Instagram stories is my latest social media crush. I love it for its entertainment factor and for the ability to post something quickly and in the moment. I enjoy seeing what friends start and end the day and everything in between. But Instagram stories can be so much more. I want to talk about how to use Instagram Stories for business. Their are several people and companies I follow who literally tell stories (which to me means something with a defining thread running through it) about themselves, their service, product or venue with the Instagram stories feature. They do this in addition to posting to their regular feed.
If you’re just tuning in to Instagram, you are now one of the 600-plus million people or 15 million registered businesses using it. Of that 600 million, 400 million are active every day and 100 million users use the stories feature.
Why I love it for business … Instagram Stories lets you post as many videos and photos to your story as you want without affecting your main news feed. The stories feature is on the top left of your Instagram feed and is highlighted with a multi-color circle when it updates. The stories disappear within 24 hours, like Snapchat Stories. Unlike Snapchat, your Instagram community is already established as opposed to having to start over building followers.
Which is why I want to go in depth on using Instagram stories. Many people I talk to have questions about it and how to use Instagram stories for business, if at all. So I’m here to answer some questions, and to help you get started.
PS … If you have any more questions after reading this, or want to chime in with what you’ve found that works, please send me a note or leave a comment!
Where to find Instagram Stories
Here is a step by step of how to create a story …
Instagram Stories: Why?
Instagram stories are great for people like me, and many others, who like to curate their Instagram feeds. People look at Instagram photos two ways — individually as they come up in the feed, and on your thumbnail grid. I recommend posting one to two images a day that support your visual story or palette and have substantial content (and by that I don’t mean the post has to have a lot of words, just something that informs, inspires or entertains). Then, in the story feature, have some fun … you can post multiple photos from the same event or day without annoying your viewer with tons of posts. Instagram stories are in the moment. They don’t have to be perfect photos. And they can inject a personality, copy and graphics. Plus, I’ve found that I get new followers every time I post an Instagram story, so why not take advantage of that too?
How you create your story varies from day to day, story to story. You might want to turn the camera, playing host to your own show, or you might prefer to be behind the scenes, taking video of what’s happening in front or around you while they talk over it with comments, and sometimes you might be in the mood to show us your story as a bunny or puppy. I’ve seen it all, and it all can work. The best is a mix of still and video.
Instagram Stories … to Entertain
Everyone likes a good party! Event professionals and creative entrepreneurs use Instagram stories to show their day, a project or an event from start to finish. A great example of someone who takes you behind the scenes of her events is Loriann Serna posting at @wifeoftheparty! And another personality / event designer I follow for his “day-in-the-life” stories is @simplytroy (Troy Williams).
Side note about @simplytroy: He is perhaps one of the most prolific Instagram story tellers I follow and I learn everything from the coffee he likes to where he shops. But one day his story contained an unexpected moment. During a travel story that showed us routine plane shots, baggage claim moments and cab rides, suddenly we were in the shower with Troy as he washed off the travel dust! A true LOL-OMG moment! Totally PG, of course, but a little shocking nonetheless as he happily lathered up, talking all the while to his phone! It was too funny, and I sent a DM to say so. He replied, “Just keeping it fresh!”
So, there you have another reason to use Instagram Stories … the ability to DM anyone and interact. Just as Instagram loves and rewards a lot of comments, it does the same with DM interactions, keeping you high in the feed!
The ability to take potential client behind the scenes of what you do is a powerful sales and educational tool. How many people could you actually do this with in real life? I encourage my clients to post stories and coach them on how to use it. But when one of their events is nearby, I love to pop in and do some Instagram stories. For my client Images by Lighting, a recent nearby event was the Petersen Auto Museum’s annual gala in Los Angeles. I came by to snap a few photos that showcased the event from dusk to dark. Almost like a before-and-after, it shows you how lighting transforms the entire mood and look of an event. For many designers and event professionals, this is the most effective way to really show people what you do!
Note: I didn’t “save” the photos directly from the feed, so you won’t see the stickers and captions here, but there were tags to all the vendors and an explanation of the event. If you want to save the photos while the story is up, hit the three dots in the bottom right hand corner of the Instagram story during the 24 hours while it’s up. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
It’s also a chance to show the back of the house while keeping the money shots in your main posts. In this case, while I was at the Petersen event I took some pictures of the dishes ready to go out in my own feed (as it wouldn’t make sense from a lighting company). This was from the same event, the caterer was Drago. I tagged everyone from the event from my feed, so they got double exposure that night. It’s great to cross promote your team. Along with posts from the producer, RG Live Events (@rglive_events), and the A/V company, CBC Clearwave (@davidmeek_cbc_clearwave) and Town and Country Event Rentals (@tacer_losangeles), people that night saw the event from several angles!
Obviously, all stories are promotion in one way or another. But sometimes the stories are literally a promotion for an upcoming event or a product launch.
The recent launch of the 2018 Powersheets by Lara Casey was one of the best I’ve seen and share here. I have followed Lara’s career for years since she began a wedding magazine. It’s been an interesting progression of her life from no babies to three babies, to publishing two books, and growing a bustling business, Cultivate What Matters. On her Instagram stories, she keeps it very real. There is not much she holds back — putting the kids to bed, date nights with her husband, her faith, home schooling, even how she gets a work out in at home. All the while, juggling this with her business. She is a walking example of how her goal-setting system of Powersheets helps her do this.
The launch this last week of the 2018 Powersheets was quite the Instagram party! It began weeks before with pre-promotions from live Instagram stories to posts, blogs and emails. It then officially kicked off early in the morning October 25 with a gorgeous photo of the book nestled in flowers that all make up the color palette that the team carefully nurtures. Building up anticipation around the day was easy and fun with the stories.
When watching a football game, my father used to say you can never tell the score enough. There is always someone tuning in at odd times who wants to know. The same with Instagram (or any social media for that matter). There are always new people joining your community every day. Lara is a great example of how to impart the same information in myriad ways. She makes sure that her community knows exactly what she does and how she feels and she does so fearlessly on both Facebook and Instagram.
Bottom line — she has created a powerful connection with her audience, one that was worthy of the powerful visuals and stories on launch day.
Why I love this promotion…
- It’s beautiful and is directly on target with her brand.
- It cross promotes to Instagram Live and Facebook Live.
- It’s a brilliant way to incorporate testimonials.
This goes along with the behind-the-scenes education ability of how to use Instagram for business. I guarantee there are places far more exotic than the IMEX Convention in Las Vegas to take viewers. But that was where I traveled this month and its a place many of my followers would be interested in. The day was the perfect opportunity for me to take my community of mostly event professionals and creative entrepreneurs to IMEX. There was more to the story, but here are a few of the posts in Instagram Stories.
Taking someone along with you for a day is a true Instagram story telling experience which is why it’s one of my favorites and the easiest to accomplish for creative businesses. Keep in mind all good habits a story teller uses to keep her reader engaged — the who, what, where and when, the unexpected moments, the twists and most important, something they might not have seen otherwise.
But however you use Instagram Stories, just know that your story is as unique and interesting as you are and deserves to be told. Just keep in mind this mantra: promote, entertain and/or inform. We’re waiting to see your story, so don’t hold back!The magic of Instagram stories is the ability to educate, share, connect while also entertaining. Click To Tweet
Tune in this month for two more blogs on Instagram stories…
10 Instagram Story Tips
10 People / Companies to Follow for their Stories