How To Use Instagram Stories For Your Business
By Kayte Ferris
For a lot of the small business owners I work with, there are two words which strike fear into their very souls: Instagram Stories. Many of us have a love/hate relationship with Stories – we love to watch our favourite Instagrammers, but hate the thought of putting our own face on there. But if the majority of your audience is on Instagram, Stories are a really effective way to boost your account, build your brand and gain feedback.
In this post, I’m going to cover off some of the main plus points about Instagram Stories, and give you some tips to bite the bullet and get posting.
Be more visible
After the algorithm change around 18 months ago, and with a new algorithm for hashtags on its way, it’s getting harder and harder to get your content seen by your followers. As much as Instagram is a supportive community, with so many beautiful accounts filling up the feeds if your followers don’t see you regularly they may forget about you.
There’s not much you can do to cheat the algorithm (except spend 6 hours a day commenting on all your followers’ posts!), so Stories are a really great way to get back to the top of people’s feeds. Particularly as most of the posts in the feed are no longer chronological (and therefore often a few days old) many users are beginning to check Stories more regularly than their feed to see what their favourite accounts are up to in the here and now.
With all businesses, but especially those operating online, building trust is a vital part of getting sales. Consumers have wised up and tend not to buy from sites they’re unsure of. One way you can help build trust with new consumers is to demonstrate your expertise – show that you know what you’re talking about to reassure them. Demonstrating expertise also really helps to justify and explain your pricing too.
Often the back end of our businesses aren’t the prettiest, so by using Stories you can avoid cluttering up your feed with images that might not be purely Instagrammable. You can show the process of your craft, your works in progress or even a big pile of packages about to go out to other happy customers to act as social proof.
Get instant feedback
Instagram Stories is an excellent focus group venue – and it’s free! I use the Poll function in Stories to make small decisions in my business all the time. If I’m toying between a couple of dates for a workshop or deciding between two options for a free resource, I ask in Stories. You get qualitative feedback in a matter of hours.
Using Stories to get informal feedback like this is also great for building a connection with your followers. It helps them to feel invested in you and your business, and will keep them coming back to see what else they can contribute to and see their suggestions put into action.
People buy from people, and that is never truer than when it comes to small, personality-based businesses. If you have a business where working with you directly is a major part of the experience (photographers, designers etc.), then it is vital that people can already get to know you and feel comfortable with you to take the trepidation out of booking.
Even if your business is more faceless, Stories can be an excellent place to brand-build. Some brands do Instagram takeovers with influencers, others use it as a space to share news and competitions, and others create specific graphics to keep a clean brand image.
My Top Stories Tips
Get creative with the features
Many people (myself included!) are kind of lazy when it comes to using Stories, so we miss out on the creative potential they have. It’s easy to stick up a quick video or a Boomerang, but Instagram have introduced some really great features that are so easy to use. I was hired by Facebook in November last year to create some content to show how creative Stories can be, and I had so much fun playing with the features and was really proud of the content that came out.
My favourite feature is Stop Motion. You can create short animations quickly and easily within Stories and they are so engaging. Why not animate your products going into a box for shipping, or tongue in cheek animation of your workload on your desk. This is a great way to produce quality content that is full of your brand’s personality – without having to show a face or hear a voice.
Speak to the camera
But having said that...! If you do have a business based around you, then I’m afraid you’re going to have to show you! Everyone is reticent about showing their face on Stories at first, but I promise you, it gets much easier (I don’t even brush my hair anymore…). And it’s not just your face, it’s your voice, right? Everybody hates the sound of their voice recorded, but honestly, after a few videos you really stop noticing it and it stops sounding weird.
And the reward for all this discomfort is the greater connection with your followers. The Stories I post of me talking to camera always get the most views, and I’ve seen an increase in comments and DMs because people feel they know me more now. If you run a business where it’s important to demonstrate your expertise, Stories is the place to do it – ask for questions on your feed and do a Q&A in Stories, or simply give out impromptu tips as you’re working.
Most importantly, don’t overthink your Stories. They’re only there for 24 hours, and nobody is going to remember a Story you did three months ago that you weren’t quite happy with. And if you get real posting regret, you can delete them.
Use them as a space to experiment, both with content ideas, and with your business in general. Put up new product ideas to judge the reaction, try a funny stop motion, give a 15 second lecture. Use it as a place to test and trial, safe in the knowledge that it will soon disappear off the face of the earth – there’s nowhere else online that you can have such freedom.
Hopefully this post has helped to demystify Stories, and I hope you now feel excited, rather than terrified, about them. In building my brand as a creative business coach they have been invaluable as a way for me to demonstrate my expertise, introduce my personality and transition my brand from blogger to mentor. And as a consumer, I have bought goods and services that I saw for the first time in Stories, or from people who I enjoy to watch. I encourage you to have fun with them and see where they can take your business – you have everything to gain.
Join me next month for more marketing and social media guidance – in the mean time you can find more content on my blog simpleandseason.com. If you have any more questions about this post, or would like to suggest a topic for a future post, you can get me on Twitter (@simple_season) or Instagram (@simpleandseason).