Whether your business is already on Instagram or is new to the platform, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to learn how to use Instagram Stories for business purposes. Social media is one of many effective ways to market your small business. Now more than ever, customers turn to social media to find out the latest updates from their favorite brands—which means creating Instagram stories for your business can pay off in a big way.
If you’re new to Instagram Stories, or just want to know more about how to use Instagram Stories to promote your business, there’s plenty to uncover. We’ll go into the basics behind how Instagram Stories works, how you might want to implement it, and what strategies you should consider to help you make the most of the platform.
What Are Instagram Stories?
Instagram is among the world’s most popular social media platforms, with around one billion active monthly users posting, liking, and commenting on photos and videos across the globe. The platform is driven by visual storytelling, rather than text posts or links to articles and web pages. For that reason, Instagram tends to favor quick interactions as users scroll through their feed to get caught up on what their followers post.
Instagram Stories takes this concept a step further by enabling users to post one or several photos and videos that only last for 24 hours. Instead of clogging up a follower’s timeline with several rapid-fire posts, Instagram Stories makes it easy for an individual or business to create a unique story over several images. This affords posters with a more expansive way to share a narrative without over-posting on their account (and potentially alienating their current followers as a result). Best of all, users can save Instagram Stories and keep them on their account’s main page, allowing others to look back at previous stories in a linear fashion.
Instagram Stories helps bridge the gap between the single-image post that made Instagram distinct, and the demand for ephemeral content that may not necessarily warrant a static, ever-present social post. This option can also help tell a more complex story through additional photos, videos, and captions—something that not every image can do on its own.
Why It’s Worth Learning How to Use Instagram Stories for Business
Instagram Stories, for businesses at least, provide a novel way to share information, show off products, or provide a behind-the-scenes look at a company’s daily activities. The uses for Instagram Stories for business purposes are virtually limitless, bound only by the creativity of who posts to the account and the story they want to tell.
If your business is new to social media, or Instagram in particular, it’s important to make the most of your account. Instagram Stories can be a part of your regular social media posting regimen, as it gives you more flexibility with how you post. You can upload photos and videos to your account’s story as often (or infrequently) as you like, all without needing to worry about posting cadence and production value. This can help in the early days of experimenting with social media for your small business: You may not want to commit to posting something that’s immediately (and somewhat permanently) accessible, so creating posts that only last for a finite amount of time might help you boost your confidence and determine what resonates most with your audience.
If you’re well-versed in creating Instagram posts for your small business, and want to branch out into other ways to engage with your followers, then Instagram Stories can be a great way to do so. Fans can get quick updates about your business, information about upcoming events, or even see updates about sales or other promotions. Plus, you’ll be creating another touchpoint that could lead to a sale. At the very least, you’re helping your brand stay on the top of your customers’ minds for when they want to make a purchase later on.
The best thing about Instagram Stories for business owners is its flexibility. Should something interesting pop up at your shop, an interesting idea come to mind, or a quick opportunity for a social post come to mind, all you need to do is point and shoot (or in the case of videos, record).
But that’s not all you can do with Instagram Stories, mind you. You can also use Instagram Stories to create specific thematic content that lives on your account. In fact, many brands use Stories to highlight specific product lines, provide social users with more information about their company, or even to help recruit new talent and provide people with a sense of what it’s like to work there. You can also save stories and title them to provide your customers with easily accessible information about your business, such as FAQs, new product lines, and more.
How to Create Instagram Stories for Business
If you’re already used to posting on Instagram, using Instagram Stories for a business account should be a breeze. As with most social media, however, the devil is in the details. You’ll want to think strategically about what to post, when to post it, and how you want to brand your business by way of what you upload.
Here are a few basic tips to help you get started, as well as a couple of overarching ideas to ask yourself when thinking about the strategy behind your Instagram Stories.
The Technical Details
Once you’re in the Instagram app, there are a couple of ways you can add to your Stories—by creating content on the spot, or uploading content you’ve previously created. At the top of the Instagram homepage, before traditional posts, are where Stories live—each is designated with a circle featuring the brand or individual profile’s featured image.
To the left, before all of the Stories posted from the brands and people you follow, your own account’s image will be there with a small plus sign (shown in the screenshot below). Clicking this icon will allow you to take a photo or video in the moment to post, or go into your saved images (bottom left of your screen) and make a selection. Keep in mind, you can also add to your Stories from your profile page.
Clicking on the circle at the top left of your screen will enable you to add to your own Instagram Story.
If you want to take a photo or video in the app, you’ll also have options for certain filters and overlays. You can use these to add a bit of humor to your posts, although some may only work when taking selfies or photos and videos of other peoples’ faces.
Once you take or upload your photo or video, you’ll be brought to a screen that shows you the content you selected. At the top of the screen, you’ll find a series of icons that allow you to add text, links, emojis, stickers, and more. Adding a link allows users to be directed to a website when they swipe up on your story’s image. The small sticker icon allows you to add overlays that can display your location, poll your viewers, add music, allow people to ask questions, or add other illustrations over your photo.
Once you’re satisfied with the edited image or video, click on the “Your Story” icon at the bottom left of your screen to add it to your story.
Pro tip: If you’re working within Instagram Stories to edit a post, you can save it by clicking the downward-pointing arrow at the top of the screen. This way, you can edit content to post at a later time.
You can continue to add subsequent images or videos to create a cohesive Story, with the idea being that your viewers will continue clicking through, ultimately driving them to complete an action. This may be following a link to your store’s website to make a purchase, answering a question, sharing it to their own Story, or more.
Basic Strategy Considerations
Taking interesting photos and videos is just the beginning, of course. Adding polls, taking questions from viewers, and weaving a narrative through your content is where the real strategy element of using Instagram Stories for business comes into play.
Polls can help you gather insights into your consumer base by seeing what products and services they like the most. For example, if you sell a product in a variety of colors, you can create a poll that lets people vote on their favorite. Alternatively, you can use this feature as a mini-focus group for new ideas for products. This could help you take the pulse of your most passionate customers without going through the hassle of more formal information-gathering.
Polls offer a fun and unique way to directly engage with your audience.
The question function within Instagram Stories can help boost brand engagement, as it gives followers a call to action to interact with your business. People can ask you any number of questions, and you can choose to answer (or not answer) whichever ones you like. Your responses will be public, so think wisely about what you want to say in your replies.
Consider the potential benefits of taking photos and videos outside of the native Instagram camera app. Taking the time to work on your content can pay big dividends; doing so outside of the app can give you the flexibility to take several shots and choose the one you like the most. You can also edit photos more easily through an external editing app, which helps improve the quality of what you’re sharing. This approach is particularly helpful for videos, in the event that you want to include something a bit more professional than a cell phone recording.
Finally, think about other novel applications for your Instagram Stories function. You can create fun, one-off content, of course, but you may also want to curate a series of saved stories that help highlight your business. For these, you’ll want to think about specific themes that apply to your business. You can also record yourself or other executives in your company talking directly to your customers, offering expertise, and more. Creating this informal touchpoint helps consumers connect with your company on a more personal level.
Saved Stories (above in red) let your audience revisit brand highlights after the 24-hour live period ends.
The Final Word
Social media can be an excellent tool for staying in touch with customers, reaching new audiences, or simply showing the lighter side of your company. As with all other social media platforms and posts, Instagram Stories for businesses provide a blank canvas to help you tell whatever story you want to express.
For some, Instagram Stories might be a fun way to keep people interested in what you’re up to. For others, it can be a strategic asset for furthering your brand narrative. The decision is up to you. Weigh out your needs, consider your resources, and don’t be afraid to get creative.