How to use Instagram Stories for your brand

Since Instagram launched in 2016, it’s fast becoming a popular platform that brands use to connect with both existing and potential customers. All stories—regardless of their format—are an opportunity for relationship building. As a business or brand owner, it's why building a narrative around your company or product is so important. For customers on Instagram, these stories can become an immersive, authentic two-way conversation.

From a marketing perspective, posting regularly on Instagram Stories can increase your presence beyond the photo feed. Designed to disappear in 24 hours, Stories are quick and short-lived moments. You can use them to signal your professional and public-facing voice and personality. They’re also adaptable and can become part of a larger strategy. Need to whip up some evergreen resources based on already-live content? No problem. Stories respect your audience's time while helping them feel in control of the narrative you've built.

Image by Lisa Fotios from Pexels, How to use Instagram Stories for your brand

Image by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Instagram Stories can also help you reach a new audience as a medium to answer a question or solves a problem. You could direct attention towards external content (like videos, newsletters, in-depth blog posts). Bring a collaboration with a trusted partner brand to life, experiment with revealing new products and features, or share relevant sponsored content. The possibilities are endless.

In the article below, we will give you a how-to guide for creating Instagram Stories for your brand.

Why Instagram Stories is important

From public libraries using Stories to create ‘Insta Novels’ to burger chains making ‘Stories Ordering’ a reality, the possibilities of what you can do with Stories are only limited your imagination.

If you need the data to convince you why you should, too, here’s what we found:

  1. There are 25 million business profiles on Instagram
  2. In 2018, Instagram had 1 billion daily active Stories users worldwide.
  3. A study conducted by Instagram in June 2018 found that 39% of respondents are more interested in a brand or product after watching a Story that features it.

Create beautiful Instagram Stories with the Red and Black OOTD Instagram Story template and the Pink Music Festival Instagram Story template.

Matt Smith, the founder of Instagram marketing platform Later believes it's essential to plan the ‘look’ of your story pre-publication. He says, “Maintaining your Instagram aesthetic so that your content fits together as a whole is super important for growing your account.”

That’s not to say authenticity isn’t important. In fact, it can often override a flawless image for something way more relatable.

Cultural strategist Matt Klein recently told The Atlantic, “We’ve all participated in those staged photos. We all know the stress and anxiety it takes. And we can see through it. Culture is a pendulum, and the pendulum is swaying. That’s not to say everyone is going to stop posting perfect photos. But the energy is shifting.”

With interest growing more toward an experiential approach in marketing, Live Instagram Stories are becoming more popular, too.

Customers can get a front seat to live events, Q&A sessions, and product reviews. This, in turn, provides them with a behind-the-scenes experience of the brands and influencers they love.

Like many meaningful conversations, Instagram Stories also offer one-on-one-communication with your audience.

Instagram direct messages, How to use Instagram Stories for your brand

Image from Instagram press

Being online doesn’t have to compromise being able to go straight to the source for most reliable information—the service Instagram Direct is a private one-to-one messaging feature between users within the app.

Brands can easily learn more about their customers by asking follow-up questions and clarifying statements.

This personalized form of communication is proving to be popular. Reports say that one in five Instagram Stories shared by a brand receives a direct reply and that over 375 million users enjoy this feature.

To unlock the real benefits of Instagram Stories, think of it as marketing in real-time.

Perhaps one of the most defining features that has led to the success of Instagram Stories is that there’s no pressure to make them look like Hollywood blockbusters. The focus is on creating considered ‘moments’ or a highlights reel from your brand’s point of view.

Less labor-intensive to execute, Stories posted more often won't seem intrusive to your audience. They have the power to choose if they want to watch your content.

For a sleek Instagram Stories template that looks like it was designed by a professional, try the Green and Cream Instagram Story template, or the Black and White Minimalist Instagram Story template.

Since Instagram Stories was built to vanish within a day, when thinking about how to build out your Instagram Stories marketing, the focus should be on creating connections, and offering unique value to your audience, rather than getting lost in polishing the look.

The exception to this is Story Highlights. Grouped by name-it-yourself themes, you can adapt your ‘blink and you might miss it’ content into evergreen resources.

How to use Instagram Stories Highlights

Story Highlights give your customer a first impression about your brand and the value you can add. Often, brands use these highlights to answer important questions, communicate brand personality, and showcase latest product releases.

Instagram story highlights, How to use Instagram Stories for your brand

Image from Instagram Press

To create bright and bold Highlights that are relevant to themed product launches or special events, try the Colorful International Children's Book Day Instagram Story template, or the Pink Bold Promo Instagram Story template.

Why Stories are a great way to engage Instagram users

Instagram Assets,

Image from Instagram press

When you’re on Instagram, placement means everything. And not only because of the design trends you’re following when posting to your feed.

Instagram Stories are right at the top of the app, making it the first thing your audience sees when they open it.

Instagram Stories are discoverable

Image from Instagram Press, How to use Instagram Stories for your brand

Image from Instagram Press

Instagram also allows you to search for stories by hashtag and location. Created a tag especially for the content you’re making? Contributing to a pre-existing tag? Want your audience to know where on the map to find you? Embrace the humble hashtag! Tagging your stories can amplify your reach.

Keep in mind that Instagram stories are ‘Discoverable’. This means that people who don’t already follow you can see your Stories, too. That’s a chance to reach potential customers.

Instagram Stories are shareable

Pepe Saya Instagram story,

Bonberi Instagram story, How to use Instagram Stories for your brand

User generated content shared on Instagram Stories from the Pepe Saya Butter Company and plant-base bodega, Bonberi

Another reason why Instagram Stories is a great way to engage users is because they can do the networking for you. Instagram users are able to watch an Instagram Story and send it on to their friends in a private message.

Brands can also re-share User Generated Content on Stories, paying tribute to how fans incorporate their products and services into their everyday lives.

Whether it’s a dog meme, or a fresh new product from your brand, Instagram Stories makes sharing easy.

How to make Instagram Stories marketing easier

How to make Instagram Stories marketing easier,

Image by rawpixel.com from Pexels

As of 2018, the latest Instagram algorithm update prioritizes accounts that make the most out of Stories. Translation: The more you post Stories on Instagram, the more your posts will become visible in the Story feed.

Instagram Stories have an addictive quality: once you watch, you don’t have to stop.

There’s no singular way to use Stories, either. It’s more about deciding what’s fit for purpose, according to what your audience needs to know (or be reminded of).

Here are a couple of ways Stories can be adapted …

Announcements: Why upload an annual report PDF when that info can be captioned, organized and tracked on Instagram Stories? Follow Calgary Zoo’s lead from 2012 – each ‘page’ (Story) can be made up of visuals, quotes, and stats to bring the narrative behind business growth to life.

To make memorable announcements that signal important business changes or progress, try the Green and Pink Tropical Summer Greetings Story template, or the Red Purple Shape Announcement Story template.

Story templates: Want to pinpoint the personality types or characteristics of your audience? Try posting fill-in-the-blank templates that contain some company branding, which can be screenshot and reposted by your followers on their own accounts.

To create fun and interactive quizzes to show your audience that you’re curious about them, try the Pink and Purple Ask Me My Top 3 Instagram Story template, or the Pink Flower Background Spring Instagram Story template.

‘New post’ alerts: How fast are followers noticing—and liking—your posts? Instagram Stories can be a great way to alert your audience to a new post in your photo feed. Any brand or business that has over 10K followers can link to the post with a ‘Swipe Up To Like’ call-to-action, encouraging higher and faster engagement.

To bring your audience’s attention to new posts in your photo feed, try the Purple Grid Simple Vertical Your Story template, or the Grey Torn Paper Your Story template.

Instagram Live: Preparing for a live stream event? Make the most of Stories to promo it in advance. The more viewers and engagement your Live video gets, the more likely it is to be featured on the Explore page. Instagram also send out push notifications as soon as you go live, and prioritize it at the very start of the Story ‘conveyer belt’ in the app.

To get your customers excited for an upcoming Instagram Live event, try the Blue and Pink Shapes Sale Kids' Fashion Instagram Your Story template, or the Blue and Lemons Sale Women's Fashion Instagram Story template.

Repurposing content has made easier than ever. But it can be easy to lose sight of who the content actually belongs to. Collaboration and transparency go hand-in-hand. Remember to always make the effort to credit the original artist. It shows you're making sure to respect and acknowledge intellectual property rights.

How other brands used Instagram Stories

It's a little daunting to create an Instagram Story from scratch. Especially as a first-timer.

Luckily, there are many brands you can look to for inspiration. Here are a couple of inspiring social media-driven storytellers that you could learn great things from:

Alison Roman’s viral stew

Alison Roman stew, How to use Instagram Stories for your brand

To showcase a delicious and visually appealing recipe your audience can make at home, try the Cream Vintage Handdrawn Flower Instagram Story template.

Canva template example:

How did it work? Alison Roman is a New York-based cook and writer. She's also the author of the bestselling cookbook of all-over-social-media recipes, Dining In.

A contributor to the New York Times where she has a biweekly food column, one of her recipes from 2018 – “The Stew” – went viral when first featured in the highlights section of New York Times Cooking's Instagram.

It has since grown into its own hashtag – #thestew

What is the brand takeaway? The beauty of this phenomena is the creation of a “feedback loop” with Roman’s fans. Instead of being passive viewers, they transform into co-creators. They're re-creating and tweaking the original recipes according to their own lifestyles.

Airbnb’s interactive quizzes

Airbnb interactive Instagram stories, How to use Instagram Stories for your brand

Airbnb interactive Instagram stories

To create a professional postcard-style interactive quiz that’ll keep your customers guessing, try the Brown Ask Me My Top 3 Instagram Story template.

Canva template example:

How does it work? Every Tuesday, travel brand Airbnb post Stories featuring well-placed visual and word-based clues. The aim is for their users to guess the location featured in brand's images.

The more information available to your audience – and the more Stories they watch – the easier it’ll be for them to make the correct choice.

What’s the brand takeaway? The best way to get your audience involved is to ask their opinion. Involve them by helping them test their knowledge. Want to seal the deal? Reward them with information they can act on.

Instagram polls – either sliding scales, or multiple choice – are a useful too as well. With them, you can collect data on your audience’s natural instincts and level of expertise.

E! News Stories

E News Instagram stories, How to use Instagram Stories for your brand

E! News Instagram stories

To create a show-stopping news story update for an audience that needs to know, you can adapt the Yellow Basketball Playoffs Countdown Instagram Story template to deliver exclusive headlines as they happen.

Canva template example:

How does it work? As a network that covers Hollywood’s biggest stars and influencers, E! News has a no-fuss approach to presenting easy-to-digest news updates.

Bold text and eye-catching images give viewers an “all-you-need-to-know” summary of the biggest stories in the industry. For those who want a more in-depth analysis, they're encouraged to visit the website for the full story.

Glossier’s use of user-generated content in their stories

Glossier User Instagram Stories, How to use Instagram Stories for your brand

Brands can bring together bold visuals and text to deliver all-important Q&As to your audience, try the Black and White Modern Travel Vacation Your Story template.

Canva template example:

How does it work? Beauty brand Glossier make their customers the star of their show. The brand's Instagram account reposts content from their customers in a “Top 5” highlight. This showcases their favorite content tagged #glossier.

Allbirds using their Story Highlights as Customer FAQs

Allbirds FAQs, How to use Instagram Stories for your brand

Allbirds Instagram story highlights

To create eye-catching answers to FAQs that’ll solve everyday dilemmas for your customers, try the Blue Abstract Shapes Quote Story template.

Canva template example:

How does it work? This shoe brand use their Story Highlights as a knowledge database. They create Story posts that work as responses to Frequently Asked Questions.

What’s the brand takeaway? Time and effort is a precious resource. It might rarely be possible to personally respond to every customer query. Think about how Instagram Stories can address product-related questions or issues that may come up in advance.

Is Instagram a platform where your customers already spend a lot of their time online? Story Highlights can offer an 'always there' resource for them to consult with.

Mailchimp’s Day in the Life stories

MailChimp Day in the Life Instagram stories, How to use Instagram Stories for your brand

MailChimp's Day in the Life Instagram stories

To introduce your team who make it happen behind-the-scenes and show your customers who’s who, try customizing the Purple Geometric Artist Feature Instagram Story template.

Canva template example:

How does it work? Mailchimp's “A Day in the Life” Instagram Stories introduce their audience to MailChimp employees working in different departments. These short, personable video Stories form an ongoing series.

What’s the brand takeaway? More often than not, there’s always a face (or faces!) behind a brand, regardless of its size. Invite your audience into the everyday workings and office culture of your company. Who knows, a future hire could be in the audience.

Keep testing, learning, and refining

Image by rawpixel from Pexels, how to use Instagram Stories for your brand

Image by rawpixel from Pexels

The magic to Instagram Stories is realising that your customers are your best collaborators. Creativity and experimentation are important.

But it doesn’t mean much until you've shaped a strategy based on the preferences, behaviours and values of your community. After all, they're who you’re making a product or service for in the first place.

Your customers are also your biggest fans and advocates. The more you know about them, the more you can build a community around you. Those enthusiastic, pro-active people can help you brand grow and evolve into something bigger.

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