Instagram Stories for Business: Everything You Need To Know

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Rafaella Aguiar

Published: Jun 5, 2020

Last Updated: Sep 2, 2020

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Instagram Stories is perhaps one of the most useful tools the app offers to businesses and marketers. Did you realize that 500 million people use Instagram Stories every day? That’s half the total amount of people who use Instagram!

With Stories you can engage with your audience, have conversations with them, and most importantly, know that your content is getting in front of them. Currently the algorithm doesn’t control whose Stories are shown to the user first: it’s all based on recent uploads. However, if someone watches and/or engages with your Story, that shows the algorithm that they’re interested in your account. Because of this, users who watch and interact with your Stories are more likely to be shown your feed posts by the algorithm.

What Are Instagram Stories?

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, though, let’s take it back to the basics. Instagram Stories are short video clips or still images that disappear after 24 hours. They can be found at the top of your feed or by visiting a user’s profile and clicking on their profile picture.

Instagram stories example
Instagram stories on a users profile

They’re made up of still photos shown for 10 seconds or 15-second video clips. Within Instagram you can take your photos and videos, shoot boomerangs, and use other creative filming and photography options to create your base content.

Stories can be used for many purposes, whether you want to show a day-in-the-life, highlight a product, ask a question, and more. Insta Stories are great for building relationships with your audience because it’s simple for viewers to respond to you individually by sending a DM. Then, you can continue the conversation and form a connection.

sending DM's from Instagram stories

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Instagram Stories Statistics

If you’re not sure if Insta Stories will work for your business, just stick with us for a few minutes. I think these statistics will change your mind.

This means that if you post Insta Stories, there’s a good chance that your viewers will watch all the way through to the end, which means you can tell a complete story.

Insta Stories are a great place to show what’s new and interesting. This is where Instagram users are going to find new brands, products and pages.

Because it takes time to watch Stories, it makes sense that people are spending more time on Instagram. The longer your followers and users are on the app, the more likely they are to find and interact with your content.

People on Instagram are ready to shop, and they’re doing so by watching Stories to see what’s new and interesting.

watching Instagram stories for shopping purposes

What Can Instagram Stories Do?

Instagram Stories can act as your own personal Netflix show if you want. Or, you can use them as a highlight reel. They exist online for 24 hours, so you can use them to test new content, knowing that if it doesn’t resonate with your audience as much as you’d hoped, it will disappear tomorrow.

You can also add special effects to Insta Stories to make them more interesting and effective for those who are watching them. There are plenty of filter options to add anything from eyelashes to dog ears to your face. Or, add GIFS to your still photos to add a little movement to the Story.

As with everything on Instagram and on social media in general, there are always new perks and options that are being released. Recently, Insta Stories have gotten a bit of a facelift with some additional perks and tools you can use, which means you can now do even more with your Stories.

If you’re still not sure what you can do with Stories, here are some ideas:

  • Show a behind-the-scenes style day in your life.
  • Ask your audience questions about your product or service.
  • Ask your audience questions about themselves.
  • Create “shoppable” Stories to sell your product within the app.
  • Add links if you have the swipe-up feature to share times you’ve been featured online.
  • Add links to your website.
  • Ask your audience to DM you for links if you don’t have the swipe-up feature.
  • Give your viewers a chance to donate to a particular nonprofit.
  • Add music to add more depth to your Story.
shoppable Instagram stories

Along with these ideas, some other features include the ability to create a “close friends” list so your Story is only shown to certain accounts. You can also create augmented reality filters, especially if you’re a clothing or makeup brand, so your audience can “try on” your product within the app.

How to Use Instagram Stories

Hopefully these ideas have started to get your wheels turning when it comes to using Instagram Stories for business. We’ve put together plenty of different tips and tricks of ways you can use Insta Stories starting right now for a few different situations.

Introductions Stories

  1. Shoot a “talking head” style personal introduction. Even if you don’t have a personal brand, people love to know who’s on the other side of the phone!
  2. Play a game, like two truths and a lie, using the quiz sticker.
  3. Interview a member of your team or let them introduce themselves.
  4. Share your brand’s origin story. You can do this via video or by sharing photos from throughout your journey.
introduction Instagram stories

Company Culture Stories

  1. Share a behind-the-scenes look at something fun your team does. (Virtual happy hour, team retreat, holiday party, etc.)
  2. Introduce the office pet or mascot if you have one.
  3. Let your team takeover Insta Stories once a week and share their day-in-the-life.
  4. If your team works remotely across the country or the world, or if you travel frequently, use the location tag to share where you are with your followers.
company culture instagram stories

Behind-the-Scenes Stories

  1. Share a boomerang sneak peek of your newest product being packaged into boxes before shipping starts.
  2. Use the question box to ask your audience to give their guesses for the next product/style/flavor/etc. that you’re releasing.
  3. Show a video of how your product is made if it’s something you create. This works very well for artisans who make something unique.
  4. Share a screenshot of a course you invested in or something you’ve done to grow your business. Tag any accounts that are involved, as they might share your story with their audience.
behind-the-scenes instagram stories

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Business-Focused Stories

  1. Post a poll and ask your audience to vote between two colors or styles and see which is more popular.
  2. Ask your viewers questions about the product or service you offer and see what they say.
  3. Teach your audience something related to your business, whether that’s how to use your product or your process for completing a project.
business-focused story

Engagement Stories

  1. Create a template for your followers to screenshot and upload to their own stories. They can fill in their own answers, whether it’s a “My Day in GIFS” or “My Plans for the Weekend.”
  2. Link today’s Instagram feed post and then post a few videos of you talking about it and going deeper.
  3. Use a countdown to get your audience excited about an upcoming launch or event.
  4. If you’re posting something really early in the morning or really late at night, consider adding the time sticker and saying something about working early/late.
engagement instagram stories

Artistic Story Options

  1. Use filters to add depth to the video or photo you’re taking.
  2. Add effects after you’ve created the Story to make it more interesting.
  3. Use the “Superzoom” effect to zoom in and highlight something in particular.
  4. If you’re filming a talking-head video, choose “Hands free” so you don’t have to hold your phone the whole time.
hands free example of videoing

Instagram Stories Highlights

What Are Instagram Stories Highlights?

Highlights are where you can save your best stories so they don’t disappear after 24 hours. If you did a training or shared a few quick tips in your stories, you might want to save them for later so that your audience can refer back to them when they’d like. You don’t want to have to re-share the same content week after week.

instagram story highlights

Insta Stories Highlights are found on a user’s profile right above their grid of posts. If they use Highlights, there will be several circles there, each with a title underneath. Those are the Highlights that they’ve saved. These can be anything from makeup tutorials to your origin story to discount codes.

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How to Create Instagram Stories Highlights

Once you post your Insta Story, it’s simple to add it to your Highlights. Open your Stories and find the one you want to save. Then, in the bottom right corner you’ll see a little icon that says “Highlight.” Click that and then choose which Highlight you’d like to add it to, or if you want to create a new one. Then, just hit “Add” and you’re done!

how to add highlights

Now, if you don’t have any Highlights created yet, Instagram might suggest some to you, and they’ll usually have a theme. They might suggest you create a Highlight with your past photos that included the heart-eye emoji or all the Stories you posted of food. You can use these as inspiration, or create what you think your business needs.

Highlight Covers and Icons

When you visit a profile that has Highlights saved, you’ll see one of two things in the circles above their feed. You’ll either see an image that looks like a screenshot of a Story, or you’ll see a branded icon. Either one works as a Highlight cover. What you need to do is think about your brand and which feels more natural to you. If you think your audience would respond well to the simple clips from your Stories, then you don’t need to do anything else. 

If you feel like branded icons would fit your company better, you can do this one of two ways. You can upload those icons as Stories and then save them to your Highlights. Or you can open up a Highlight, click “edit cover” and then choose your branded icon as an image from your camera roll.

highlight covers and icons

Who Can See Instagram Stories

Anyone who can see your profile can see your Insta Stories. Since you’re using Instagram for business, you already have your profile public, so that means anyone can see your Stories. Your followers are primarily the people who will see your Stories, since yours will appear at the top of their app with the rest of the Insta Stories from the people they follow.

However, if you add a location tag or a hashtag to your Story, it could appear when people search for those tags. If you’re looking to expand your reach through your Instagram Stories, this is a great way to do so.

Instagram Stories For Business

We touched on this some already, but Instagram Stories are an incredibly powerful tool for business, and there are a few reasons for this.

  1. You can create shoppable Story posts so that your viewers can make a purchase right from the Story. They don’t even have to leave the app.
  2. They can give your audience an easy way to connect with you and give you information. This information, then, can help you know what kind of content you should create.
  3. Insta Stories are a great testing ground for new content. Create a basic tutorial in Stories and see how it does. If it’s a huge hit with your audience, turn it into a feed post. If that does really well, invest the time and money into making a full IGTV video about it.
  4. Stories allow you to connect with your followers more directly. You are more likely to share the imperfect in your Stories, and often that’s what people want to see. When you share about your dog’s latest adventures, people are highly likely to respond with their own dog stories. Chances are your dog’s adventures don’t belong in your feed, though, so without Stories you’d never make those connections.
  5. You can start conversations in Stories that you can bring into the DMs. And once you have someone in your DMs, you can nurture them with more information, sending them links to your website and resources, and eventually close them on a sale.
personal story
promoting business on stories

Hopefully by now you realize that your marketing plan needs to include Instagram Stories for business. There are so many potential benefits that it just makes sense to start experimenting and see what works. As with all marketing tactics, what works for one business might not work for another in Stories – so see what resonates with your audience. 

Here are seven tips to remember when you’re using Instagram Stories for business:

  1. Don’t leave your audience hanging. If you tell them the beginning of a story, make sure you finish it. Whether that’s checking back in at the end of the day, showing how your homemade sourdough turned out or posting the results of an opinion poll, make sure you circle back.
  2. Add a call-to-action. Ask your audience to do something. This can be responding to your engagement stickers, sending you a DM or liking your last post in the feed, but always ask them to do something.
  3. Add text to your Stories. Many people watch Stories with the sound turned off, so adding text means they’ll see your message, too. And, there are plenty of users who are unable to hear, so adding text makes your Stories and brand more accessible.
  4. Don’t post too many in one day. There’s not a hard-and-fast number, but if you add too many Story slides in one day, it becomes too long and your followers are likely to just click through.
  5. Be real. Insta Stories are where people go to connect with other people. Not everything has to be perfect and polished all the time in Stories.
  6. Create your own stickers. It’s always fun to be able to have a sticker of your brand name, so consider looking into making your own.
  7. Check your analytics. We’ll dive more into this in a moment, but always check your analytics so you can see what Stories are resonating with your audience and which are falling flat.

Instagram Stories Content Creation Guide

So now that you know what to put in your Stories and why you’re making them, let’s talk for a little bit about how to make them. There are two basic ways to create a Story: you can either upload a photo or video you have in your camera roll or you can take the picture or the video from within Instagram.

If you choose to create the image outside of Instagram, you want to make sure you get it right. The Instagram Stories dimensions are 1080px by 1920px. If you use a program like Canva to create your graphics, they have a Stories template already created and sized correctly.

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Creative Best Practices

As with everything, the first few seconds count because attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Add something bright, colorful and eye-catching at the beginning of your video or in your first Story slide to catch your audience’s attention.

People connect with other people, so having faces in your Stories is a great way to draw people in and make them want to keep watching. Also, pay attention to your fonts and make sure they’re easy-to-read. Add a background behind them if you need in order to make them clear for your audience.

creative story example
reati

Best Instagram Stories Apps

If you want to be ahead of the game, it’s a great idea to have your Instagram Stories planned and ready to go, that way you always know you’re sharing the most important information. Of course, you can always add a personal, in-the-moment video or photo, too. 

Here are some of the best apps to help you prepare your Instagram Stories:

  • InShot lets you edit photos and videos like a pro.
  • Unfold offers premium, beautiful, minimalistic templates for Instagram Stories.
  • PhotoGrid gives you the chance to make photo and video collages.
  • Typorama lets you add text overlays to your photos.
  • CutStory lets you take a longer video you already have created and cuts it down to the 15 second shots that Insta Stories needs.

How to Get Instagram Stories on Explore

The Explore tab is personalized for each user based on which accounts they follow, who they engage with, and the type of content they like. Videos auto-play in Explore, so they’re often more likely to be shown since they’re more attention-grabbing. Photo Stories that don’t have too much text are also good, if they’re highly visual and engaging. There is no magic formula to getting your Insta Stories featured on the Explore tab, but by creating engaging content that your followers like, you’re giving your content its best chance.

stories on explore page

Analytics and Creator Studio

We mentioned earlier how it’s important to watch your analytics to know what is resonating well with your audience. You don’t want to be creating a tutorial every week if none of your followers want to see tutorials.

Within your insights, not only can you see how many people viewed your Story, you can see who it was, how they interacted and when they exited your Story before the last slide. If people are frequently clicking through your Stories, that indicates they probably aren’t too interested in what you’re sharing.

instagram stories analytics

Instagram Creator Studio allows you to post to your Stories from your desktop, which can be incredibly helpful if you’re creating your content in advance using something like Canva. You can view your analytics here, too, as well as within the app.

creator studio dashboard

Marketing With Insta Stories 

So there you have it: everything you need to know about Instagram Stories for business. Stories are a great marketing tool, as they allow you to connect with your audience on a personal level. So don’t waste any time: pick one of the tips we shared and go make a Story!

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