12 Ways to Use Instagram Stories to Grow and Engage Your Community
Instagram isn’t the newest social media kid on the block. But with 800 million monthly active users at the time of this writing (and still growing rapidly!), there’s a lot of potential for aspiring entrepreneurs to make their mark–particularly if they use Instagram Stories strategically. Indeed, TechCrunch reported on the one year anniversary of Stories’ launch that daily usage of the feature had surpassed that of Snapchat.
Whoa. Pretty good for a copycat, huh?
Snark aside, if you’re not using the Instagram Stories feature strategically for your business, you’re missing out.
Here are 12 ways to use Instagram Stories like a boss:
1. Take advantage of hashtags and location tags.
I’m sure you know how to add text, doodles, and other elements to your Insta Stories, but even so I see a LOT of people overlooking the ability to hashtag and geotag each story. Whenever I’ve used a popular, relevant hashtag (for me, #writerslife, #morningworkout, #workfromhome, etc.), I’ve seen an incredible surge in reach.
Anyone who watches #writerslife stories, for example, will see your story, too. So it’s a great way to reach people who don’t follow you, but would be interested in what you share. If you create engaging enough stories, they might just end up following you!
Same goes for geotagging. Though, as you might imagine, this function works even better for people who run businesses that serve a particular geographic region. If you want to get the attention of people and businesses in your local area, start using this tag ASAP.
2. Incorporate video.
You’ve probably been hearing that “video is where it’s at” when it comes to marketing these days. And it’s true. People want to get to KNOW you, and what better way to do that than through video? Videos allow people to see and hear you in all your glory. There are some things text alone can’t really convey (hello, it’s all about the delivery!).
Aside from in-person communication, nothing compares to video for engaging your tribe. Want to be authentic and really connect with your peeps? Make sure to include videos in your Stories.
3. Use the polling feature.
Okay, I’ll admit that I just created my first-ever Instagram poll the other day. But it was a lot of fun and I definitely plan to do more! It encourages people to engage with you and, even better, they become invested in the outcome.
Did you do what they voted for? Did their vote help you make a decision or have an impact on you? You can use polls purely for fun. I asked whether I should get some work done or put up my Christmas tree. Guess what people voted? *Lovingly looks at Christmas tree*
On the other hand, you can use polls to gauge your audience’s interest in a potential product or service. Yup, polls can be seriously beneficial to your business. Who doesn’t want buy-in from their tribe before creating a new offering? Easy peasy market research, people.
4. Tell stories.
Hence the name, right? Random posts have their place. And I’m not suggesting you only use Instagram Stories in a very careful, calculated way. Spontaneity is great; people want to see the “real” you. But when using Insta Stories for your business, you should always consider how your stories fit your overall mission and brand.
For example, you can share a day-in-the-life of you, a work-from-home mom. Or you can go behind-the-scenes of your handcrafted jewelry production process. Maybe you’re a personal trainer who wants to share your morning routine. You get the idea.
Storytelling is an art, but when it comes to using IG Stories, it can be as simple as posting highlights from your day that are relevant to your work or brand. You’ll see what people respond well to and can refine your storytelling over time.
5. Provide value.
This should be a given. If you’re running a business, your goal should ALWAYS be to provide value. Sometimes entertainment is that value. But usually, it comes in the form of tips, advice, how-to, blog posts, podcasts, inspirational quotes, and so on. You might also consider doing an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) or a Q&A.
Jump on a video or upload any image you want from your camera roll and overlay text. The formatting options are endless—play around with them and tap into your creative side. Whatever format you choose, make sure the content you’re amplifying is valuable to your audience.
6. Go live.
Confession time again: I haven’t gone live…yet. I’m gearing up to, though (first, I have to make sure what I have to share is providing VALUE). Not gonna lie, part of it is fear. But I’m working on that 🙂
Using Instagram Live is a great place to do an AMA or Q&A. If you have a large enough following, you can take questions right there while you’re live. If your audience is smaller, you might want to collect some questions for a few days leading up to a livestream, that way you won’t risk having a bunch of airtime to fill. Unless you’re good at improv, that’s not a great way to run an IG Live.
You can also teach a mini class or “broadcast” news and highlights from your niche or industry. Like all things marketing, your imagination is your only limit.
7. Decorate your stories.
Do some Instagram users’ Stories stand out to you more than others? I know that’s true for me. One thing that can make Stories stand out is “decoration.” Yup, don’t be afraid to add some pizzazz.
There are sooo many stickers, emojis, colors, and text options to choose from, how can you NOT slap them on your stories? Fun fact: the stickers change with the seasons, so you’re guaranteed to never get bored.
Alex Beadon is the QUEEN of decorating Insta Stories, and I believe she’s working on an offering to help you use Instagram for your business. Check her out. Doooo iiiiiit.
8. Don’t post a bunch of selfies.
The occasional selfie? You go, girl. But unless you’re a beauty or fashion blogger and it makes sense for your brand, I recommend you avoid posting a slew of selfies.
At best, people will get bored. At worst, selfie overload can turn people off from your channel altogether. If they think they’ll have to tap through 8 selfies to see if mayyyyybe you provide some real value, they’ll probably stop watching your stories…and maybe even wonder why they’re following you at all. Sorry to burst your bubble.
Does your social media presence excite your tribe or bore them to tears?
Nail your brand with my FREE storytelling “dos & don’ts” cheat sheet.
9. Shout out your fellow ‘grammers and fans.
Another cool thing about Insta Stories is that you can actually tag people in them. Whaaaat? Take that, Snapchat.
Since you can tag other profiles, use your stories to give “shout outs” to people in your tribe. Say thanks to your most engaged fans, give props to a colleague or client who had a big win, recommend someone’s products or services, and recommend people to follow.
Why not make someone’s day while also providing value? Plus, if people see that you give shout outs, they might just start engaging more in hopes of getting one, too!
10. Cross promote your other social channels.
This is a common practice among the social media savvy. Whenever you gain a follower base on one platform or channel, you can cross-promote others. It’s a great way to gain more followers across social as a whole, and in turn, expand your network, reach, and clout.
From IG Stories, give a sneak peek of what kind of things you share on Twitter, announce a Facebook live, or promote a YouTube video. The idea is to point to content that is EXCLUSIVELY found elsewhere.
11. Be yourself.
This advice should actually apply to allll aspects of your life. But when it comes to social media, especially, people tend to put on a front. They try to be more professional, more glam, more whatever. Just MORE. Different. Anything to fit what they think people want them to be.
Don’t do this. Why? Your uniqueness—your personality—is part and partial to your brand. For one, if you always have to put on a front, you’re going to burn out (it’s a lot of work pretending to be someone you’re not!). And two, it will absolutely come across as inauthentic. Being yourself will connect you with the RIGHT tribe. You will attract the people you want to engage with and will most enjoy working with.
Be. Your. Self. Period.
12. Mix things up.
Provide variety! Nobody wants to click through 7 pictures or videos of the same thing from a slightly different angle. If you’re telling a story and have your phone focused on the same thing for a few posts while recording that story, fine. That’s acceptable. But let’s not post 5 shots of breakfast with different filters, k?
Remember: always deliver value.
If you like the idea of providing visual consistency, there’s a right way to do this. For instance, you can post a series of branded slides or photos that have valuable info on each (like useful tips) or that creatively teases helpful content (like a blog post). I’ve seen people do this very successfully. Check out the Girlboss Instagram Stories if you want to see what I mean.
Likewise, don’t be a talking head in Instagram Stories for 15 minutes straight. Tap. Tap. Tap tap tap. TAPTAPTAPTAPTAP. That’s what IG Live is for! See #6 above.
If you have a decent sized following (or once you establish one), running contests is a great way to see mega engagement and connect with your community on a deeper level. Say you offer a free consultation to the winner? That could turn into a paid gig. They win, you win, everybody wins! Provide value and the sales will flow.
There are no hard and fast rules to using Instagram Stories. However, if you’re not sure how to make the most of this feature, these 12 tips should help get you started on the right path. Over time, you’ll get a firsthand feel for what your audience likes and doesn’t care for. If you’re already on Insta, make sure you use Instagram Stories intentionally and strategically to connect with your community. It just may be your golden goose.
How do you use Instagram Stories for your brand? What are you already doing from the list above? What would you add? I love hearing from you!
Hi, I'm Erin!
I help creatives flee the 9-5, build businesses they love, and live life on their terms.
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