The past 12 months have seen Instagram add a host of new publishing tools to their Stories functionality, introduced just three years ago (but it seems like it’s been with us for ages, right?).
In fact, Instagram has rolled out more feature updates for Stories than it has for general post publishing, which shows us just how important they consider this feature to be.
So, what does your business need to do to make sure you’re taking advantage of this community-building tool?
Here are five of our favorite tips:
1) Give us the BTS!
Yes, styled and plated food photography looks amazing on your grid. Yes, that new office tour your company put up is your best performing piece of content to date.
But you didn’t just pull that completed meal out of the oven, nor did you just walk into a completed remodeled office, did you? Didn’t you put in a little elbow grease to get these jobs done? Of course you did! Instagram users want to see that.
Whereas our feeds may represent our most aspirational and idealized selves, Stories are our raw, unfiltered thoughts and projects.
As goes for the user, so should go for brands. Snap a few photos or video clips while you’re prepping that cake you’re going to feature in a post later this week for story use. Sharing an #OOTD? Let people see what didn’t make the final look. Filming a thirty-second promo video? Surely you’ve got an outtake or two to share. It’s that simple!
2) Spotlight User-Generated Content
We all know we need to feature submissions from our fans in our content strategy somehow—it’s what keeps them posting about your brand! But, sadly, not all user generated content (UGC) is created equal, and when your brand has a defined visual identity, that can be a problem.
Fortunately, ephemeral content formats, like Instagram Stories, provide the perfect opportunity to spotlight user content without having to “break the grid.”
At Natives, one of our favorite examples of this is Delta Airlines’ #SkyMilesLife UGC story series. Each week, Delta selects five of their favorite fan photos from the week using #SkyMilesLIfe. They then feature those submissions in an Instagram Story slideshow, and turn it into a weekly Story highlight, too! From budding photographers to AV junkies, Delta has a lot of fans who’d love to nab that real estate for 24 hours, and knowing they might be featured by Delta keeps them sharing content under this branded hashtag.
3) Covert Hashtagging and Geotagging
This one’s not so much a content suggestion as it is a tip for improving the discoverability of your content. By now, you’ve discovered that Instagram lets you add hashtags and locations to your Stories. They’re a great tool, but sadly limited in the ways you can manipulate their visual appeal.
We’ve seen plenty of businesses shy away from using these tools for that reason, but trust us, there’s a better way. It goes by a lot of names, but we call it “shadowtagging.” What is it exactly? Let’s say you want to geotag an Instagram Story you’re about to put up, but there’s just no visually appealing way to work it into the content. Here’s what you need to do:
- After uploading/taking your media, select the location sticker.
- Select your location, and place it on the media. Reduce the size to as small as you can, while still being able to select and manipulate the tag.
- Add whatever additional sticker or text you plan to add to the media.
- Move the geotag you created in Step 2 to the location where you plan to place the sticker/text you made in Step 3.
- Move the item you made in Step 3 to its final location, where it will now sit on top of the geotag, effectively hiding it from view!
Et voila! Your content will now show up in the Story for that tag, but it won’t mess with the visual you’ve created for your content. This is just one of the Instagram hacks you can do with Stories and stickers to get the most out of your content.
4) Promote Your Published Content
One of the most important ways to use Instagram Stories is to remind users who seem them that there are more than just Stories coming out of your profile — there’s great content over on your feed too!
To combat Instagram’s algorithm changes, more and more brands and influencers are using Instagram Stories to tease out the content that appears “over on the profile.” Influencers are power users of this trick, and most businesses have been slow to catch on. (And if you’re grabbing that BTS content we told you about above for this purpose, you get extra credit.)
5) Take Your Vitamins
Just like your multivitamin or probiotic, remember that you should take (post) an Instagram Story at least once a day! Stories are a low-cost, high-impact means of staying in touch with your followers, and keeping your content and brand top of mind.
Remember, Instagram so values Stories that they now occupy the most prime real estate in the app: right at the top of the home screen, and each time a user opens/reloads the app, four icons of profiles they follow will show up there. But you can’t show up there if you aren’t publishing content!
Now, close your browser, open that camera, and get to work!