Since launching in 2016, Instagram Stories have become a rapidly growing feature now used by over 500 million people around the world on a daily basis. Since then, Facebook has continued to invest in the growth of Stories through the addition of the feature into the Facebook app in March 2017.

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Mark Zuckerberg is so confident that “The future is stories” that during Facebook’s third-quarter earnings call 2018 that he mentioned stories a total of 71 times!

 

In this article, I’m going to share with you how your small business can use Facebook and Instagram Stories to bring your brand to life.

 

What are Stories?

 

As I discussed in a previous article, Facebook-owned Instagram originally launched the Stories feature in August 2016 as a direct copy of an already popular Snapchat platform. In 2017, the company went on to launch Stories on Facebook as well.

 

The feature allows users to post photos and videos, typically in real time, that vanish after 24 hours. Add media to your story, a colored circle will appear around your profile picture letting users know you’ve shared something new.

 

Stories can be up to 15 seconds. You can add up to 100 stories in a 24-hour period making it highly flexible and a great on-the-go vlogging (video blogging) platform for users and businesses alike.

 

Fortunately, you only need to add about three Stories at a time in any 24-hour period to stay relevant and at the top of your followers’ feeds. I wouldn’t recommend going too crazy with volume unless you have the time and the assets to go for it. Excessive volume tends to have diminished returns, though, so be strategic about the content you post.

 

Why Stories have become so valuable

 

If you’re looking to grow your business through Instagram and/or Facebook, the Stories feature holds incredible value. Here are just a few reasons why.

 

Stories are Interactive.

 

Stories aren’t just a one-way form of communication. Viewers can reply to your Story and initiate a privateconversation with you. This is golden! It’s as good as having your prospect or customer’s cell phone number. You can build personal relationships with your audience and earn trust through the transparent, organic nature Stories provide.

 

Stories are real-time.

 

This makes it really easy to create video content quickly without any technical or editing skills required.

 

Stories can provide Additional Calls to Action

 

If you have over 10,000 followers, you’ll have the feature to include ‘swipe up’ links in your Stories. This is great for adding a call to action that leads your audience outside Instagram. For example, a blog post, product offering, or lead magnet.

 

Even if you don’t have access to the ‘swipe up’ feature, you can use Stories to remind and encourage viewers to click the link in your bio where you can place a strategic call to action.

 

Or, all Instagram users have the ability to link Stories to your IGTV videos. IGTV is a separate app for longer vertical video (15 seconds up to one hour), but the app is very integrated with the main Instagram app.

 

Plus, unlike the main Instagram app, any URLs you add to your IGTV videos in the description or comments are hyperlinked. So, by adding a swipe up to your IGTV video where you then direct people to an external link, you can get traffic from your Stories. I’ve seen Buffer do this strategy well, even though they have the swipe up to outside links feature, they also experiment with swipe up to IGTV videos.

 

Stories improve your reach dramatically.

 

Not everyone sees your feed posts. Stories help combat the diminishing reach on Instagram. Stories are still shown to followers in chronological order. This means the more often you post, your profile Story will place higher ranked at the top of your followers’ feeds.

 

 

How to Get Started with Facebook and Instagram Stories

 

When it comes to getting started with Stories, it’s as easy as choosing your topic, creating the content either in the Instagram app or using a third-party tool then publishing it to your Story.

 

1.  Choose Your Topic: Stories invite your community into your daily life. You can use them to document your day and/or to incorporate some of these strategic ideas for building engagement:

 

        • Offer a behind the scenes look into your brand, people, products and processes.
        • Share tips and tutorials that leverage your knowledge and expertise.
        • Host a Q&A using the questions feature.
        • Conduct market research and get to know your community using the polls feature.
        • Offer platform exclusive offers and discounts encouraging loyalty.
        • Go live and start a conversation with your community. Try also inviting users onto the screen with you to create more intimacy.

 

2. Create Your Story Content: All of these features are included natively within Facebook and Instagram stories making content creation a breeze.

Don’t worry if you’re camera shy, there are still a number of ways you can tell stories and share insights with your audience as you build confidence using the platform.

You can even use low-cost tools such as Canva to create Stories as images/graphics, or Wave.video to create short vertical videos that captivate your audience and invite them to start a conversation with you.

 

3. Publish your Story: To publish an Instagram or Facebook story, you click on the camera shown at the top left of your home screen then use the navigation at the bottom to choose your format.

 

Best Practices for Facebook and Instagram Stories

 

There are no set rules when it comes to Stories but there are some best practices to follow.

 

1. Post Consistently: The only way to engage your audience is to be present. That means showing up on a daily basis and taking the time to really invest in the Stories feature as a key strategy for growth. When you invest in your audience, you earn their attention and they will start to invest in you.

 

2. Plan Your Content in Advance: By planning your content ahead of time, you are far more likely to post consistently. Your stories will also tend to be more intentional and aligned with your goals for the platform.

 

You can also schedule your Instagram Stories in advance using a third-party app. Three great tools that allow you to plan, upload and schedule your feed posts and your Stories include AgoraPulse, Planoly, and Plann.

 

3. Make Use of Interactive Features: From polls to questions, GIFs, countdown timers, locations and @ mentions, there is a wide variety of interactive features built into both Facebook and Instagram Stories. Take advantage of them liberally! These features are all designed to spark engagement in a quick, fun and entertaining way. This is an easy way to get to know your audience and start building relationships with them.

 

And, keep in mind that people absolutely love to touch their phones. (Some studies say as much as 2,600 times a day or even more!) The more you can give your audience an excuse to tap a sticker, or slide the poll, or send you a heart, the more you’ll increase your engagement and loyalty.

 

4. Track and Measure Your Success: Anytime you invest your time and energy into marketing, it’s imperative you track the return on that investment. It’s no different with Stories. To access your Story metrics, just swipe up on any Story.

 

Be sure to measure your traction in terms of growth and engagement not only on a macro level but on a micro level too. You want to know which content is engaging your audience and which content you might want to limit. By honing in on the analytics, you can continuously improve your Story content and the loyalty among your community.

 

You can always go back and review the views on a particular Story within your ‘Archives’. These can be accessed by visiting your profile and clicking the clock icon on the top left.

 

Now it’s your turn to bring your small business to life with Facebook and Instagram Stories. This is an opportunity to connect with your audience and invite them into your business. You no longer have to tell your community why they should buy from you because they get to experience the benefits first hand.

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

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Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Mari Smith is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

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