Instagram Stories: What Businesses Need To Know

Alex Middel
August 9, 2016

By now, you’ve probably heard of Instagram’s newest feature “Instagram Stories.” Some are calling it a natural extension of Instagram’s goal of getting users to tell stories visually. Others are calling it a Snapchat copycat.

Either way, Instagram Stories has caused quite a shakeup in the social media marketing world, and so far it looks like a great opportunity.

What is Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories allows users to string together a series of images and video into a “story” that disappears after 24 hours. The content you include in your story does not appear on your Instagram feed with your regular posts.

You can probably already understand the Snapchat Stories comparisons.

Instagram Stories appear on your home screen on a new menu above your feed.

 Instagram Stories

If any of the users you’re following have new stories, you’ll see their profile picture in the stories bar. Just tap the profile pic to start viewing in full-screen view.

Instagram organizes the order of the stories in your feed using an algorithm. The algorithm takes into account your interactions/engagement with the accounts you follow on both Instagram and Facebook. So if you frequently Like, comment and share a certain user’s content on Instagram and/or Facebook, they’re more likely to show up first in line on your stories feed.

 View Instagram Story

You can see how many parts are in a story from the progress meter at the top. If you want to skip forward in a story, just tap the screen. If you want to move on to the next story or go back to the previous one, swipe left or right.

How To Create Instagram Stories

To get started, tap the “+” icon in the stories menu. You can also just swipe left while in your home feed to automatically open the stories camera, which appears in full screen.

 Instagram Stories 1

If you swipe down while in the stories camera, you’ll see a carousel of the media you’ve taken with your phone over the past 24 hours, which you can tap to add into your story.

 Instagram Stories 8

Otherwise, you can take a photo or record a video just like you normally would with Instagram. You can also add filters and overlay text and drawings. This is one area where Snapchat has Instagram beat. There are a lot more options for decorating your Snaps than Instagram Stories for now.

 Instagram Stories 3

Then click on the upload button to add your content to your story.

After you’ve uploaded content to your story, you’ll be able to see how many views it has so far, as well as who viewed it. To access this, open your story and swipe up. In addition to seeing how many views you have, you also have the ability to download a part of the story or upload a part of it to your Instagram feed.

 Instagram Stories 5

Instagram also put some privacy and sharing features in place to give you freedom over who can see your stories. Stories follow your account’s overall privacy settings. So if your profile is set to private, only people who follow you can see it.

Additionally, if you go into the “Story Settings” in the analytics screen, you’ll see more options to allow you to hide the story from select people, and choose who can send message replies. Keep in mind message replies are a 1:1 conversation, they’re not public.

 Instagram Stories 4

Now that you have an understanding of how Instagram Stories work, how can you start implementing this new feature into your marketing strategy?

How to Use Instagram Stories for Your Business

1. Create an Experience

Instagram has been all about storytelling and capturing moments from its inception. However, one of the problems is unless someone is looking at all your photos in sequential order on your profile, it’s difficult for them to see the journey or overall experience you’re trying to create.

Most people just scroll through their feed to see uploads from all the people they follow. So in between your pictures and videos they’re also seeing content from dozens or even hundreds of other accounts as well. Not to mention with the new Instagram algorithm, there’s no guarantee your followers will see all your content in one day.

Stories solve that issue by letting you control how you present your content. Your followers can tap your story and see your photos and videos in the order you put them in.

2. Two-Way Communication

Instagram isn’t the first social network most brands think of when it comes to messaging or having a conversation with followers. It’s more about putting your content out and showcasing your brand.

The addition of Instagram Stories introduces the opportunity for the app to get into the messaging space like it’s parent company Facebook has done with the Whatsapp and Messenger apps. As we mentioned, viewers can send messages when viewing stories, which adds a new element to Instagram.

3. Live Streaming

One of the major appeals of apps like Snapchat, Periscope and Facebook Live is they make you feel like you’re in the moment. Live streaming and broadcasting is quickly becoming a sought after feature for social media users and stories bring that to Instagram.

While it’s not quite live streaming, you can use Instagram Stories to record videos and pictures of events, projects and sneak peeks at what goes on behind the scenes. This will allow you to capture the moments in a way that lets your followers feel engaged even though they aren’t physically there.

4. Social Media Takeovers

Social media takeovers are when a brand allows one user (typically an influencer) to handle one of its social media accounts for a day. It has become extremely popular on Snapchat, Twitter and even Instagram.

Instagram Stories is going to allow you to take things to another level by creating a sense of urgency and timeliness. Since your stories disappear after 24 hours, it makes the takeover more of an exclusive event. People know if they don’t check your account on the day of the takeover, they’ll miss out completely.

5. Show a Process

This tip, in particular, is great for multifamily marketers. You could create a story that shows the process of turning over an apartment, or staging an apartment to give renters design ideas.

Think of content that needs to be shown in sequential order and use stories to create it.

6. One Less Account

Due to the huge similarities in Instagram Stories and Snapchat, something worth considering is using Instagram as an alternative to Snapchat. Particularly for brands with a large Instagram following but a weak or nonexistent Snapchat presence. You’ll have the ability to create similar experiences that you would on Snapchat with your Instagram followers.

Some marketers are also repurposing their Snapchat content to Instagram Stories.

Unless you have an inhouse team, or are working with a social media marketing agency, it’s difficult to maintain several different profiles. Depending on its adoption, Instagram Stories could be the perfect solution for brands that don’t want to dedicate time to growing a new audience on Snapchat.

Are You Using Instagram Stories?

Since Instagram Stories is still a new feature, we have no doubt we’ll start seeing brands do some creative marketing over the next couple months.

But the jury is still out on whether or not it will be a success. What do you think?

Check out our Instagram Hacks guide for more tips on how to use Instagram for your business!

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