3: Using Instagram Stories - why every business needs to

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Instagram stories is what everyone is talking about and this episode is all about how you can create and use stories to your advantage

 

Hi everyone and welcome to Your Social Media Journey, episode 3. My name is Shikhita and in this episode, we will be talking about Instagram stories, how I have used these, four practical ideas for using them for businesses and how to determine how your stories are working. According to recently released data by Instagram, more than 500million people use stories every single day. This number is greater for under-25-year olds and a THIRD of most viewed stories are created by businesses. THAT is what I want to tell you about - a THIRD of the most viewed stories are created by businesses. Thats right - and the reason is pretty simple. A business will usually spend some time adding graphics, words, emojis etc. to actively make their story more interesting. A personal user will probably not put as much effort into a story and the numbers are now speaking for themselves. The BIG news is that Instagram stories are soon set to take over from the news feed - you heard that right, more people will soon be spending more time flicking through stories than watching content on their news feed. According to CNN, Instagram stories are TWICE as popular as SnapChat, so it is worth spending a bit of time understanding how they work. 

To make the most of Instagram stories, you need a few essentials sorted. First of all, there is no point using Instagram, or any other social media, for that matter, for your business if you are not tracking what works and what does not. A high follower number is not the only indicator of a great social media account because, like it or not, there are plenty of fake follower accounts out there. In fact, every now and then, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter do a sweep and delete fake follower accounts and suddenly, there is a jump down in follower numbers. Try not to let daily ups and downs bother you, if you focus on your long term plan and strategy, social media is still a fantastic marketing tool. 

Back to stories. I am assuming you know how to add a story to Instagram and Facebook. It used to be, back in the early days of stories, a mere two  years ago, that you could not add anything to stories if it was not less than 24hrs old. Instagram quickly saw the flaw in this and now we can add any image or video to stories, no matter how old. This gives businesses a fantastic opportunity to use stories as a marketing tool. 

Of course, with any such tool, if you try to sell-sell-sell, the strategy backfires. If you have heard my first podcast, you will have heard me describe the difference between been seen on Google - when your website is found, and being seen on social media - where you are actively trying to find your customers and cheerleaders - this fundamental difference is crucial to remember when you are using Instagram stories. If you haven’t listened to that podcast yet, I recommend listening to it. In it I describe four ways of creating content and my own experiences of getting started on social media.

By the way, you can see the metrics behind exactly how your stories are working on Instagram. It is quite easy to do, but difficult to describe in a podcast, so I will leave that for a webinar. If you want to keep up to up to date with my webinar plans, coming soon, sign up to be informed of these on www.yoursocialmediajourney.com. And before I carry on, I would LOVE a review on Apple podcasts, Stitcher radio or Spotify - a good review goes a long way in supporting this content and, most importantly, motivates me to keep going!

Before I get started on HOW to use stories, I urge you to switch to a business account on Instagram. This will allow you to see how well your stories are being received, how many people see them, where these people are from and many more insights that will help you refine your stories strategy. 

Let’s get into this. Here are four lessons that I have learned from using stories for my own business -

1. Raw Stories crafted into interesting content: Very raw stories, simply sharing your day-to-day work - these are good, but are limited in their reach and engagement. This is perhaps more useful for personal accounts, but you need to CRAFT a story for it work on Instagram. and crafting means exactly that - think about why you want someone to tap on YOUR story rather than simply swipe away to the next account. It takes a bit of time and testing, but soon you will find exactly what works best. The easiest way to tell is by using Instagram’s metrics. If you have a business account, you can find these metrics by going to your home screen, going to the three horizontal lines on the top right of your screen and tapping on insights. The top insights are your metrics about the main newsfeed, scroll down to the bottom and here you will see the insights for your stories that you have posted in the last 14 days. These insights are fantastic because you can see everything from how many people your story reached, to how many people visited your profile as a result of your story - in fact, there are metrics available for who tapped back, made calls, emailed you, exited, followed, forwarded, found out the directions to your business etc. etc. etc. Isn’t that amazing information?! I find this incredibly useful when planning my content. This is only available on business profiles - so if you are serious about using social media for your business, it would be silly not to use this data - about how exactly your stories are performing -  to inform your future Instagram posts.

2. Creating engagement - this means you ask people to ask you a question, or conduct a poll, or or ask them to rate an image etc. A very recent addition in April 2019 is the quiz feature, where you can make a quiz for your audience and they can answer. All these options can be found under the square smiley face symbol that comes up when you start writing your story. Now, these are good, however, there is such as thing as engagement fatigue! Use these options sparingly, but regularly. MOST of your social media presence is about entertaining, educating or informing your audience - the first two of entertainment and education being more important than informing. Think of your social media platforms as your very own TV channels. If all you do is advertise, your audience will run away! So in between content that is entertaining and educational, ask questions, run polls and create quizzes. This is a fantastic way of, for lack of a better phrase, bulking up your content. I shall give you an example -

Say you are a florist and you took an incredible picture of a rose. Just one picture. Now, of course you will post that one picture of your rose on your newsfeed and write a beautiful caption. You get your likes, you get your shares, you get some comments and your job is done. Nope!  Not yet! Take that picture of rose and - 

First Idea) Share it as your story with a gif of “New Post”

Second Idea) A few days later, take that rose picture and post a little scale of a smiley face or a face with two hearts for eyes across it, artistically - so that your audience can simply tell you how pretty they find that rose - you know the one I am talking about? The scale is usually used for how much someone loves a particular thing?

Third Idea) A few days later, take that rose picture and put it next to a different rose picture and run a poll and ask audience which rose they like better. You can use a free app such as Canva to attractively create a story with two rose pictures

Fourth Idea) Post that same rose picture in stories a few days later and ask your audience if anyone has any questions they might like to ask about roses that you could answer - you will be surprised at how many you will get! 

Fifth Idea) Once a few weeks have passed - bring the rose back and weave it into whatever it is you are doing then

The idea behind this is creating engagement. The more you get people interested in what it is that you are doing and the more they react to you, the better the Instagram algorithm rates you. The better it rates you, the more your account shows up in Explore. The more you show up in Explore, the more engagement your account gets - so on and so forth. 

These are just some ideas, be creative! And, if you are not naturally creative, seek other creatives and learn from their stories - see how they present information, answer questions or create engagement, take notes and then apply these yourself. You will be surprised at how far your rose picture will go! Before you say, “But won’t people get bored of seeing the same image over and over again?” No! First of all, not all your followers will see your content, your content is only served to a few of your followers, so chances of them seeing all the instances of your rose are minimal. Second, you need to ensure that the CONTEXT of your image is different each time. Third, I am not saying do not do anything else, just take a picture of a rose and be done with it - while doing all of this, you will be creating more content, of course. For four very practical ideas, give Episode 2 of this podcast a listen. Repurposing content is tried and tested and absolutely essential. Especially for sole entrepreneurs, content creation is a massive task, so we  must be smart about it, shouldn’t we?

3. Going live - Going live doesn’t have to be you in front of the camera, though that will help bond with your audience, it could be going live about your work, what you are up to, what your workspace is looking like (say, for instance, if it is all neat and tidy and organised, show it off!) etc. If you ARE confident in front of a camera, then a great idea is to ask your audience to submit questions first, in stories, of course, and then go live and answer these. In case you are worried about make up or how you look, use a filter! I must say, this held me back for a long while. I would turn on the selfie camera of my iPhone and was never happy with the way my hair would look or my under eye dark circles looked particularly vicious (side note - I reckon a majority of Indians or people of Asian descent have dark circles, I believe we, as a population, are responsible for keeping afloat the under-eye concealer industry!) - ANYWAY, once I found filters, and there is no shame in using these, I pretty much always use these. They are fun to use, and they do add an element of fun to the whole thing. Let’s not take this TOO seriously now!

4. Finally, creating stories on a separate app - Since Stories are, well, stories, you can use a separate app to make a story using music, images and videos and quotes and then post this to stories. Look for video editing apps - some are more intuitive than others and have a go at creating a story. See it as a story writing exercise - your story should have a beginning, middle and end and should be short and to the point. Remember, we are dealing with exceptionally short attention spans here. 

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Now you will have seen the Swipe Up feature on Instagram. Currently, this is only available to accounts that have more than 10,000 followers. Personally, I think it is bizarre that it is only available to big brands, especially because Facebook, Instagram’s parent company readily admits that they grapple with the issue of fake followers all the time. So whey they would make this 10,000 follower a marker for any account is beyond me. But there we are, it is what it is. So your best bet to use this feature is try to get to more than 10,000 followers as soon as possible :) In the meantime, there are ways of creating thumb-stopping stories and redirecting your audiences towards your newsfeed. This is how you do it - you will have seen me do this on  my account, if you follow me there. My account on Instagram is @yoursocialmediajourney and my main business’s account is @faircake. Every time I post a new post on the news feed, once the image or video has uploaded and is showing up, I click on the Add To Story button, which looks like two stuck triangles or an airplane, whichever way you look at it, right under the post. I add that post to stories - sometimes creating a story out of that post using gifs (or is it pronounced “jifs”? I say gifs!) - anyway, I enhance the post and then add a “tap here” marker to it. So if my story is good enough and engages someone’s attention, they will tap on the “tap here” sign and then a little button appears that says “see post”. if someone taps on “See post”, they are taken back to my newsfeed, where my caption and ready and waiting to charm them. 

So there you are - this is how I use stories and these are just some of the basic methods I use. 

To recap - these are the four ideas:

1) Raw Stories crafted into interesting content

2) Creating Engagement by using questions, polls, quizzes etc.

3) Going live

4) Making videos on separate apps specifically for stories

I would love to answer any questions that you might have about this podcast. The best place for this would be sending me a DM on Instagram. My account there is @yoursocialmediajourney. You can also send me an email via my website, www.yoursocialmediajourney.com

A huge thank you for listening. Until next time, bye for now!