August 2016. The world held its breath for a moment when Instagram introduced a new-old feature: Instagram Stories. New, because it had never been available on Instagram before. Old, because it was nothing but Snapchat on caffeine.
Like it or not, use it or not, you need to admit that Insta Stories revolutionized the way we have been using Instagram. While users went into a natural Insta bonanza, how to use Instagram stories for business was (and still is) a bit tricky. How long can Instagram Stories be? What are Instagram Story mistakes? What are the best practices for Insta Stories? Let’s find out how your brand can take advantage of IG Stories!
What are Instagram Stories?
Long story short: an Instagram Story is a small piece of content, including photo or video, that is enhanced with special effects: filters, stickers, gifs or text, which is displayed in the format of a slideshow. IG Stories disappear after 24 hours of publication, unless they are added to Highlights on an Instagram profile.
The technical side of Instagram Stories: Size, Length & Formats
To prepare an appealing Instagram Stories for business, you should be fully aware of all the technical requirements when it comes to designing and publishing them. You need to take into consideration, for instance, IG Story dimensions.
So, what are Instagram Story dimensions? While any sizes reflecting in the aspect ratio of 9:16 should be displayed well, the official Instagram story size is 1080 px in width x 1920 px in height. However, there are a few tricks you can use. First of all, to ensure a faster loading time (both for you and your users), you can choose to prepare a photo or video of smaller dimensions, but with the same aspect ratio.
You can publish both photos and videos, but the question is: how long can Instagram stories be? The Instagram story limit sets a maximum display span for photos of up to 7 seconds and for videos of up to 15 seconds.
Some marketers do not take enough care of IG Story size, but it can negatively affect the number of followers and the quality of IG profile. If you don’t want it to be one of your Instagram mistakes, always double-check IG Story dimensions before you hit “send”.
How can Instagram Stories help businesses?
Instagram is no longer just another social media platform for uploading and commenting on photos. Instagram is a huge advertising machine that helps brands sparkle.
According to official Instagram statistics, one-third of the most-viewed Instagram Stories are posted by businesses. The numbers speak for themselves. Businesses do know that IG Stories are important to them, but do they know why they should use this feature and how it can help them?
- Instagram Stories can drive extra traffic to your website. With a “swipe up” feature, you can add a link and redirect your followers straight from an IG Story. While normal Instagram posts give you no opportunity to add links (you are limited to do it in your Insta Bio only or by tagging products in your photos, but the latter is less clear than a link), this format helps you to insert them. According to MarketingLand research, 15-25% of Instagram users swipe up on the links in branded IG Stories.
#ProTips: if you do not have 10k followers yet (since you can redirect your followers directly to your website once you reach this number), you can still use some tricks to send followers to an external source. Here you can find out how to drive people to your website through Stories if you don’t have 10K followers.
- Insta Stories can help you showcase content that did not land on other platforms, or can support content redistribution. If you just launched a new product or published a new blog post, Instagram Stories are a good way to spread the word.
- Instagram Stories for business can be planned, but they have great potential to be spontaneous too. For example, show the corporate culture, the life of the brand or whatever happens behind the curtains during a big show. This is another reason why IG Stories are so popular among Instagram users: they very often show secrets and things that would have never been shown on an Instagram profile.
- Using Instagram Stories for building brand recognition also helps to form a stronger bond with the company. Brands can see who watched their Stories and what kind of content turned out to be the most appealing. Users are becoming addicted to watching the life of celebrities and brands on Instagram Stories. For some of them, it is just a way of spending some free time, but others turn to Instagram Stories in order to be up-to-date with brand life.
- Thanks to many options available within Insta Stories (Questions, Polls, Countdown, Quiz, Chat or sliding scales) you can, as a brand, quickly access feedback and interact with audiences on many levels. Normal Instagram posts lack these options, and brands are increasingly more often taking advantage of these features.
How to use Instagram Stories for business? What kind of industry can be successful on Instagram? It does not come as a surprise that Fitness and Fashion come out on top. However, there are many more industries active on Insta Stories, so you have no excuses to try it out.
What can you post on Instagram Stories?
Your business has just decided to give IG Stories a try? Great, we are sure that your stories will hit the spot! However, you may have quite a few doubts at the very beginning, and one of them can be… what to post on IG Stories?
Here, you can find a few loose ideas of posts that can work best:
- recent promotion or launch of new products
- tutorials and short video clips with reviews
- showing the “human face” of your company: Casual Friday or Throwback Thursday formats
- directly sharing posts from your Instagram feed or posts you are tagged in
- re-sharing user-generated content (for example, if your brand is tagged there)
- sneak peek of a new blog post or interview
- quick contests and polls with questions to the audience
- countdown, e.g. to starting sales
- sliding scales for giving feedback to your products
- posts from conferences or events where you can mention a lot of other people and pages
- new ideas of how to use your products or services
- brand-related materials (e.g. downloadable assets with the Swipe Up option)
- links, links, links!
In the next paragraph, you’ll familiarize yourself with some examples coming from the best in the business. Who knows which of them will inspire you?
Examples of successful Instagram Stories
We could list a lot of amazing examples that are out there. There are many brands who know how to use Instagram Stories for business, and we would like to introduce you to a few ideas that you can consider implementing for your strategy.
When you enter Airbnb’s IG profile, you mainly see photos of destinations and famous venues or sightseeing spots. However, the magic happens in their Stories, where the brand makes the most of these features.
For people thinking of renting out their apartments (obviously, on Airbnb), the brand prepared a series of posts with tips and tricks on how to design their flats and houses. It is just an example – there are far more tips on the profile!
Also, Airbnb uses Quizzes to ask their followers simple questions and encourage them to guess the destination. This kind of activity can ignite some shopping and travelling impulses.
Then, Airbnb organises their posts in the form of Highlights, so users have access to those Stories anytime they want to get inspired.
Sephora also uses Highlights to save Instagram Stories for later. The size of their audience is really impressive and, thanks to highlights, followers can come back to their IG Stories any time. They really know how to use Instagram Stories for business!
Aside from showing products and tutorials (Sephora is a cosmetics brand so it should not surprise anyone), Sephora also shows extensive material from their events, making followers crave to be there and celebrate with the brand. Of course, thanks to the Sephora Credit Card Program you can do more… it’s enough to swipe up.
How can Google Maps advertise themselves? You may think that they do nothing more than showing and tagging places. Google Maps, though, encourages people who are Local Guides to take over the account and recommend local places.
These kinds of activities could also be successful as a single Instagram post, but it would be harder to see than a complete Story. In this case, the whole introduction is preceded by recommendations of some must-visit local places and an enjoyable video clip.
This Netflix branch, in particular, does a great job on Instagram. When you take a closer look at activities for the UK and Ireland, you can see some spellbinding examples of building interaction with their audience. If you are looking for some inspiration on how to use Instagram Stories for business, you should definitely follow this account!
Creating wallpapers and sharing them with users as… Instagram Stories? Why not! Netflix knows exactly how to use this method to not only drive more attention and interaction but also to land on some users’ phone home screens and display some productions even further.
A genius idea from Netflix. Tapping once, twice or four times just redirects straight to a particular part of their Insta Story. There is no magic behind it, but they made it look like they hacked the system, and with their shows in the background of course.
Tips & tricks for Instagram Stories
You don’t need to lead a massive brand to prepare some successful Insta Stories. What should you take into consideration when creating one?
- The 1st second of your content, both photo and video, is crucial. If you make a promise, be sure to keep it. Based on only 1 second of viewing, users can quickly decide whether they want to see the rest, swipe up and be redirected to the website, or tap several times to quit your story.
- Provide experience. The biggest reward for you is that someone not only watches your story but they also come back to it and want to see more. Provide them with the ultimate experience, show them exclusive content that makes them want to engage even more. Awaken their curiosity with photo and video content enhanced with native Instagram features. Instagram gives you a lot of opportunities to set your creativity free, while you can still drive amazing business results to your brand.
- Test out interactions. Instagram offers a whole bunch of amazing features that you can use to drive more traffic or get more feedback, but first of all: to amaze your audience with your Stories. We have already shown you a few examples above, but you should keep an eye on your competitors, industry and global brands to see how they benefit from using those features. Also, it can be worth checking what is new with Instagram Stories on a regular basis. Once some new features are rolled out, you can be the first one to test them!
Polls can help you get feedback while a Countdown can be used to build anticipation for launching some new collections or introducing another set of services. Many interactive stickers or GIFs can make your content more natural, while a casual Location can point out where you (or your business) are.
- Stories are for stories. Instagram Stories are not called this name without reason. They should be mainly used for storytelling, not random information, so whatever you’d like to publish, try to involve your users in the story. Think twice before hitting “send” whether or not a particular piece of content is suitable for IG Stories.
You can use our own SIEVE approach.
- Is your story:
If yes, kick it off!
- Save your Stories as Highlights. Don’t let your great content disappear after 24 hours! Saving it to Highlights can help you convert followers into clients even after weeks or months. Also, thanks to Highlights you can organise your Stories and designate them to particular categories. If someone will be looking for one series of your IG Stories, they can find it there.
- Make the most of user-generated content. This can work wonders e.g. for e-commerce. If your clients do show off with your package and products on social media, and tag you in their Instagram Stories, then you can easily share it as your own story too. How does it help? Well, this way, the brand can build a lot of loyalty and trust, and it is nothing but a win-win-win situation. The client is appreciative of the reshare, the brand gets a very valuable piece of content to share further, and followers get another reason to become interested in purchasing. UGC can really help you grow your account and brand.
- It can be hard to take care of your Instagram profile schedule, and to create valuable Instagram Stories at the same time. That is why you may think about automating some tedious tasks. Create and plan your Instagram feed in Kontentino. All of the posts and stories can be discussed internally and then you can send it for internal or client’s approval.
- Don’t look for excuses, look for solutions. As it was aforementioned, having 10.000 followers enables you to add a “swipe up” option to your stories. However, you can also put a simple poll asking “Would you like to know more about my course / my products?” in your Stories. You can directly message whoever answered “yes” with your offer, since they have already expressed an interest. It takes more time and effort, but it can deliver really interesting results.
Common mistakes with Instagram Stories
- One of the most common IG Stories mistakes is to be over-promotional in the stories you publish. Let’s say that you run a fashion brand. Redirecting to your shop without posting much value, all the time can be very off-putting for your audience.
- Another Instagram mistake is to create irrelevant and non-valuable content. Your audience wants to get familiar with insightful Stories, not another promotion or simple redirecting to your blog to find out more. They want to be engaged, not tapping Story after Story to find out if there is anything interesting for them.
- Creating content of low quality is the next Instagram Story mistake. While on a private profile you can share whatever you want, taken by any camera, on a brand’s profile you need to deliver the best content. Photos and videos need to be posted in the highest quality. Also, remember about the right size of your Insta Stories.
- Lack of consistency. One of the most popular of Instagram Story mistakes. Take care of how your Instagram Stories look like. They should not only reflect your brand look as for fonts, colours and tone of voice, but also be consistent with each other. Using too many fonts and stickers can confuse your audience, while your goal should be to make your IG Stories look unique so that no one would mistake them for any other brand. Be professional.
- Stories for yawning. Boring stories are not engaging, and people do not want to watch them – so don’t make this Instagram Story mistake. If you don’t test new things but keep posting the same type of content, again and again, no one will watch your Stories. People love interacting on Instagram, so be sure that your content allows and invites them to do so.
- Lack of analysis. If you don’t want to make Instagram Story mistakes, you need to take a deep look at your statistics in order to deliver the best content for your audience! You can analyse your Instagram Stories in terms of impressions, follows or navigation (whoever skipped your IG Story, exited or tapped on Stickers), as well as how many people were redirected to your website or main Profile. You should check those statistics on a regular basis, otherwise, your efforts may be in vain.
Above, you can see some of those statistics in practice. How can you analyze them and optimize your performance based on results? For example, if a lot of people hit “back” to your Story, it may have been interesting for them and you may want to create some more like it. If too many people exited, then that piece of content probably did not perform as well as you had hoped. Keep your head up high, though – there are a lot of things you can test out!
Paid promotion vs Instagram Stories
While brands can try to engage audiences organically or using a Swipe Up button, they can, of course, boost their activities with some Paid Promotion. Instagram Stories became an integral part of advertising systems, but can also be used separately as adverts themselves.
There are a few methods you can use to promote your Instagram Stories, but remember that your profile needs to be converted into a Business Page first. You won’t be allowed to promote posts from a personal profile on Instagram.
How can you promote Instagram Stories?
- Using Instagram Stories as a placement of your promotion set up with the Adverts Manager/Power Editor on Facebook. Then, IG Stories is just a placement. If you want to prepare a bigger campaign with Insta Stories as part of it, we recommend creating a separate ad set for Instagram Stories. Otherwise, the advertising budget may be spent unequally. This kind of ad won’t be visible in your Story, but will play the role of a break between browsing Stories by targeted IG users.
- Using ONLY a placement of Instagram Stories.
- Promoting an Instagram Story directly from Instagram, using their native features. However, Instagram currently does not support the promotion of stories with tappable elements.
You can target your ads according to many criteria, including reach, video views, traffic, conversions, app installs and brand awareness.
When creating an advert, remember that your creative image or video must be prepared according to the SIEVE approach, but also include a clear CTA. What do you want your users to do with your message? The more clear you are, the more chance for success of their desired action you have.
Tools for Instagram Stories
Having an idea is a part of being successful. Executing it in the form of appealing Instagram Stories, photo or video, is another part. What tools can you use to make it work like a charm for you? We’ve decided to list a few mobile apps and browser-based tools that can help you skyrocket your activities and prepare even better content.
One of the most well-known mobile apps for creating Instagram stories. It offers over 150+ templates, and many of them are free & cute, so you may want to give them a go. You can be sure that they will fit into Instagram Story limit.
Less known than Unfold, but delivers more types of templates, so you can be sure to find something for yourself and your style. It is also a mobile app.
Creating Instagram Stories on mobile sounds natural, but if you need to give them some aesthetic boost and special preparation before you hit “publish”, designing them on your computer can be easier. Easil offers a few series that you can use for preparing your Stories.
Instagram Story Templates from Kapwing
Another, very intuitive tool for preparing your own Instagram Stories based on chosen templates. It’s free and fairly basic, but it is a good shout for a start.
Always on the lookout for new tools and photos that you can use for your stories? Choose this reliable and regularly updated stock photo platform.
Another stock photo website with high-quality pics for commercial use. If you lack your own high-quality photos, this is when stock photos save the day. Of course, we highly encourage you to invest in photos or graphics that will differentiate your brand from others, but we know it can cost time and money.
If you are not a fan of stock photos, but you would like to make your graphic strategy consistent, the Gallery from ManyPixels can come across nicely. You can choose a colour reflecting your brand’s colour palette and you’ll get a whole set of graphics you can use for your Instagram Stories… or posts.
You have probably heard of Canva. You can also create some templates there and use it for many projects on IG Stories. What’s more, Canva allows you to prepare some animated projects now, so creating video clips is just around the corner.
You can create visuals using one of the aforementioned tools or Photoshop, upload them to Kontentino and schedule beautiful Instagram Stories. Kontentino also helps you take care of other stuff on Instagram, such as scheduling Instagram posts or collaborating with your team, while you have fun playing around with Instagram Stories. Doesn’t it sound great?
To wrap up
Instagram Stories is nothing but a great adventure. If you compare Instagram to a theme park, the Insta Stories feature is a rollercoaster: you don’t know how the ride will be, you don’t know who will experience it with you and you don’t know how successful it may be. However, you do know that what awaits you is one hell of a ride.
Instagram Stories can help businesses leverage their IG presence. If you run activities on Instagram and your audience is incredibly engaged, it may be high time for you to introduce Insta Stories to them. Instagram Story limit… is the only one that limits you. Have fun & be creative!