Instagram is one of the fastest growing social networks, and businesses looking to capture millennials and Gen Xers have been steadily ramping up their social content on Instagram.
Instagram launched a new feature called Instagram Stories in 2016, and it’s fast becoming a staple of Instagram.
In fact, 50% of Instagrammers now use the Stories feature daily, so if you’ve not considered posting content to Instagram Stories, then you’re missing out on the opportunity to get eyeballs on your content. If you’ve been frustrated by reduced reach due to Instagram’s algorithm changes over the past few years, then getting on board with Stories might just be how you can address that.
What are Instagram Stories?
Instagram Stories are pieces of content that last for 15 seconds, then expire and cannot be seen after 24 hours. It might sound really similar to Snapchat …and that’s because, well, it is.
For those who didn’t get into Snapchat, some might be wondering why you would watch – or create – content that can only be seen on a single day. Well, the simplest answer is exclusivity. If someone is a devotee, they will be one of the few people who see your content. Even further, those live connections are designed to help build that connection with you and your brand that someone who simply casually browses your feed will miss out on.
Of course, this movement towards expiring content (aka “ephemeral content”), is tapping into the ‘right to be forgotten‘ movement. Millenials have been raised in a world where their entire lives have been documented and put online – even if they have grown, changed and radically changed perspectives since then (I’m sure it’s something Jaden Smith can attest to), so creating content that isn’t remembered for all of time is a breath of fresh air for this audience.
In the end, social media content is much less permanent than other mediums. Content we created last year is often out of date, so expiring content like Instagram Stories isn’t so different from the content we create today – just faster!
So what are were talking about when we talk about Instagram Stories? What kind of content can it be?
Instagram Stories can be:
- Live video
- Video (looped video called Boomerangs)
- A series of images
So, unlike Facebook Live, which is a livestream, Instagram Stories is content that only can be viewed for a day, but it doesn’t need to be live. In fact, there are a lot of creative things businesses are doing with Instagram Stories using images in a series to tell a story (which we’ll dive into more later.)
How To: Create Instagram Stories
How much effort is it to create an Instagram Story? Well, it’s not much harder than creating Instagram posts if you’ve been creating and posting them over the past few years. Let’s break it down…
Step 1: What are you sharing?
Instagram Stories are the aspect ratio of your vertical mobile phone screen – so, the recommended size is 1080 w x 19020 h.
To show how it’s done, I’ve created an image in Canva (affiliate link) to those specifications, announcing my last blog post.
TIP: If you want to create an Instagram Story as a video, why not use free stock video and a site like Kapwing to resize it for you? Here’s a rundown on how you could do it, using Facebook Cover videos as a guide.
Step 2: Get it onto your phone
Like classic Instagram posts, the only way to post an Instagram Story is to do it via a mobile device, which means that even if you make it on your computer, you need to get it to your phone.
I’d suggest setting up a shared dropbox tool you can access on both your computer and phone, so you can just drop your files in, which syncs with your phone. Your tool of choice might be Dropbox or Google Drive or the like.
In this example, I created a specific folder in Google Drive on my computer, calling it ‘Instagram Stories’ and I just dragged my image in there to upload it.
Then, I opened Google Drive on my phone, and downloaded the image to my phone’s photo library.
Instagram Stories will only let you post content which is created or saved to your phone that day (because it’s meant to be as live as possible).
But, as content creators, we know it’s not always practical to create images every day, and it’s often faster to create batches of images in weeks or months advance, especially if it relates to a content calendar.
So, the sneaky workaround is to save your content to your phone that day. Or, you might even want to open the file in a mobile phone or video editing app on your phone and save it as a new file, so it will be from ‘today’.
Step 3: Post it to Instagram
Posting content as an Instagram Story isn’t quite as obvious as posting a regular image to Instagram. And, no, Instagram Stories cannot be scheduled (even though we are all overjoyed that third-party apps can now schedule regular Instagram posts!)
To post an Instagram Story, head to the ‘Home’ icon (on the bottom left of your screen.)
From the Home Screen, on the top, you will see Stories that others have posted. On the top left, you will see your profile pic with a little ‘+’. Tap this to post your own Instagram Story.
It will open up as a self-facing video, but tapping the bottom left-hand corner will open up your gallery of images. Select the image you want.
TIP: If you would like to add stickers, draw on the image, add text or a poll to your Story, use the features in the top right-hand of the screen at this stage. Any hashtags or people you tag in this story using this method will be active. Otherwise, continue below to post….
Confirm the image you want to post by selecting ‘Send To’ on the bottom left of the screen.
On the final sharing screen, you can select to set it as a ‘Story’, where all your followers can see it, or to send to specific people. Select ‘Your Story’. And then confirm with the ‘Done’ button.
Your Instagram Story is now live!
A few additional tips
If you’d like your Instagram Stories to be seen by more people, post them at the time of day when your audience is most likely to be online. For many audiences, that’s first thing in the morning, and primetime from 6pm – 10pm.
You can also create a series of Instagram Stories that run one after the other, so that they reveal information, or tell a story (ha!). To add successive Instagram Story posts, back on your Home screen, click and hold your profile picture to get the option to add new Stories to create a series.
A series of Stories will publish is the order you post them. So if you want your images to appear to your audience in the order of A, B, C, then you post Story A, then B, then C…
You can also Pin Stories to your profile image so sit there ongoing. For example, if you have a competition running, or have a great ‘About Me’ story, or something else you’d like to promote long-term, you can pin the story to your profile and anyone visiting your profile will see it. To do this, after publishing a story, go to your Profile. Hit the ‘+’ button to create a new Highlight.
My final tip is to consider how you can recycle your Instagram Stories content. For example, if you create a series of tips or facts about your industry, this content is evergreen, which means it will be relevant now, and in a year. So why not keep that content and post the series again in a year?
It’s likely you will have many new followers who haven’t seen that content before, and if it’s posted many months later, your current audience may not remember seeing it the first time (or if it’s gold content, they might enjoy seeing it again!).
I’m not advocating posting the same content every week as an Instagram Story, but there’s no reason you can’t keep a folder somewhere and reuse this content in a few months or years. Besides, it’s always handy to have some evergreen content in your back pocket in case you get really busy and just don’t have time to create new content.
So, save your content in a folder with dates clearly marked on when you posted it the first time, and then set a reminder in your calendar so you can reuse it.
What kind of content can I post?
Okay, now we know how to create Instagram Stories, what are some things we can do with them?
In the end, Instagram Stories should be an extension of your Instagram strategy or your overall marketing strategy. What content are you posting? How will it help build that connection and relationship you want with your audience? How do you want your audience to perceive your business?
Once you know the story you’re telling, and to who, you can then get a bit more creative!
Consider the kinds of content you can create:
- News and updates (share announcements about latest blogs, newsletters or sales or coupons)
- Behind The Scenes content
- How-To content
- Share snapshots into your work-in-progress
- Inform, teach or educate about your business or industry – using facts or quick tips
- Content to connect your business values with your audience (cue inspirational quote)
- Create polls for your audience to vote
Now, don’t forget that you can create a series of Instagram Stories to create even more content types. A few ideas I’ve spotted across the place:
- Turn your existing blog posts into a series – do you have a blog post which has several key facts? Turn each point into a single story, so it plays like a short film.
- Q&As or trivia: make your first story a question, the second one the answer.
- Create a countdown or a list highlighting people, tips, projects, ideas.
- Host an Instagram Takeover, where your guest is on your Stories feed only, rather than your main Instagram feed.
Instagram Stories are becoming very popular, and if Instagram is a core part of your marketing plan, you should consider taking advantage of Stories. But, like all social networks, requires you to consider who you’re talking to, and the kind of content that will appeal to them.
Don’t forget to set up tools and systems to make the process as easy as possible, like creating content in bulk or as part of a content calendar, and using file sharing tools like Dropbox or Google Drive means you can post the content easily when it needs to go out.
Are you ready to jump into creating Instagram Stories? I’d love to see what you’re creating!
Originally written April 2018, updated April 2019.
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About Rachel Beaney
Rachel Beaney is an Australian freelance social media specialist with over a decade in digital media. She’s worked with global names like Microsoft, Samsung, News Corp and General Assembly, in addition to not-for-profits and government bodies. She loves helping clients solve their business needs with creative and data-driven solutions. Get in touch today to jump on a free consultation call to find out how Rachel can help you.