How to Leverage Instagram Stories to Grow Your Brand
Instagram Stories are Coming in HOT
When used the right way, Stories are a game-changer. We’re starting to see a major shift from in-feed content to stories, which many people are now viewing exclusively over in-feed posts.
I recently polled my followers and asked, what is the first thing you do when you log onto Instagram? Roughly 82% of viewers said they went straight to stories. Guys...that's huge! We’re seeing a shift in people taking the time to scroll through their home feed, or visit their favorite accounts to check out their new posts. Instead, our followers are logging on, looking for those little pink rings at the top of their feeds, and pressing play.
I think one of the big questions looming over a lot of people is, how do I do stories the right way? I’ll tell you straight up that my right way is going to be totally different than yours, as it should be. But that doesn't mean that you can't build a solid foundation to set you up for success!
Today I want to chat about some strategies that you can employ to really create a community within your Instagram stories, which is not only going to positively contribute to your engagement, but it’s also going to help you grow over time.
Why Followers are Prioritizing Stories Over In-Feed Content
I asked my followers to weigh in on this topic! Here's what they had to say...
- More authentic and in the moment with less filters and perfection
- More personal and engaging
- More interaction on stories, which helps get to know your personality better
- More content and information and generally more happening
- I Like hearing a discussion rather than seeing an edited photo
- Stories catch my eye right up at the top
- They're convenient and easier to access
- I feel like IG shows same posts repeatedly, whereas stories have fresher more varied content
- The Stories algorithm tends to make it easier to find the people I want to see
- I'm disinterested in non-video content
Authentic, engaging, more personal, convenient…more of what people want to see. So now that we know our WHY, let’s figure out our HOW.
8 Strategies for Optimizing Your Instagram Stories
ONE - STAY ACTIVE
Want a surefire, easy way to stay at the front of your followers feeds? Stay active on stories at all times. Of course this doesn’t mean having your phone glued to your hip and posting to stories every hour. What it does mean though, is maintaining a steady flow of content.
A great way to think about this is to think about your own in-app behavior. Your likely logging onto Instagram first thing in the morning, around lunch hour, and in the evening as you’re winding down. Guess what? Your followers are likely doing the same.
Try to set a goal to have 3 pieces of content to post during those times. Here’s an example of what that might look like for me...
Morning - 3-4 frame workwear share sharing my work outfit for the day
Afternoon - 5-10 frame static slides of seasonal pieces I’m shopping on sale
Evening - 5-8 frame recap of my day, weekly plans, what I’m cooking for dinner or any random discussion topic
That translates to 3 really quick, effortless pieces of content which translates anywhere from 13-22 stories for the day.
TWO - VARY YOUR CONTENT SO THAT IT STAYS FRESH
Instead of talking for 20 slides a day every day, break it up. I personally love being able to visit someone’s stories where I can expect a variety of content. For example, watching a quick beauty review followed by a try on, followed by sale picks, followed by what’s for dinner. I find that most people are more likely to stick around for varied content.
Tip: Try starting your stories off for the day with a face-to-face clip! I find viewers are more likely to invest in what’s next rather than dropping off.
THREE - ASK FOR FEEDBACK & FOLLOW THROUGH
What your story audience wants to see might surprise you and knowing this is going to help you provide the most valuable content to your viewers.
I like to do a quick temperature check with my audience every few weeks to see what they’re currently into, what type of story content they’d like to see more of/less of, and always share my poll results with them.
I’ll ask questions such as…
- What has been your favorite thing you’ve seen on stories this month?
- What would you love to see more on stories?
- What are you shopping for this season?
This temperature check helps me to audit my current content and plan ahead with new content ideas.
FOUR - ASK FOR INTERACTION
If you want your audience to interact, create a foundation that’s based on them. Polls, Q&A’s, quizzes and topics encouraging further discussion in DMs are just a few ways that you can ask for outright interaction.
You have to put yourself in the mindset of creating content scenarios in which you’re encouraging your viewers to interact. For example, if you’re sharing a try-on, include a “would you wear this” poll, a “which was your favorite” question box at the end of your try-on, or follow up with I’d love to create an IGTV on multiple ways to wear X...which piece would be most helpful for you to see styled?
Tip: if you’re feeling like your face-to-face stories are falling flat, it might be because people aren’t listening! 55% of my viewers said they DON’T listen to IG stories. Whether that’s because they’re at work or out, or in any kind of scenario where they can’t have the volume on, I always make sure to add caption text at the bottom of my stories. This doesn’t have to be verbatim, but instead could just be a quick overview of what you’re sharing.
It's important to look at our story audience as a separate audience to our in-feed audience. Instead of worrying about who’s not watching or interacting with our stories, we need to prioritize who IS.
FIVE - CREATE A SERIES
Another way to encourage interaction is to create a routine for your followers where they know what to expect; to give them a reason to keep coming back with something they can look forward to.
This could look like a weekly Ask Me Anything, a Tuesday Tip, Beauty Tuesday, What I Wore Wednesday. Think about creating a piece of recurring story content that varies slightly each week and encourages followers to come back.
Maybe you’re sharing a new 20-minute meal in a cooking segment every Friday, or having a mom-talk Monday type of discussion where you’re encouraging a sense of community through shared experience. If you’re not sure where to start with a series, come up with a few and then ask your audience for feedback!
SIX - DON'T FORGET YOUR TAGS
Hashtags and geotags on stories are a grey area for a lot of people. Many of you in our Facebook group said that you max out your tags but don’t quite see a return in increased viewership and I think that’s because we need to shift our mindset from views to conversion. ⠀⠀
My goal for using tags is to reach a new viewer through a story that’s going to provide enough valuable content to convert them into a follower. I’m using stories to recap my day, I’m not using any tags because I’m not providing any immediate value to someone who doesn’t already follow me. Instead, I focus on using tags in stories where I’m sharing a helpful tip (for example, when I share a new Instagram hack). In that type of scenario, a viewer who doesn’t already follow me is more likely to see value in that content, invest and convert.
Although valuable content is always our main goal, what may be viewed as valuable story content for a follower, may be irrelevant to a non-follower, so it’s really important to keep that in mind.
For the stories that you do a quick audit on and choose to tag, be intentional with your hashtags. If you were someone searching for the type of content you’re about to post, what would you search for? Think more along the lines of search engine terms when it comes to stories. For example, instead of #tuesdaytip, try #instagramtips. Instead of #wednesdaywardrobe, try #trenchcoat, #springoutfit #stylingtip. Put yourself in the mind of someone who’s actually using a hashtag to find a piece of helpful content.⠀⠀
SEVEN - UTILIZE YOUR HIGHLIGHTS WISELY
Your story highlights are an integral piece of the Instagram Stories puzzle and can often be teaser content for followers visiting your feed for what to expect on stories. Often times, I visit people’s profiles and see a TON of scattered story highlights with hard-to-decipher titles and useless content.
Your highlights should be intentional and educational. I recommend doing a mini audit of your story highlights. Ask yourself,
- Does this highlight serve my audience? How?
- Does my highlight title clearly describe the content within the highlight?
- Is the content within the highlight up to date?
Chances are, you’ll be able to clean out a ton of content and reshape your story highlights so that they’re useful for your followers.
I also find it helpful to remind my followers every month or so what they can find within my highlights! This is a really great, simple directive for new followers or followers who aren’t already utilizing highlights where you can break down a short description of each highlight and what they can find in each one.
EIGHT - GIVE IT TIME
"How do I increase my story views?" It's the age old question! While the past 7 tips are key for building and maintaining a great foundation, you have to give it time.
If you’re just starting to prioritize your story content, or even if you’re gearing up for a major stories revamp, understand that your views aren’t going to magically skyrocket overnight. Remember that you’re essentially retraining and re-educating your audience on what to expect on stories, how you’ll be mixing up your content, what days to be sure to tune in, on interacting and engaging with story content, and so much more. It might take months to see a shift, but keeping at it will pay off in the long run.