Today we’re digging in for some Insta-fun! Instagram Stories are one of the most important aspects to your Instagram account as a marketer. There are so many features offered within Instagram, and so many additional apps to make Instagram Stories stand out, that it can be confusing where to start.
There are a lot of wrong ways to do Stories…and Instagram has offered its users a feature to be able to “mute” stories (and posts!) from accounts, so it’s important to apply the right finesse to this connectivity tool.
Luckily, I’m here to give you the scoop on how to be GREAT!
- Stories disappear automatically after 24 hours, unless you add them as a Highlight to your profile page. A Highlight can be great, but keep in mind that the user would have to go to your profile page in order to see it again.
- Stories can be Live (and you should definitely work those into your mix!) Live stories can be posted as separate from your “normal” story and will appear with a little “live” icon on them. They can also be saved to IGTV. Instagram will also notify your followers that you’re going Live, so they can be an awesome tool. That being said, you don’t want to bore users, you don’t want them to get annoyed having to skip through a long Live story post that isn’t interesting to them, so use them sparingly.
- The above two points – disappearing, and getting rewarded for being Live, show what Instagram intends the Story feature to be used for: real time engagement. They want you to use it to connect, converse, and feel closer to your followers.
(If you’re wondering how to access Instagram Stories, be sure to check out my last post Instagram 101 – What is Instagram and How to Use it For Connective Marketing.)
So, that begs the question…
How do you Engage Users Through Stories?
My advice, as per usual, is to start with a plan. Post stories often, daily if possible, but don’t post just to post. Plan out a story to share with your users that day that you can share in just a few posts to the Stories feature. Most of the time, you shouldn’t be posting more than 4-10 Stories per day in order to connect.
Ask questions – we will get into some of the ways you can do this soon, but if you want to engage your users, ask them questions! Be direct, share the response you get, and if people direct message (DM) you, then be sure to respond in a timely manner.
Feature your followers – a great way to get a lot of traction on Instagram Stories is to feature your followers. People love to feel special. They love the idea of a brand that they connect with and believe in showing others that they are noticed. It’s a great way to get people to connect with you and message you – tell them to use certain hashtags that you can check and pull from, or ask them to DM you with a photo. Always tag their account.
Be funny! Make people feel joy of some kind. A smile, a laugh, something inspiring…people are very busy and they are likely taking a very short mental break during the day to quickly check what other people (and brands) are up to. So make them feel good and intrigued. Share jokes, share memes, show someone from your organization doing something they are talented at or somewhere they volunteer. Do something to connect to their hearts.
Takeover! A fun way to engage users is to mix it up. Have a “celebrity” take over the Stories feature for the day. This can be an influencer, an actual celebrity, a guest from your organization who isn’t normally featured, or even a follower! If you do use a follower, be sure to see how many followers they have on Instagram – you want to use someone who is already well connected and can help bring in their network to watch your Story.
Built-In Basics to Instagram Stories
If you’re entirely new to Stories, here are the options you have built-in when you press on the feature to add a Story post:
Boomerang – this is a way to record about 2.5 seconds of video and Instagram will loop it. So the video goes forward then backward and repeats. (This feature has been popularized by basic people everywhere who love to use it to show they are toasting to something.)
Superzoom – set to a number of funny music choices, Superzoom is another video option that basically slowly zooms in on whatever you decide to film and adds a little filter and that music.
Rewind – whatever you film, the entire video goes in reverse. This can be fun for pouring things out, jumping, watching water running backward – you’re only limited by your imagination.
Handsfree – you can set your phone up and press the handsfree button so Instagram does the recording for you. It records 15 seconds of video at a time (which will be considered one “post” to your story) but as long as you let it run, it will continue to record 15 second segments until you press the record button again. Each segment can be saved, manipulated with texts and graphics, and posted as a separate post to the Story.
Live – we covered this above, but Live makes your camera feed live for all your followers (and to anyone on Instagram if your account is public) and it notifies your followers that you’re Live!
Normal – you can take a photo or record a video right then, or you can get into your camera roll for pre-recorded video or to add a photograph you have saved.
Stickers are elements that Instagram has built in that you can put on photos or videos in your Story. They are a great way to take a post from being pretty or cute, to being actually engaging.
Quizzes – introduce very recently! Instagram just rolled this one out. You can now ask a question and provide multiple choices for your users to answer. People love being interactive so this is definitely a fun choice.
Poll – ask your followers a question that has two options. When I worked at the SPCA of Northern Nevada, I made sure both the answer choices were positive because they usually involved adopting animals or petting a dog. You can manipulate the choices to your liking. So I would say things like “Is he a good boy?” and the choices (which have short character count limits) would be things like either “The Goodest!” or “Best I’ve Seen!” You can have a lot of fun with this tool, but you can also use it to get valuable feedback from users quickly! You could ask a series of questions to your followers and get actionable advice.
Questions- when this feature was first introduced, many users followed the generic advice the Platform suggested: to post it with “Ask me a question” and then you could share the question with your answer. However, that usually works best with well-followed accounts. The other way you can use this feature is to ask people a specific question and use the answer field as a way to get their advice and feedback. “What’s your favorite icecream flavor?” Might be a good one to ask if you’re an ice creamery.
Countdown – especially great for events or announcements, you can set a countdown timer that will run on your story. You could even have fun with it and set it for something you know everyone is looking forward to but that isn’t necessarily part of your business – like 5 p.m. on Friday or to a premiere of a popular show like Game of Thrones.
Emoji Slider – pick an emoji out of the featured choices and add it as a slider to let people demonstrate how much they feel a certain emotion about what you’re posting. You can write something on the sticker itself or just use it as a gauge by itself.
One more tip…
Background image – if you’ve got a great photo, use it as the background for multiple images. You can start with just the photo, then when people tap to advance to the next image, you can add a bit of text or a sticker on top, and do it once more if appropriate. It’s a neat way to make your story look polished. The best way to do it is to save the image each time you add a new bit of text to it and use the saved version as the template for the next. Just keep in mind that if you add a sticker and then add another post after, the sticker on the following post won’t be active – it’ll just be an image.
My favorite apps:
There are lots of apps available to make interesting Instagram Stories. My two favorites are
You can learn about them by clicking the links above, but if you’d like me to write a post where I go over them in-depth, let me know in the comments!
Thank you for reading, I hope you found this post helpful. If you enjoyed it, please give it a like and let me know in the comments if you have questions or suggestions about Instagram Stories!