— August 15, 2018
That means the platform is now almost double the size of its most direct competitor, Snapchat, which has 158 million daily users.
So, what does all of this mean for you? If you’ve previously ignored all of the advice and chatter about how you absolutely should be using Instagram Stories to market your business, it’s time to start listening.
I get it—tackling an unfamiliar social media feature always seems a little intimidating. But, creating awesome and engaging Instagram stories isn’t nearly as complicated as you’re making it out to be. And, in fact, doing so can be a lot of fun for both you and your followers.
Ready to roll up your sleeves and get started? Let’s dive into everything you need to know to make the most of Instagram Stories—and develop creative Instagram Story ideas.
Take Your Instagram Stories to the Next Level
Grab our ebook Your Guide to Instagram Stories: Measuring What Matters to take Your Instagram Stories game up a notch!
Wait… Can You Explain Instagram Stories?
Chances are, you’ve already checked out at least a few Instagram stories within your own feed. But, in case you’re truly starting from square one with Instagram as a business, we’ll briefly cover the basics here.
Instagram Stories are an Instagram feature that enable users to post content (either an image or a video) that disappears after 24 hours (unless it’s saved to your highlights).
These stories don’t show up on your profile grid and they aren’t displayed within the normal feed. Instead, they show up as little bubbles at the top of your Instagram screen. You can click on a story to view it and then click or swipe through stories from other users to your right in succession.
Instagram stories have proven to be highly engaging. That could have something to do with the sense of urgency in viewing them, considering they’re gone after 24 hours.
Plus, they’re pretty short (Instagram stories can be 15 seconds at the longest), which means users don’t need to commit a ton of time or attention. They’re bite-sized clips that are easy and convenient to consume.
What is IGTV?
Instagram TV (you’ll hear it referred to as IGTV) is a brand new feature to the platform that allows for longer videos than Instagram stories—videos on IGTV can be up to one hour.
There’s a stand-alone IGTV app, but users can also view IGTV videos directly within the Instagram app by clicking the little TV icon in the upper right corner.
Again, IGTV is pretty new to the scene. But, with the new longer video format, there are tons of unique Instagram Story ideas you can put into play there that would be tougher to pull off on Instagram Stories.
Creative Ways to Use Instagram Stories: 17 Strategies You Should Know
You’re convinced that Instagram Stories and IGTV are things that you should be using to market yourself or your brand on Instagram. But, here’s the next big question that’s echoing in your brain: What the heck should you post?
We have some suggestions to help you out! Here are 17 different Instagram Story ideas you can use to get your own creative juices flowing.
1. Answer questions
Are you frequently on the receiving end of a lot of questions from customers and followers? Perhaps people are always asking about the best way to use your product or how you achieve something specific.
Instagram Stories is a great place to answer those questions—whether you want to talk on video or just create text images for people to read.
You can step up engagement even more by asking your followers to leave their questions as a comment on one of your photos so that you can answer those in an Instagram story. It’s a great way to get your followers involved and to strike up a conversation.
One more tip: If there are questions you’re being asked over and over again (and, in all honesty, are getting sick of answering), do something like lifestyle and beauty blogger, Kate Bryan, and create an FAQ Story highlight where you can save all of the answers to those commonly-asked questions. You can easily direct people to that highlight when they have a question you’ve already answered.
If you want to answer numerous questions in one continuous video, then IGTV is a great choice. For example, Condé Nast Traveller did an IGTV segment where the magazine’s Editor in Chief answered travel questions from readers.
2. Do an employee takeover
You might be fresh out of clever ideas for Instagram stories. But, your employees? They probably have all sorts of exciting stuff to share.
So, why not start an employee takeover? It’s exactly what it sounds like—you let an employee take control of your Instagram stories for a day. They can give a peek into their average workday, give a tour of your office or their own workspaces, and generally offer followers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what your business or their lives are really like.
For example, news site, Bustle, has a series called “Be My Guest” where various employees use Instagram Stories to give followers a tour of where they live.
People love feeling like they’re being given exclusive access to something, so this is an effective way to engage your followers—whether they’re just fans or prospective candidates to work for you.
3. Host a contest
Hosting a contest using Instagram Stories can definitely involve some logistical headaches—particularly since the content disappears so fast.
However, it’s proven to be highly engaging in terms of participation and increasing your followers. Here’s the gist of how hosting a contest using Instagram Stories works:
- Ask your followers to post a story about something specific in order to enter your contest—whether it’s them holding your product, them making a funny face, or really anything you’d like.
- Within that same Instagram story, they should tag your account. They’ll only be able to tag you if they follow you, hence why this is a great way to increase your follower count.
- You’ll need to stay on top of your notifications (you’ll get a notification every time someone tags you in an Instagram story) and keep a log of everyone who has entered so that you can choose a winner. Remember, their stories will disappear after 24 hours, so you should be taking screenshots in order to have a record.
That’s it! Again, there’s a little elbow grease involved (and safer than using bots for growth), but it can be well worth the added effort.
4. Do a customer takeover
Similar to an employee takeover, you can also have a happy customer take control of your Instagram stories for a day.
Not only will you engage with the customer who’s actually taking over for you, but you’ll also catch the attention of your other followers as well—they’re bound to trust a customer more than they trust you.
TJ Maxx is a brand that does this really well with their “Maxx 50 Challenge.” They equip various followers with a $ 50 gift card and then send them out to see how much they can buy at their local TJ Maxx—all while recording it for TJ Maxx’s Instagram stories.
It’s the perfect balance of promoting their own brand while creating highly engaging content.
5. Share how something is made
Again, people love feeling like they’re getting exclusive content—and, given its somewhat urgent nature, Instagram Stories is the perfect place to do that.
Why not give users a glimpse at how something is created? Whether it’s how your own product is made, a fun craft project, or even your team’s favorite guacamole recipe, create a series of videos that show how you create something from scratch.
Etsy, a marketplace for makers and creative entrepreneurs, is awesome at doing this. They’re always posting stories (and even saving them to their highlights!) that teach followers how to create everything from headbands to macarons.
6. Share behind the scenes
Have a sweet office or a desk you’re proud of? Are you visiting the facility where your products are made? Give your followers a little behind-the-scenes peek at where or how you get your work done.
When social media can feel impersonal at times, giving this insider look fosters a more personal connection with all of your followers.
Interior design brand, The Re-Vision, did this in their Instagram stories by showing a behind-the-scenes look at how they shot a recent Instagram photo.
After that, they also shared the finished photo and encouraged their followers to go interact with it in their normal feed. It’s a great strategy to increase engagement.
7. Feature other accounts
Want to foster a greater sense of community on Instagram? It’s not all about promoting yourself—you can also use Instagram Stories to share some other accounts that you think are worth following.
It’s a tactic that numerous different bloggers (like Thrifty Yorkshire Mum below) have used to support each other.
Simply post screenshots of other accounts that you love to your Instagram Story and tag that account so that they see what you’ve posted. You’ll foster a far more collaborative vibe. Plus—you never know—those accounts you tag might just return the favor!
8. Teach your followers something
Remember when we talked about using Instagram Stories to show your followers how something is made? That’s not the only thing you can teach—in fact, you can use Instagram Stories to teach your followers just about anything.
You can show them how to more effectively use your product, how to write a snippet of code, or even how to teach their dog to high-five. The options are virtually endless.
This is also a great area to explore with IGTV—particularly if you need to teach something that requires more than just 15-second snippets.
For example, entrepreneur, Maya Elious, uses IGTV to provide all sorts of helpful advice (like how to boost your confidence before a big project!) to fellow entrepreneurs and business owners.
Another example? SELF Magazine dedicated an IGTV segment to teach their followers how to make their own DIY cold brew coffee.
9. Ask for suggestions
Have a problem you’re struggling with? Need an opinion on a new feature or product release? Wondering which logo is better? Want to know what type of content people want to see from your account?
You can use Instagram Stories to ask your followers for their own insight and input.
As far as how you collect their answers, you can have them respond to your story via direct message with their suggestion, instruct them to leave their answer in a comment on a recent photo, or even use Instagram Story’s poll feature (more on that in the next tip!) to easily collect responses.
10. Poll your followers
We’ve already mentioned Instagram’s poll feature, and it’s a great way to get general responses from your followers. Much like any other poll, respondents click on one of two options to submit their answer.
There are tons of different ways you can use this feature. Have your followers choose between two names for your new product. Or, get extra crazy and have them dictate your entire day—from what sweater you wear to work to what you make for lunch—by posting a series of polls.
It’s an effective tactic and another great Instagram Story idea to involve your followers in your decision-making and emphasize that you have a two-sided relationship—rather than constantly broadcasting your own messages.
11. Promote a recent blog post
You worked really hard on a recent blog post, and you want to get as many eyeballs on it as possible. You can use Instagram Stories to drive traffic to that specific post—or really any type of content!
One of the easiest ways to do this is to add links directly to your Instagram Story—which allows users to swipe up to be taken right to the designated page. However, that feature is only available to business accounts with more than 10,000 followers.
For example, WeWork used a series of Instagram stories to direct followers to a post announcing their reimagined WeMRKT, a market showcasing member products.
Haven’t reached that milestone with your follower count? You can also direct people to click the link in your Instagram bio—which you can change out to be whatever you’d like.
The best way to remember to promote your blog content is to schedule it in advance—so it’s taken care of without you needing to worry about it when the blog post actually publishes.
12. Fill out a template (or create your own!)
While there are plenty of things you can do with Instagram Stories, it’s also the perfect place to let people get to know you a little bit better.
One surefire way to do that is by filling out a template. Plenty of outlets create graphic surveys that you can fill in with your own responses—and then post a blank one for other people to fill out themselves.
Want to get extra creative? Take a cue from The Everygirl and make your own branded templates to share with your existing followers. It’ll engage your current followers while also putting your account in front of new people.
13. Share your location
Within Instagram Stories, there are all sorts of fun filters and stickers you can use. One you should be sure to check out? The location sticker.
Adding it to your story is simple. Start your story and then click the happy face icon in the upper right-hand corner. Scroll down until you find the sticker for location and you’ll have the option to view locations near you or to search for somewhere specific.
Not only does this clue your followers in on where you are, but it also gives your engagement a big boost. Posts tagged with a location experience 79% higher engagement than posts without a location.
Additionally, including your location gives you a chance at being featured on Instagram’s location page. So, people who are interested in that specific location can find your content.
14. Provide a sneak peek
We’ve already talked about the fact that people like to feel like they’re getting special access to something. Leverage that to your advantage by providing exclusive content within your Instagram stories.
Maybe it’s a quick peek at a new product you’re developing. Or, perhaps it’s a tour of your brand new shop that’s opening soon.
Using Instagram Stories is a great way to give people that insider access in a highly convenient and engaging way.
You can accomplish something similar on IGTV. Creativebug, a craft classes platform, used IGTV to give followers a sneak peek at an upcoming portrait course.
15. Offer a discount
Another type of exclusive content you can offer within your Instagram Stories? A discount or promo code.
Doing so not only means that your followers feel like they’re getting access to something that nobody else is getting, but it can also help to drive sales.
So, go ahead and give followers a code for 10% off, free shipping, or whatever else works with your unique business. You’ll probably be surprised by your results!
16. Start a series
One of the reasons that consistency is so crucial on Instagram is because people love predictability. That’s why scheduling your content can be so beneficial—it helps you stick to your schedule, without the headaches and hassle.
With consistency carrying so much weight for users and Instagram’s algorithm, it’s worth considering starting a regular series on your Instagram Stories.
Let’s return to Bustle as an example. We already talked about their “Be My Guest” series where various people take followers on a tour through their homes. They also have their “Beauty Call” series where two Bustle staffers review different beauty products.
Think of a series that you could start on your own account. It’ll keep your followers coming back for more—while also holding you to a more consistent posting schedule.
17. Make use of your story highlights
While the entire concept of Instagram Stories is built on the fact that they disappear after 24 hours, there’s probably still some content that you want to make readily accessible to your followers.
Fortunately, you can do so by adding selected Instagram stories to your highlights.
To save a story, you simply need to view your own Instagram Story and then tap the “Highlight” button in the bottom right corner of the screen. You can either use that story as a new highlight or add it to an existing one.
Voila! Those clips will be categorized and live at the top of your profile—so anybody can access them when needed.
With the introduction of IGTV, you can also now feature your IGTV segments in your highlight—like The Dodo does within their own highlights.
Take Your Instagram Stories to the Next Level
Grab our ebook Your Guide to Instagram Stories: Measuring What Matters to take Your Instagram Stories game up a notch!
Ready to create your Instagram Story Ideas?
Obviously, there’s no shortage of ways that you can use Instagram Stories to promote yourself or your brand on Instagram. But, figuring out just what you should post there can be challenging.
If you’re in need of some creative inspiration, use one (or several!) of the Instagram Story ideas we’ve pulled together above and you’re sure to knock your own Instagram stories out of the park.