we’ll help you brush up on a few skills to get the most out of this cool Instagram feature.
Read on to learn more about the what, why, and how of using Instagram Stories as part of your social media marketing plan.
What Are Instagram Stories?
Instagram Stories are a feature that was launched in 2016 as a response to the rising popularity of Snapchat and its temporary stories feature.
Much like Snapchat, Instagram Stories allow you to post photos and videos that are visible for only 24 hours. After 24 hours, they disappear. Content shared to your stories will not appear in your main Instagram feed or profile grid.
However, it is possible to save featured stories as highlights at the top of your profile page. These stories can be organized into categories and viewed at any time.
Instagram Stories also include some fun features that are not available for standard Instagram posts. These features include stickers, gifs, polls, questions, and other fun and interactive things.
A unique aspect of Stories is the fact that users cannot publicly like or comment on stories. There is the ability to privately, but it cannot be seen by other users.
This actually takes off the pressure of receiving validation through likes and comments. It leaves room for creativity and authentic engagement.
Why Use Instagram Stories?
So what does this mean from a business perspective?
There are many reasons why a brand would want to incorporate Instagram Stories into their marketing strategy.
Additional Content Stream
First and foremost, utilizing Stories within Instagram adds another stream of content that you can get in front of potential customers on a daily basis. And when it comes to exposure, two is always better than one, right?
Typically, there’s a fine balance that needs to be achieved when it comes to producing the right amount of social media content.
Too little, and you’ll be forgotten. Too much, and you’ll become an annoyance, which may lead to the dreaded “unfollow”. Using Instagram Stories is a great way to create extra content that isn’t annoying. It doesn’t clog up a user’s traditional Instagram feed, and it disappears after 24 hours, making it seem less burdensome.
Instagram Stories provide a unique way for users to engage with your content. Through polls, asking questions, quizzes, countdowns, music, and more, you can connect with your followers in fun and exciting ways.
This allows you to build a relationship, rather than just put content in front of people’s faces.
It also gives you a chance to get to know your followers and tailor your content or products/services to their tastes. By posting a poll or using the “Ask Me A Question” feature you can get direct feedback to guide you for future decisions.
Plus, only you get the responses, so users don’t need to worry about other followers reading their comments. This may lead to more authentic answers that wouldn’t come otherwise through visible comments.
To increase engagement even further, Instagram Stories allows you to produce live video recordings where users can ask questions in real time. It’s a great way to help people get to know your brand and feel a part of it.
Instagram Stories are discoverable, thanks to hashtags and location tags. Potential followers can stumble across your stories even if they’ve never viewed your profile or regular feed.
In fact, regularly posting stories makes you more favorable to the Instagram algorithm, so it’s an excellent way to reach new audiences.
Once you hit a minimum of 10K followers, you also have the ability to create swipe-up links, making it easy to direct traffic to your website or affiliate product.
How To Create Instagram Stories
While Instagram Stories can look fancy when you’re viewing them, they’re actually quite simple to create!
Locate your profile photo that says “Your Story” at the top left of your regular Instagram feed and tap on the little “+”. Alternately, you can simply swipe left and you’ll get to the same screen.
From here you can take a new photo or video, or add one from your camera gallery. You’ll see that at the bottom of the screen.
You can add various filters by swiping across the screen. Pro tip: stay consistent with your filters. It creates a more polished look and appeals to your followers more.
Make It Interesting
Once you have your image/video uploaded, you can make it more interesting and engaging by adding text, hashtags, gifs, and more.
- Add text – Adding text to your Stories is an easy way to narrate and add information. Start by tapping on the “Aa” in the upper right-hand corner. Add your text and then add some flavor to it by changing the size, font, color, or background color.
- Add stickers – Tap the smiling sticker icon in the upper right-hand corner of your screen, or simply swipe up from the bottom of your screen, and then scroll down. You can browse the latest trending stickers that pop up automatically or search for something specific. Once you’ve selected what you want you can position it by tapping and dragging with your finger. You can also change the size by “pinching” it and making it larger or smaller.
- Add gifs – Gifs are similar to stickers but have the element of animation to it. (Fun!) Again, tap the smiling sticker icon in the upper right-hand corner of your screen, then tap “gifs”. The rest is essentially the same as the process outlined above for stickers.
- Add location tags – Adding a location sticker can help make your story more discoverable to new audiences. Simply start typing in your geographic location and choose from the list that pops up. When people view your IG Story, they can tap the location sticker and see other Stories happening with the same tag. Meaning, your Story will show up on that list too!
- Add polls – Wanna get some fun engagement? Add a poll! Ask a question and then customize the answers to something different than just “yes” or “no”. People like to give their opinion and then see how it compares to the majority of votes.
- Add hashtags – Just like with location tags, hashtags help make your Stories discoverable to new audiences. Use hashtag stickers just like you would use hashtags in your regular Instagram feed.
- And more! – There’s even more features to play around with, such as the pen, selfie stickers, filters, and backgrounds. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Take the time to explore and get familiar with the process and it will become quick and easy in no time.
Apps To Embellish Your Stories
What’s that you say?
You want a way to make your Instagram Stories look even more fancy and professional?
Well, you got it, pal!
If the current Instagram Story set-up isn’t enough for you, there are apps available to help you embellish your stories with a variety of templates and cool videos.
- Unfold – This is a free app that offers over 150 templates for both photos and video. There’s even and Unfold Camera that has special filters and effects. Available for both iOS and Android.
- Bannersnack – Bannersnack is a cloud-based drag-and-drop tool to design unique and beautiful social media banners. It includes ready-made templates for Instagram Stories among several other social media platforms.
- Shakr – Shakr has over 400 video designs made by professional designers that you can use to engage your Instagram audience. Quality, sleek-looking video can go a long way for impressing potential followers and promoting your brand.
How To See Who Has Viewed Your Stories
After you’ve gone to so much work to create such a fabulous Instagram Story, it’s natural to want to see what kind of engagement it’s getting.
The good news is that this is possible, and it’s easy.
After you’ve posted a story, and you’re still within the 24 hour timeframe that it’s available, simply tap on your profile picture bubble at the top of your feed to view your story.
Next, look at the lower left corner of your Story. It should say “Seen by [number of people]”. You can tap on that and a new screen will open showing you a list of who has viewed your Story and how many times it has been viewed. You’ll also be able to view any sort of engagement if you posted something like a poll in your Story.
If someone wanted to provide you with a direct reply to your Story, that is something that is not visible to the public. You can find any of those replies in your Instagram Direct Messages.
Being Selective About Who Views Your Instagram Stories
Let’s say you don’t want someone to see one of your Instagram Stories. Maybe you’d rather your nosy Aunt Linda not be aware of your weekend activities? It’s possible to be selective about who is seeing what you post.
To do this, click on the gear icon in the top left corner of the Story to see your options:
- Hide Story From – Select people from your followers list to hide this particular Story from them — like Aunt Linda, or your boss…
- Close Friends – Create a custom list of close friends to share this Story with only certain people.
- Allow Message Replies – Specify who can reply to your Story, or turn off all replies.
- Allow Sharing – Allow your followers to share photos and videos from your Story as a Direct Message to someone else.
How To Download Instagram Stories
As mentioned previously, Instagram Stories only last for 24 hours and then they disappear.
But what if you really want to save a Story?
There are some options.
Instagram does allow you to save select stories permanently as “highlights” on your profile page. These highlights can be organized into different categories, with the option of creating a thumbnail image for each one. Highlights can be viewed any time, and you can regularly add to them.
You can also access your Stories from your private archive. If you’d like, it is possible to save them to your phone’s photo library. This can be done either by saving each video or image on it’s own, or downloading the entire Story as a single video.
However, all of these options are for your own Instagram Stories. What if you want to save someone else’s Story?
There are options for that, too, but it’s a little more complicated.
First of all, there is always the option of taking a screen shot. Obviously, this would work best for still images, but not videos.
If you do want to be able to save videos, you’ll need a third-party app to do the job. Some of our favorite options are:
- Story Reposter for iOS. – This free app is fairly simple to use. It requires access to your photo library and then you can search for an Instagram username. You’re not required to log in to your own account. The only downside, aside from the ads, is that it can be difficult to organize and search for users.
- Story Saver for Android. – Also a free app, this requires you to log into your Instagram account. Once you do you can see the Stories posted by the people you follow. You can also search for other users. Select the video or photo you want and then tap “save”. The file will then show up in the StorySaver folder in your photo gallery.
- StoryDownloader for desktop. – If you’d rather use your computer, this website makes it super simple. Just enter a username and you’ll see a grid of that user’s Stories. Then click on the download button to save it to your computer. Easy!
Of course, we strongly recommend that if you are downloading Instagram Stories from other users that you only re-share the content with permission from the creator. Ripping off someone else’s Stories is just bad social media etiquette.
Ultimately, there are so many ways to use Instagram Stories as part of your social media strategy. Have fun with it and watch the engagement increase!