Want to know how to use Instagram Stories — AKA IG Stories and Insta Stories — this is a feature that allows Instagram users to post pictures and videos, safe in the knowledge that they’ll vanish 24 hours later.
It was, ahem, “inspired” by Snapchat Stories, which was introduced back in 2013 — a full three years before Instagram jumped on the bandwagon.
And it’s not just a hit with consumers; brands have been quick to leverage IG Stories in their ongoing quest to make money online.
Figures from Klear reveal that about one in three sponsored posts on Instagram takes the form of a Story. That means it’s not just a novelty — advertisers are happy to promote their Stories with cold, hard cash.
In particular, Insta Stories has grown into one of the most important influencer marketing platforms, with 83% of US marketers using it in their influencer campaigns.
Ready to add Instagram Stories to your marketing mix? Check out these seven killer tips for using IG Stories like a pro:
Educate Your Followers With Explainers & Guides
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll remember I said Instagram Stories automatically disappear 24 hours after you post them.
Actually, that’s not always the case…
Once you’ve posted a Story, you can add it to your “Highlights” section, which shows up on your Instagram profile page beneath your follower count, profile picture, and bio.
In this way, IG Stories can be a perfect solution for creating evergreen content that your audience will want to refer to over and over again.
Yoga brand Sweaty Betty has done exactly that, adding a “How To” section to its Story Highlights:
That section is packed full of educational content that appeals to its audience of yoga enthusiasts, including guides on:
- How to adjust your yoga for at-home practice
- Prevent skin breakouts while wearing a mask
- Perfect complex yoga moves like headstands and crow poses
Chances are, you already create plenty of evergreen content as part of your blogging and email marketing strategies.
It’s just a case of applying those same principles to video creation, publishing the results on Instagram Stories, then adding them to your Highlights.
If you’re struggling for inspiration, Google is here to help. Simply searching for the word “yoga” brings up lots of useful related searches:
As well as “people also ask” questions:
Plenty of those results could be used as the theme for your next evergreen Instagram Story.
Take Advantage of Instagram Templates
Don’t have an in-house design team to rely on, or the budget to hire a freelance graphic designer?
Don’t worry! You can still make beautiful, eye-catching Instagram Stories — you just need to be smart about it. There are plenty of Instagram Story templates you can use to jazz up your content without investing lots of time or money.
Templates are premade layouts incorporating one or more of the following elements:
As the name suggests, templates can be edited to fit the requirements of your planned Instagram Story and the stylistic preferences of your brand.
With a practically infinite number of different templates available, you could use a different one for every Story if you wanted.
However, from a brand recall perspective, you’ll likely see the best results by sticking to a single theme (or a handful of themes with similar aesthetics). That way, your Stories will look more cohesive and your audience will be able to quickly recognize your content.
Drive Links Back to Your Site
It can be easy to fall into a siloed mindset as marketers.
By which I mean: we know we have to create a piece of content for Instagram, so that’s all we focus on.
That sort of blinkered approach might mean we miss out on an obvious opportunity to tie in other marketing channels.
One of the best ways to join the dots between your Instagram Stories and wider marketing strategy is by incorporating links back to key content on your website.
This could be something as simple as including your number in the bio like Catania & Catania does on their Instagram:
This tactic is regularly used by The Tofoo Co, a brand that — as you can likely guess — sells tofu.
Unsurprisingly, as a food brand, a lot of its Instagram Stories are related to exciting, inventive (and delicious) ways to use its products — tofu hoisin wraps, anyone?
But rather than keeping followers within the platform, The Tofoo Co uses calls to action within its IG Stories to direct people toward its site:
Once a user is on your site, you’ve got an opportunity to drive further exploration by encouraging them to click around other key landing pages and articles. Then you can have good landing pages, live chat for them to contact you with questions, and a fast loading site to keep them on for longer.
Maybe you’ll even persuade them to sign up for your newsletter or buy a product.
Tell a Story!
Obvious as this sounds, it’s called Instagram Stories for a reason: because it’s tailor-made for storytelling.
Research shows that eight in 10 consumers actively encourage brands to tell stories as part of their marketing — yet almost nine in 10 couldn’t cite a single memorable example of brand storytelling. That suggests brands are doing something wrong.
And it’s in their interests to fix it, with the same research revealing that when consumers truly love a brand story:
- 55% are more likely to buy the product in future
- 44% will share the story
- 15% will buy the product immediately
So we know that consumers like stories. And we also know Instagram Stories is great for storytelling. But what does it look like in action?
In this storytelling example, Nike uses IG Stories to introduce an influencer collaboration with Norwegian soccer star Ada Stolsmo Hegerberg:
The sequential nature of Insta Stories makes it the platform perfect for setting out a narrative that keeps users swiping. In this case, Nike goes on to give a little background on Hegerberg’s career and success…
…before sharing some inspirational quotes from the Olympic Lyonnais striker and, of course, highlighting a Nike product:
After all, just because you’re telling a story, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking for opportunities to drive sales.
Promote Time-Limited Deals
Instagram Stories come with built-in FOMO: if you don’t watch them within 24 hours, they’re gone (unless they get added to the Highlights reel).
That makes them a perfect solution for promoting any kind of time-limited special offer. You can do this by using something as simple as a shareable QR code or a link if it fits in well.
Combining a 48-hour flash sale where you slash prices with an announcement that’ll vanish in a day really ratchets up the feeling of scarcity, which is a fantastic tool for persuading your audience to take immediate action.
Because you don’t want people to buy in a week, a month, or a year — you want them to add-to-bag right now!
If you are sharing stuff that is available for a limited time only, viewers are also more likely to refer their friends to the deal or talk about it in general.
Run Polls & Quizzes
One of the best things about Instagram Stories is that it comes with a built-in way to drive engagement.
Whereas standard Instagram posts are limited to asking your followers to post comments, Stories allow you to add polls and quizzes.
That means you can ask your audience a question and get their response via a simple click or two, which feels like much more of a two-way conversation.
As well as being a fun way to breathe new life into your social posts, these interactive elements can strengthen the relationship between brand and follower, which in turn improves customer loyalty.
Those polls and quizzes can be about anything. If you’re a fashion brand, there’s nothing to stop you asking your followers what they think about the federal budget deficit. But it probably makes sense to ask about something a little more closely connected to your brand and the products you sell, just like fashion ecommerce giant ASOS does here:
Cross-Promote the Posts in Your Main Feed
Let’s wrap things up with an Instagram Stories tactic that’s a little sneaky.
When you post content on the main Instagram feed, you’re basically at the mercy of the Insta algorithm. Unfortunately, that means it’s almost certain a high proportion of your followers won’t see your content (unless they choose to click through to your profile).
Planning a post that absolutely needs to be seen by as many people as possible? Try cross-promoting it as an Instagram Story.
That way, you effectively take the algorithm out of the equation: if someone’s watching your Story, they’ll see your latest post.
Glossier is one of many brands to take advantage of this strategy:
As you can see, it uses Instagram Stories to compel viewers to check out its latest giveaway, which is explained in full in a regular Instagram post:
Obviously, you don’t want to overuse this tactic. If you post multiple times a day, it would quickly become exhausting for your audience — and the last thing you want is to start spamming potential customers. That’ll only lead to a bunch of unfollows.
But used at the right times, such as product launches or sale announcements, it can be highly effective
Bringing it All Together
As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can leverage Instagram Stories to promote your products and get more eyes on your content.
Arguably the best thing about Stories is that they don’t need to be professional-quality. Instagram members are used to seeing behind-the-scenes-style videos shot on phones, rather than recorded in Hollywood-grade production facilities.
That means it’s quick and easy for you to start using IG Stories yourself.
Experiment with as much stuff as possible. If it doesn’t work, it’ll be gone in 24 hours. But if it does, you could generate a ton of extra engagement. Now that you know how to use Instagram Stories, leave a comment below on what has worked best for you.