Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest. Do these names sound familiar? Of course they do. They are just some of the most popular social media platforms currently available for content creators and brands to share their content. From advertisements and shopping to your latest gender-bender filter selfies. However, one truly stands out amongst its peers as the flagship platform in terms of depth features and ease of use for existing and would-be users to post photos and short videos. That’s right, we are talking about Instagram. More specifically, Instagram’s answer to Snapchat’s disappearing content and witty filters back in 2016, Instagram Stories.
Within a year of launching, the Story sub-experience within Instagram was drawing in 300 million users, quickly overtaking Snapchat’s overall daily active user (DAU) numbers and becoming the “Snapchat Killer.” Instagram did what no other platform could do at the time; they took something decent and relatively popular, improved upon it, and made it their own. Not only did this benefit both regular users and businesses, but it also simplified the mobile experience into one app rather than having to jump between one or the other when it came to posting content. Years have gone by since then and a lot has changed within the social media space, however Instagram and it’s Stories are still ever-present and we’re here to bring you up to speed on how you can leverage it to the fullest extent.
An Introduction: Instagram Stories
Before we begin, you first have to understand what Stories are and how they operate within the Instagram ecosystem. Instagram Stories, when boiled down, is a collection of temporary posts or “slides” that can be a photo or video (up to 15 seconds) that appear above a user’s main page/timeline. This “story” section above the user’s timeline (Fig.1) is entirely separate from the traditional grid that you would usually see when visiting an account’s main page. Each slide can be customized with optional features such as GIFs, location tags, text, and various stickers to make each story genuinely unique to the poster’s needs and goals.
When we say temporary, we mean these stories are only available for 24-hours. If you didn’t get a chance to catch them, you will most likely never see them. That is, unless they are posted to the Highlights section, which brings us to our next chapter, Instagram Story Highlights.
Going Beyond Just Stories: Instagram Highlights
Let’s say you had some amazing Story content that you want your followers to view for more than 24 hours, but as mentioned earlier, it already disappeared or is about to. Instagram Story Highlights are here to save the day. Instagram heard the demands of the community in 2017 and provided a sub-feature within the Story space for users to do just that. These Highlights are essentially the same as regular Stories, sans the time-bound aspect of disappearing after 24 hours. Stories can live permanently in your profile just under the bio section of the main profile page (Fig.2).
These Highlights act as a specially curated collection of Stories where you and your followers can view at any time. And similar to how brands and advertisers use physical billboards around town to promote a new movie or product, these Highlights take up prime real estate on the user’s profile to help promote and showcase the content they want visitors to see first when visiting their page.
So, now that you have a general understanding of what these Stories and Highlights are, you are probably wondering “why and what’s the point?” Good question! We’ve got just the reason(s) why you as a brand or content creator should make the most of these features within the platform.
Should I Bother? (Yes You Should)
As previously mentioned, these Instagram Stories and Story Highlights are taking up valuable space within your account, and are one of the first things a user will see when stopping by your page. Wouldn’t you want your first impression to be the best that it can possibly be? With decreasing attention spans and an abundance of content (and noise) being created on a daily basis, you can see why these Highlights are so critical in helping content creators, brands, and businesses connect and engage with their audience.
For content creators, such as designers, bloggers, and photographers, it allows them to share more about their process and the steps that go into creating amazing content (that is usually on their feed). For brands and businesses, it gives them a channel to promote their latest product, share company updates, or anything (like behind-the-scenes content – Fig.3) that can humanize an account that doesn’t necessarily have a figurehead or face.
Helpful Tips & Tricks, Then Off You Go!
You’ve seen “the what” when it comes to an Instagram Story or Highlight. You understand the importance of “the why” behind these features. Now you are ready to go and make the most of these amazing tools Instagram has provided to create engaging and quality content. But before you go, here are some quick tips that can aid you in your journey of being a Story-making pro.
- Make the most of all the amazing features within the Stories ecosystem – Use location tags, mention other accounts by @’ing them, add interactive polls/question stickers, and don’t forget to include that GIF because yes, “It’s happening!”.
- Don’t post for the sake of posting – Just like your actual feed, your stories should have some reasoning attached to them. Context is everything and these features are there to help you tell a story. (Maybe that’s why they are called “Stories”?!)
- Pay close attention to your metrics – If you have gotten this far reading, you are most likely serious about using Instagram Stories to help build your personal brand and/or your business. By checking on your insights often(we recommend at least weekly), you can take the valuable audience data Instagram provides to further audit, build, and adjust your social media strategy on what works well and what doesn’t. And while Story analytics are only available for Business Profiles, converting over from a personal profile is relatively easy.
- “Keep it simple, stupid!” – Time is money, and your audience’s time is valuable, so you want to respect that. Don’t overload your stories with too much information or too many call-to-actions (CTAs). Focus on a couple of Story features at a time within one “slide.” Stories are meant to be easily digestible and flow from one to the next. Imagine trying to cram Avengers: Endgame and its 3-hour entirety into 30 seconds, probably not possible and not worth anyone’s time.
Still looking for tips on how to create amazing content with Instagram Stories (and beyond) that your audience cares about? Check out this post for some further reading!