How to Use Instagram Stories for Business
Since Instagram Stories debuted a few weeks ago, I’ve been testing, watching, and spending wayyy more time on IG than normal.
The truth is, the inception of IG Stories deeply annoyed me – from a personal standpoint. Snapchat is my favorite social platform, and it was irritating to see immediately that I would need to create similar content for a copy & paste feature on another network.
But from a business standpoint, the excitement took over quickly. At ARCH, we’ve grown several IG accounts for our clients into successful and engaging communities, so Snapchat would have been the next logical step. However, with the onset of IG Stories, we were given a way to stay within an active network, and begin incorporating all the raw elements of Snapchat that make it so successful.
To me, the biggest reason Snapchat is successful with personal and business brands is because it provides an opportunity to humanize ANY brand with raw content. Snapchatters aren’t looking for polished content, they’re even perturbed by it. They like the real and sometimes even ugly stuff. They want REAL.
Instagram is different. It’s thought out, structured. It’s perfect and beautiful. To share a raw photo on IG is to commit a social sin. But not anymore. Many argue IG won’t be able to handle the raw Snapchat-ish content due to its perfectionistic nature, however I think they’re wrong.
I believe users are so hungry for the raw stuff that they’ll not only appreciate it on IG, but that Stories could revolutionize the platform and shift it to being a more real place to hang.
Let’s be honest, before IG Stories, it was falling behind in the ranks due to its stagnant culture of ultimate beauty – they had to do something. They had to add an element of fun and give businesses a reason to come back.
Enter IG Stories.
But businesses are having a tough time deciding how to utilize the new feature, so I’m here to help. Between asking my Snapchat and IG audiences to recommend their favorite biz brands and coming across a few on my own – I’ve got a nice, varied list with action steps to inspire you and illustrate what is most important.
1. Decide on your WHY.
As with any social network, this is the first thing to decide before committing to a new platform or content stream. Before we can be purposeful content creators, we must know why we’re there and what the goal is.
If the goal is to showcase products or services, introduce staff – whatever, begin there. It will change in a few months (or should), so don’t get too caught up in the why, but it will keep you focused when it comes to creating strategies for content types, when, how often, etc.
There’s no explanation necessary for who NASA is, but what they’re doing on social media is another story. It was surprising to a) see NASA creating IG Stories and b) creating so many and so fast! Almost immediately, they jumped on board sharing stories about how they train for missions, gave background and context on the trainings, spotlighted employees by allowing them to speak, and well – got me sucked in quick!
So why? Because NASA needs to make money. NASA needs people to be interested in their missions and goals. NASA needs to humanize the brand. NASA is out to stop hiding behind its mysterious doors and share the cool stuff we don’t get to see. And I can guarantee that it will work.
*IG account shared by Brian Fanzo. Find him on IG at @isocialfanz
2. Get inspired.
Because IG Stories is a new feature, there isn’t a lot of published content explaining how to create IG Stories with success, but we definitely recommend checking out this post to get the low down: Instagram Stories: 6 Things You Need to Know.
But go a step further and be purposeful about finding inspiration. It’s one of the first things I do whenever starting a new account, whether for myself or an ARCH client.
First, locate similar businesses in your industry who are sharing IG Stories and having fun. Follow them, watch what they’re doing, and figure how how to follow their example for your business. Forget the notion of competition, and draw inspiration from what they share that resonates with you.
Second, sit down with paper and a pen (I suggest multi-colored markers) and write or draw out the different elements of the business. If you’re utilizing Snapchat, what is working? What does your audience enjoy? If you’re on Facebook – what do they like there? Or Instagram! Take those popular content topics and start playing to find out how you can turn them into stories.
This is one of my favorite IG follows. Love this account – for many reasons. DesignLoveFest is a branding/design company who continually innovates to offer new services and products. They create free wallpapers to download, design dinnerware sold at Target, style photoshoots for some of the biggest brands in lifestyle industries, travel the world teaching branding/social media, and well – just having a blast (if you ask me).
So following the account is a no brainer for me. I’m constantly inspired by how they style photos, use backdrops, and incorporate the staff into everything that’s posted. And the owner, Bri, took a whole 4 minutes to begin creating IG Stories when the feature was released. She does product reveals that arrive in the mail everyday, gives backstage access to this incredible company, and keeps the audience close with recipes and helpful home design tips.
This is a goldmine for my own geeky obsessions, but mainly because ARCH works with clients in the retail/fashion/jewelry industry, and this account gives me endless ideas for how to showcase products to humanize a brand.
3. Show off the goods.
Showing off the goods is self explanatory. Show off your goods – the products and services that your business offers. Do NOT turn it into a salesy glossary, but practice and excel at the art of showcasing the goods in a fun, interesting and enticing manner. Even better, learn how to do it so that it appears you aren’t.
FOMO (Fear of missing out) is a real thing, and IG Stories offer you the perfect avenue to conjure up that emotion in your audience.
If you’re a restaurant, share mouth-watering specials/ingredients/recipes. If you’ve got a yoga studio, share poses/classes/instructors/retail. If you’re a retail store – psssht, just have fun! Consider the target audience and tease them into having FOMO.
Example: Visit Durango
The VisitDurango IG offers no shortage of gorgeous photos that will make you want to pack up and travel there ASAP.
The account is an aggregation of content from Durango, Colorado from anyone utilizing the #VisitDurango hashtag when posting on IG. And the result is spectacular.
But even though it’s a crowdfunded account, they go above and beyond with IG Stories. Sit back and get taken on hikes, watch sunsets, and I guarantee it won’t be long before you head to the computer to book a visit yourself. THAT is FOMO done right and in a digestible manner.
*IG account shared by Peter Freeman. Find him on IG at @findpeterfreeman
4. Infuse it with personality.
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many biz accounts I watched fall flat, even when the content was interesting to watch.
Who cares how awesome your product is, who gets excited about your insane service – unless you do?! Or whoever is managing the account. If personality doesn’t radiate from the stories then you’ll have a tough time getting anyone to watch.
My biggest advice here – have some fun already! Be goofy, be silly, show mistakes, show mishaps, show reality. And if your mellow and sullen and not a big fan of the world, share that because it will draw the audience who best aligns with you.
Bottom line, don’t be afraid to be yourself. EVER. Large businesses can tackle this by humanizing the staff, playing jokes or laughing with upper management, sharing family moments or company events. This is definitely not just a suggestion or possibility for smaller businesses. In fact, its the big businesses who need this the most.
One of my favorite businesses out there (WHAT A BRILLIANT IDEA)!! Basically, a blow-dry chain for women that’s taken over cities nationwide, and is my one stop every time I’m traveling (and needing to look killer) for work. It’s a flat $40 per hairstyle, opens at 5am, offers wine and champagne to clients, and gets you out the door in no time. Brilliant.
The IG account boasts pics of gorgeous hairstyles for viewers. The founder is currently focused on selling her product line on QVC and other online shopping networks, so IG Stories is following her around getting behind-the-scenes moments. And let’s face it, Alli (owner) is hilarious! She’s wild, cusses, and has zero issues sharing who she is. And that is the best way to be. She’s adding a personality to the brand by infusing her’s into the IG Stories.
5. Be original, don’t regurgitate content.
While I didn’t want to include any “do NOTs” into this list, I felt this point was imperative after watching accounts for the past few weeks.
Do not, do NOT repurpose content from other social networks UNLESS there is a very specific reason. The funniest thing about this is that marketers are currently the biggest perpetrators and this is one of the oldest no-no’s in the industry!
A) It’s lazy. Don’t be lazy. If you’re going to be lazy, fine – but have more respect for the audience who gives you their time and be lazy on your own.
B) Why should anyone follow you on both networks if you’re simply reposting stuff?
C) Every social network is different, has a unique culture, and expects that you can customize the content for that specific one. What is cool on Facebook isn’t cool on Twitter, etc. And don’t assume just because video is the common denominator that it means re-using is cool.
D) If you can’t drum up new content to share on IG Stories then don’t invest in it until you can. It looks bad for your brand and credibility, so wait if need be.
We’re only a few weeks in with IG Stories and it’s going to be interesting to watch how it will play out in the marketing arena, but these are the first steps to ensure a successful start for your business.
Did I leave anything out?? Or have any advice for business owners? Comment below!