Overview: Instagram’s ‘Stories’ Feature

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Instagram was originally created as a way to share snapshots from your daily life as they happen. However, over time, the platform has morphed into a more curated sharing platform.

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Share Later or Share Now

A common scenario on Instagram: A user scrolls back through photos on their phone that they took weeks or months ago, applies a neat-looking filter, and uploads their masterpiece with a #tbt (throwback to…) hashtag.

Instagram’s solution for spurring more in-the-moment sharing? Instagram Stories. Like Snapchat, the (relatively) new Stories feature allows users to share both photos and videos that vanish 24 hours after they’re posted. Stories was launched last summer, and Instagram’s CEO doesn’t deny the similarity between Stories and competitor app Snapchat.

To ensure that users are only sharing new content, the app limits you to recent photos: only photos and videos you’ve captured during the last 24 hours will be available to share on your Story.

Using Instagram Stories

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Stories appear at the very top of users’ screens when they open Instagram. If your business already has a presence on Instagram, this means that your Stories will be seen by all your current followers, without needing to create a new account and building an audience from scratch on Snapchat.

How can you use Instagram Stories for your business? Amuse your audience when something funny happens while on the job, or snap a picture or take a short video when you get a new piece of equipment or a new cleaning solution. Don’t worry about applying the perfect filter or ensuring that the photograph is “artistic”: the point of Instagram Stories is for the sharing to be organic and spontaneous.

Have fun with the editing tools they provide: use text, color filters, and more to make your photos more entertaining.

Instagram Story Analytics

What could be considered a negative, Instagram Stories doesn’t allow for public likes or comments. If someone sees your Story and wants to reply, their only option is to send you a private message on Instagram’s message feature, Instagram Direct. However, one positive trade-off: You can view a list of users who have viewed your Story, which gives you insight into who’s paying attention to you.

Maintaining a Captive Audience on Instagram

The Stories feature came on the heels of Instagram’s decision to adjust how users’ feeds are delivered. Originally designed to list followers’ posts in the order they were uploaded (with latest posts at the top of people’s feeds), Instagram now uses a relatively new algorithm that sorts photos and videos in your feed according to which photos you’re more likely to be interested in, based on which accounts and content you’ve interacted with in the past. The unfortunate part is that this means that, as a small business with a (presumably) small audience on Instagram, it makes it harder for your content to garner the same exposure that it would have before the change. Two things we recommend you keep in mind:

1) Encourage your followers to turn on post notifications: Doing this tells Instagram that they are engaged with your content, and they’ll be notified any time your account is updated.

How does one turn on post notifications? Once on a profile, tap the menu (three dots) in the upper-right hand corner, and select “Turn On Post Notifications.”

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2) Use hashtags: Selecting popular hashtags allows others interested in that topic or tag to see your post (which are sorted by most recent).

If your business is interested in sharing some off-the-cuff content, we recommend trying out Instagram Stories. Go try out Stories for yourself: Nothing can replace giving it a try first-hand!

Bonus: Ads

Recently, Instagram Stories announced that it’s made ads available for businesses of all sizes, across the globe. They can be up to 15 seconds in length, and are displayed between users’ stories.