Instagram took Snapchat’s Stories feature and truly made it their own. With near-constant updates and new additions coming to Stories ever since it was first released, they’ve become an essential part of marketing on Instagram.
I can’t stress this enough: businesses cannot afford to skip Stories if they want their Instagram marketing to reach its full potential. Here’s why:
- Instagram Stories reached 300 million daily users at the end of last year, surpassing Snapchat’s 166 million, meaning there’s huge reach available.
- One study found that one in five Stories typically triggers at least one message from a follower, making it a powerful way to start conversations with your audience.
- A case study we conducted here at Agorapulse found that Story Ads are better at driving cost-effective results (including clicks) than traditional feed ads.
Whether you’re creating organic Stories for your followers or running ad campaigns to engage new users, you need to take this feature into account. In this post, we’ll take an in-depth look at Instagram Stories best practices that will guarantee you the best (and most permanent!) results possible.
1. Use Stickers to Get Results
Stickers can help you add more information or stylistically improve your Stories. There are four Instagram Stories stickers that all brands and businesses should be using.
- Hashtag stickers. These allow you to share your branded hashtag, which is clickable by users watching your story. When they click, they’re taken to the hashtag’s feed and can see all the other UGC shared with it. This is exceptional social proof, and it can be used to encourage more UGC.
- Location stickers. Drop your location into a clickable sticker, and when users click, they’ll see other posts tagged at your store. This is an excellent way to build brand awareness.
- Poll stickers. We’re talking about the real, OG poll stickers here. You can ask users any question they can answer with two pre-set options like “yes or no,” “red or blue,” or “next week or next year.” You can see results in real time, and your followers can see how other users are responding. This can engage your audience and give you more social proof.
- Emoji poll stickers. This is a brand-new feature, which allows you to ask users a question. They can answer on a sliding scale, with an emoji at either end. This is a way to engage users and to get instant feedback.
Each of these stickers has a different purpose. Using them at least semi-regularly can help you build brand awareness (hashtag and location), drive more UGC (hashtag), and gain social proof (poll stickers).
2. Go Live
Going Live on Instagram happens through the Stories feature– it allows you to stream a live broadcast in real time.
This feature has expanded significantly. Users can interact with you (including commenting) while you’re live, so you can address their questions or comments in real time, making it the perfect option for a Q&A session. You can also add different users to the live with you, allowing you to stream together from different locations.
Live video is a great way to build relationships with your audience, and it doesn’t hurt that your followers may get a notification when you’re starting your broadcast.
3. Use More Video
Most of what I see small businesses posting on Stories are images. There’s nothing wrong with images; in fact, I’d argue that a big chunk of your Stories should be images, because they’re easily digestible and easy to edit. This helps businesses increase the scale of their Stories production, which is good.
However, you should be using video too. Most businesses could stand to use more video in their Stories because even 10 quick seconds of behind-the-scenes action or a product overview carry a lot of weight.
I’ve said it a million times before, but video is inherently engaging and makes users want to see what’s coming next. It capitalizes on the storytelling that “Stories” implies, giving you a lot of bang for your buck.
4. Get a Little More Casual
I’ve had clients who have the most stunning, pretty-close-to-perfect images and videos in their main feeds that I’ve ever seen. One of my clients regularly has me posting pictures of desserts that look so good I’m going to be flying halfway across the country later this year just to get my hands on some. (Not kidding!) This type of content is perfect for your main feed.
Stories, however, don’t need this level of artistic perfection. Stories are where you see user-shot-footage of behind the scenes videos. They’re unedited, save for some specific effects like the Boomerang or Super Zoom add-ons, or a few emojis or hand-drawn pictures.
If you aren’t sure what to do with your Stories, think Snapchat. It’s casual and quirky. Users don’t want perfection– they want personality. Remember this, and you’ll get better results on the content you post here.
5. Incorporate UGC & EGC
User-generated content (UGC) and employee-generated content (EGC) are powerful mediums that can help you build relationships with your audience.
User-generated content often comes from customer posts that you’ve gotten permission to share, which you can then tag the user in with a @Mention sticker. You can even share customer testimonials and tag them in those, too.
Employee-generated content may be slightly easier to obtain and can take several different forms. In some cases, just featuring your employees to give your brand a human face can be extremely effective.
This is done in the example below, where one of the brand’s watchmakers is making his own watch before a hike. That’s a great inside look into the brand and the people who work for it.
6. Create Stories Highlights
I do a lot of work on Instagram. For a while I felt like the bane of my existence was spending all this time creating Stories only to have them disappear after 24 hours. Again, total honesty here: I was a little resentful, even though I knew it was necessary.
I’m not sure anyone was happier than I was when the Stories Highlights feature rolled out. With this update, you can create individual themed “Highlights,” and then add “expired” Stories to them once their 24 hours is up. The Highlights appear on your profile above your gallery and give you a way to get permanent life out of your previously-fleeting content.
I highly recommend that all businesses use Highlights, creating multiple sections organized by categories like event information or UGC.
7. Track Your Stories Insights Carefully
When Stories first rolled out, there wasn’t much of the way in terms of Insights. This is no longer true– you can find analytics on your Stories performance in Instagram’s native Insights platform, under the “content” tab. Here, you can see your Stories again and see how many people viewed them.
By tracking your Stories performance (specifically impressions), you can get a better idea of what content is most relevant to your target audience, shaping what you share in the future and helping you maximize results.
Bonus: Swipe Up
I’m putting this under a “bonus tip” category because your business profile needs at least 10,000 followers in order to gain the ability to add a “Swipe Up” CTA to your Stories, which many small businesses may not have yet.
That being said, if you do have the feature, use it. This CTA makes your Stories clickable, and you can send users to your site, including specific landing pages or product pages that are relevant to your Story. You can learn more about how to use this feature here.
In the meantime, if you don’t have those 10,000 followers yet, you can still add Story links through Stories Ads.
Instagram Stories is a staple part of the platform, and if you aren’t using it regularly to engage with your audience, you’re missing out.
Users are watching Stories at increasingly high rates, and newer features like poll stickers, interactive live broadcasts, and the Swipe Up capability are going to keep those rates climbing. Take advantage of this– post at least three times a week and follow the Instagram Stories best practices.
What do you think? Which Instagram Stories best practices have you used? Which ones are you most excited to implement? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!