When Instagram Stories first launched in 2016, it was an instant hit, sailing to 100 million daily active users within just two months. Although Snapchat may have pioneered disappearing content, Instagram Stories is a better version of Snapchat that is proving to be useful to both regular people and businesses too. You too can turn your ephemeral messages through photo and video sharing into an effective marketing tool for your businesses. Socially-engaged businesses that get it right with Instagram Stories can build loyalty and encourage future sales. What is Instagram Stories? Instagram Stories is the app’s new feature that enables users to post pictures and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Your followers can watch these posts in slideshow format thus making it possible for more real-time sharing and one that is relevant to that particular moment. With the usual filter options still intact such as texts, drawing, and stickers, these features can be creatively used when posting Stories. Instagram has always been a top choice social media channel where users share the moments they want to remember. With the launch of the Instagram Stories feature, you can now share important highlights regarding your business with followers. From your Instagram home screen, you can easily access the Instagram Stories camera by simply swiping to the right. The camera screen includes several options: Live, Boomerang, Normal, Rewind and Hands-Free recording. While live and Boomerang have always been there, the other three media options are relatively new. Is Using Instagram Stories Worth the Effort? You may have been used to the traditional media approach where what you publish stays out there. But now, a new breed of content with a 24-hour lifespan has made its entry into the marketing space. So, you can share in a more authentic way. People are not just using Instagram Stories to connect with friends. A third of the most viewed Stories come from businesses. These impressive engagement numbers prove the popularity of Instagram itself. With nearly 50% of brands already using Instagram, can your brand really afford to wait? There are plenty more reasons why marketers and entrepreneurs should seriously consider using Instagram Stories: An active user base: with a record of 250 million daily users, this is a good opportunity to drive traffic. Effortless creation: it would be futile to spend so much time on a post that will disappear the following day. All you need for a good Instagram Story is a quick idea, coupled with some creativity. Enables you to test the waters: these Stories are not as exposed as the regular posts, so this makes them great for testing out ideas. If people watch your Story all the way without dropping off, you can be confident reposting it as a permanent Instagram post. Testing content enables you to find out what works and quickly adapt. Alternatively, you can adapt the idea of using another social media channel. An armory of features: you have tools for drawing, lots of augmented reality filters, and various stickers. How To Use Instagram Stories to your Advantage Are you intrigued by Instagram Stories but are unsure of where to start? There are many companies, non-profit organizations and even government agencies that are already using Instagram Stories as part of their content creation strategy. The key is to stay relevant to your audience, provide value and always encourage user engagement. The brevity of these Stories in Instagram calls for proper timing when posting, adding relevant photos/ videos and lots of creativity. With that in mind, these tips will keep you guarantee your success: Tip #1 Show a “Day in the Life” of Your Business Your followers will definitely appreciate having a sneak-peek of the daily happenings in your business. The good thing is that your videos do not have to be spectacular to attract an audience. Borrow a leaf from New York City Restaurant, Union- Fare. They use videos to give viewers an inside look at the restaurant’s operations including the delicious food on the menu. After creating your video, you simply upload it to your story. If you want to add a caption you can draw text into the video or simply type it in. The more creative you are, the more interactive your Story will be and it can quickly make your business go viral. A big plus of sharing videos with Instagram Stories is that you can be simple and still drive your point home. A quick and spontaneous snippet of your daily life can have a powerful effect on your brand. Tip #2 Get Creative With Your Instagram Stories The availability of various Instagram features gives you a fair number of options when posting to your feed. Remember to size your videos accordingly before uploading them. With that in mind, creating content can be a fun experience. You can design cards and incorporate graphics to be used as the intro or call to action. Your videos should have a maximum length of 15 seconds at a time or they will get cut off. You can do a unique reveal of your product using Boomerang effect. Once people are excited you can ask them to check more about it on your blog. Tip #3 Turn your Blog Content into Mini-Articles Do you own a restaurant or run a décor business? Instagram Stories might be the next new channel for you to display your editorial content. Many users will probably be looking for cooking ideas or short how-to-articles on household topics. These mini-articles let you share this kind of information in an interesting and easy to digest format. By condensing versions of your online content with Instagram Stories, you convey useful information that is easily absorbed and you can even direct followers to your website at the end of the Story. The content you publish on your blog can provide a clue. There are chances you will find an article that can be broken down into a few slides. Of course, the main aim of creating these slideshows is to engage your audiences so don’t leave them hanging. Close your Story with a directive on the next step forward. Otherwise, interested followers may leave without further interaction. Tip #4 Use the Right Hashtags for the Right Reasons Although traditional Instagram posts are generally useful in increasing exposure, if you use hashtags on Instagram Stories you are likely to direct viewers to other’s posts. Hashtags are best used if you own them. For instance, you can create a branded hashtag such as #nevadacarwash and encourage customers to submit photos or videos of their experiences at your place of business under the branded hashtag. This way, the hashtag used will still direct your followers to a collection of post related to your brand. Adding a location on the hashtags in your Story enhances your discoverability to people who are checking that particular location. Instagram Stories are great for showing your viewers more about your product or service. Give people ideas on how they can benefit by buying your product or service. Viewers get more excited to see your product in action and thus it heightens their interest in your brand. Tip #5 Celebrate Your Company’s Milestones Surely business owners feel proud to look back and see how far they have come. Reminisce when you first started, the challenges you met and how your business has advanced ever since then. Use interviews and other tactics to tell your audience about these exciting events and milestones on your page. Do you have a company milestone coming up? You can highlight a video interviewing your employees about their best company memories. One great example of this is how Southwest Airlines created a video on their Instagram story on the retirement of their 737-500s planes and interviews of employees highlighting the company’s events. How Instagram Stories Benefit Your Instagram Engagement Although some may be skeptical of the fact that these Stories only last for a short while, this is actually beneficial in many ways. You do not have to clutter up your profile with numerous photo albums. Since your Stories have contextual value, your profile turns into a portfolio, showcasing your best content. This type of content is also relevant to businesses because it humanizes your business and gives it transparency. Therefore, you can have a deeper communication with your target audience. Your Stories will appear at the top feed of users who follow you, as opposed to the regular posts which have to compete for a top spot. Each time you add a story, your followers will be alerted with a colorful ring to indicate that a new Story has been published. This maintains visibility in your follower’s feeds. The Instagram Story indicator also lets your followers know your account has been recently active and your profile will appear in search results of those who are looking at your Instagram account. How to Schedule Your Story Posts To Publish Automatically using Sked Social 1. To enable Story scheduling for your account, login to your Sked Social account (or start a free 7-day trial). Click on Billing/Profile Settings in the sidebar menu (green arrow below). 2. Next, go to the Instagram stories section and turn on the ‘Enable Instagram Story Scheduling’ switch. 3. To create a Story post, proceed to the ‘Upload Post’ dashboard, select your Instagram account(s), and choose ‘Story’ in the Upload Media menu to the left of the screen. Upload the image(s) or video(s) you want to use from your computer, Google Drive/Photos, Dropbox, an Instagram URL or Canva. Click ‘Continue’. 4. After approving your uploads, click ‘Continue’ to proceed to Image Editing. 5. Choose your desired crop by moving the pre-set Story dimension crop as desired. Magic Crop Make final edits to your post using Sked’s full-featured photo editor by clicking the (pencil icon). Add text, filters, emojis, Instagram-like stickers and more by clicking on the edit 6. If you’re using an Instagram business account with Story links enabled (a Business Instagram account with over 10,000 followers), enter the URL of the web page you’d like to link your post to in the Post URL story link box. Then, either choose to send your Story post to Drafts, Add to Queue or Schedule it to publish automatically at a time that best suits your audience. The Final Takeaway Treat the Stories in your business like exciting events so as to humanize your brand and spark interest in your followers. It is always profitable for you to be agile enough to apply to your business the latest social media trends. If you’re looking to carve out hours in your social media workflow, sign up for Sked’s 7-day trial. Our all-in-one Instagram scheduler allows you to automatically post images, carousels, Stories, videos and more. Tag locations, users and products and manage all your hashtags in one place to save 5+ hours every week. Do you have other practical ways in which businesses can fully use Instagram Stories to their advantage? Feel free to share your thoughts below.