17: Practical Ideas for Instagram Stories

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Hi everyone and welcome to episode 17 of your social media journey. My name is Shikhita and in this podcast, I talk about social media and how I have used social media to build my business. Now, I won’t call it is a six figure or seven figure business, because I find that all a bit dubious. What IS a six figure business anyway? Is it 999,999 in revenue? Or is it 999,999 take home pay? Or is it a 100,000 in revenue - which, if you live in the UK, you will  have to pay £20k in VAT PLUS your income tax and pretty soon, you will be welcomed back with open arms into five figures. Joking aside, I find it pointless. Let’s get to the point of today’s podcast episode, which is Instagram stories. 

Instagram stories have been around for a while now and while every single user and brand out there is using it, not everyone is using it to its fullest potential. I follow a number of businesses and individuals on Instagram. The stories that tend to have the most impact on me are the stories I SEE! As simple as that. And the stories that I see, are the stories that are on the top of my feed. But, as soon as I am bored, which does not take a lot of time in this short-attention-span day and age, I exit stories and am back to my real life. In my case, I can safely say that it is no more than 5-10mins of my time at a time. So what ends up happening, and I am sure you will know this from your own personal experience, is that I keep seeing the same people on stories. Generally, these are people who made such an impression on my that I was tempted to send them a quick DM, or a little thumbs up or a little love heart of a little like. THAT is what it is - that little interaction. Podcast episode over! Oh wait, let’s explore this further!

So the bottomline is that only those viewers of your stories will see your stories who either did not exit once your story turned up on their phone, or who actively interacted with you when they saw your story. It does not matter if they follow you - if they do not interact with you, your feed and stories will fall off their phone. And then, that follower number, ceases to make any difference. There is no point to having a large follower count if the levels of engagement that you are getting is minimal. It is that level of engagement that will ultimately lead you to your clients, right? I am glad we both agree.

So what can you do to  make your stories more appealing? On the one hand, raw and behind-the-scenes kind of footage works really well, on the other, it needs be attractive enough that people stay watching your stories long enough to be impressed by what they see. It IS A tricky balance to strike. Luckily, there are ways you can do this. Let’s dive into these.

Number 1 - Refrain from selling. That’s right. If all you do is sell sell sell on your stories, then most people are going to exit by swiping away. Yes, strategically, a selling message will work, however, if all you do is point people in the direction of what you are selling, it will not work. Remember that stories are now more popular than your feed, so don’t be that person in the party who approaches everyone with a sales pitch!

Number 2 - Plan your content. This is much easier said than done, especially if you are the only one in  your business, or if you work in a small business juggling many tasks. But, if spontaneous picking up the phone is not something you do, then it is much easier to plan your stories content. Even if you simply jot down two to three rough ideas, it is a start. For example, if you are going to point the camera to yourself and talk about your business, thats great. Just make sure that you keep it concise and entertaining. According to Buffer, who analysed 15,000 Instagram stories from 200 of the world’s top brands, the ideal number of stories to post at a time is one to seven. I am sure you have noticed this yourself - and, if you have not, do a little experiment! I know that if my stories go over seven, the number of viewers drops off quite significantly. In numbers, if I have 4000 views on a story, the second story tends to get around 3800 views and the third will get 3200 views. So the difference in viewership also increases. By the time someone has seen the 20th story, there are only a few hundred viewers remaining. I am talking about my account for Fair Cake, which is my own business that I set up almost 12years ago. As of now, it has more than 440,000 followers, so it gives me plenty of room to experiment. On to number 3.

Number 3 - To make your content more entertaining, use polls and quizzes. These have an extra benefit of people interacting with your account which is what you ultimately need. So a quick poll or a quiz works wonders. For example, if you are a florist, perhaps put up a picture of two very different arrangements and ask which one people like better. Now, WAIT. Don’t  just walk away here people. Wait the full 24hrs that the poll is up for and then, and this is what you should really be paying me for, but you are not, so whatever — look at who answered how. Say your poll was about pink vs orange dahlias. Go ahead and send a quick DM to through that answered pink and another quick DM to those that answered orange. This way, you are acknowledging their input. Yes, not everyone will reply and yes, if you have a small account, say 40 followers,  you might only get 3 replies. HOWEVER, you are building up! The more YOU interact with people, the more they will interact with you. So the next time you do go ahead and point everyone at a sales page, those very people who interacted with you? They will be sure to see it. Aha! Did you just say that? Now would be the time to pause this podcast, head over the Apple podcasts or wherever you are listening and leaving me a great 5* review. Go ahead, I am waiting. 

Number 4. Use graphic design to stand out. While everyone can point the phone towards themselves and start talking, not everyone has the time to utilise graphic design. This is where a little bit of prep work can come in handy. Download an app such as Unfold or Over, I will leave the links in the show notes to both these apps. These apps can help you transform your stories. Right from coming up with your brand colours, to blurring bits of images to ensuring that your story flows smoothly. If you have a bit of time, or if there is someone in your office who has a bit of time, it is worth looking at these apps. I will be the first to admit that this will take time. Let’s be realistic about things, shall we. Not everyone is creative and not everyone is a writer of witty captions. But, if you invest a bit of time, you can then set up templates, or at least choose a ready made template that you use, say every Friday - or whenever you do show up with that sales pitch. That little yellow border or that custom font will go a long way towards making you look more professional. It does not matter that you are still packing your goods in your basement and will take a sackful of packets to the post office yourself tomorrow morning and stand in line yourself to send them to your customers. The point is that you will LOOK more professional online, so more orders will come in and eventually, you will be able to afford a workshop where you can pack goods and stuff them into sacks and then arrange collections! Been there and done that, my friend, been there and done exactly that!

Finally, Number 5. Find out the best time to post your stories. Now, this is where conventional wisdom, that is Instagram analytics and I will differ. I was interviewing someone for this very podcast this morning and she said that although Instagram tells her that the the time most of her followers are online is the afternoon, she finds that she gets more engagement in the early mornings. This is something that you will find, too, I am sure. According to research done by Buffer, I will link the article in my show notes, the best time for posting in stories is outside of working hours. It makes sense. Stories are engrossing and entertaining. So of course the time that most people who work, your ideal customers (they have the money to spend!)  can look at stories is when they are not working. So this would be commuting time, lunch hour and late evening. 

So there you have it, five practical tips that you can start implementing today that will get you on the right path for your business Instagram. Now, of course, no one approach works for everyone so I do urge you to experiment. There is no harm in experimenting at all. If you were to do a simple experiment of posting very similar stories at two different times of the day, you will yourself see the difference in analytics. The more you test, the better your will be at using Instagram for your business. 

I hope you enjoyed this episode and sorry about the lack of new episodes recently. It is because - well, I cannot tell you yet. So let’s leave it at that. When I can, I will. 

Please do send me a direct message on Instagram or email me if you have any further questions on how to use Instagram stories for your business. My email address is hello@yoursocialmediajourney.com. Right, now I must go and edit this morning’s interview, which is awesome and I cannot wait to share it. I have plenty more lined up for the next few weeks and am really looking forward to sharing my secret soon! Until next time, bye for now!

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