This year, more businesses are going all in on Instagram Stories, with the Stories format quickly becoming the hottest social media option. Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says so - according to Zuckerberg, Stories are on track to overtake the News Feed as the primary form of social sharing.
Momentum for Stories is clearly building - and as such, if you're looking to create your own Stories content in order to connect with your audience, it'll take more than simply being present. You'll also need to step up your Stories game to compete with rising attention in the space.
Luckily, there are a ton of different ways to brand your Instagram Stories - using these simple features, in a consistent way, can add a heap of personality to your Stories, and help you build a recognizable brand aesthetic.
In this post, we’ll explain the importance of Instagram Stories, how to customize your content, and outline the various features you can use to optimize your Instagram Stories strategy:
Why Your Business Should Be Using Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories are a fun, free, and effective way for you to engage with your followers, and stay top of mind - even if they don’t see your regular posts in their feeds.
In fact, Instagram Stories is quickly becoming one of the best channels to drive engagement, build brand awareness, and even make eCommerce sales.
Here are some of the different ways in which you can step up your Instagram Stories content:
1. Customize Your Instagram Stories to Fit Your Brand Aesthetic
Your Instagram aesthetic isn’t only important on your feed, it should also be carried over to your stories as well.
When one of your followers views the stories at the top of their feed, they should be able to tell that it’s your content they’re watching, without necessarily having to see your name in the top-left corner. Plus, your followers are much more likely to convert into brand advocates when they know they can expect consistent, high-quality Instagram Stories from your account.
A great example is India Earl, a popular photographer who always stays “on-brand” by sticking to the same color palette, fonts, and design across her social channels, including Instagram Stories.
This makes it super easy for her audience to know exactly whose story they are viewing:
Creating templates for your Instagram Stories is a great way to help you quickly put together a cohesive story, which also aligns with your brand. Tools like Canva and Design Kit offer a ton of different templates you can use to build a consistent (and gorgeous) aesthetic.
Add Stickers, Gifs and Polls to Your Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories offer a ton of design features which can help you add personality to your content - and they’re constantly adding more. It seems like Instagram rolls out a new Stories feature every few weeks, giving users fun even more ways to connect with their audiences.
You can access most of these features by clicking the sticker icon in the top-right corner of your screen when creating a story. Once you click the icon, all the feature options will appear:
Try adding GIFs, stickers, locations, and hashtags as often as possible (without over-using them, of course). By using all these features, you’ll have a better chance at keeping your audience engaged and will give them a reason to spend more time viewing your Instagram Stories.
Hashtag & Location Stickers
Recently, Instagram expanded its Explore page to include hashtag and location stories. Now when you add a hashtag or location sticker to a story, other users may be able to find it if they search that hashtag or location.
This gives you the opportunity to reach tons of new and undiscovered audiences with your Instagram Stories. And if they like what they see, they might even give you a follow.
To add a location to your story, simply click on the location sticker and type a location. Your story will then appear within the collection at the top of the search results for that location (provided your Story is 'Public'):
Adding a hashtag to your story is just as easy - you can either type in a hashtag with the text tool, or you can use the hashtag sticker to add in the hashtag of your choice.
When people search for a hashtag on Instagram, if it’s popular enough, they’ll be able to see all the active, recently shared Instagram Stories for that hashtag at the top of the Search page. So just like adding a location to your story, by adding hashtags you can use this to reach new audiences.
Keep in mind that you’ll receive a notification from Instagram when your story is added to the search results for a location. And when someone views your story from a hashtag or location page, you’ll see the name of that page when looking at who watched your story in your Instagram Insights.
Text, Color and Brush Options
There are a ton of different ways to brand your Instagram Stories within the app, including different fonts, brush options, and stickers. But there's also a lot of flexibility within these features themselves.
For example, you can customize the color of their text or brush strokes by selecting a new color from the bottom of the screen. Just hold your finger down on any of the color options to pull up a larger spectrum of colors to pick from:
You can also use the eyedropper tool on the left of your color palette to select a color directly from your story. This will help you keep your story elements branded and cohesive.
Last year, Instagram rolled out the ability to add links to Instagram Stories, and it’s a pretty big deal - in fact, it’s the first time ever that users can add links to Instagram that aren’t the link in their bio.
The functionality is currently only available to users on an Instagram Business profile with 10K+ followers. If you meet these requirements, you should be able to include a “Swipe Up” option in your stories and drive traffic to your web campaigns, product pages, blog posts, and more.
Showcase Your Business with Instagram Stories Highlights
Creating your own Instagram Stories Highlights covers is a great way to keep your Instagram profile on brand - and they’re also an awesome way to share important information about your brand directly on your Instagram profile.
Since your Instagram Stories Highlights are located directly below your Instagram bio (aka front and center on your profile), you’ll want to ensure that they stand out and grab people’s attention.
Take Stance, for example - the socks and underwear company uses Instagram Stories Highlights to showcase their products, events, user-generated content (UGC), and more:
Because they’re so flexible, Instagram Stories Highlights are a powerful and creative way for businesses to tell their brand story, get more followers, and even make more sales.
Creating a Content Strategy for Instagram Stories
Having an Instagram Stories content strategy in place is important if you truly want to connect with your followers, and reach new audiences.
Unlike regular Instagram posts, Instagram Stories usually show a “less-filtered” view of you or your business - and they require a lot less time for planning. So don’t be afraid of jumping right in.
Of course, as with anything you post on social media, you’ll want to ensure that your story content aligns with your business’ branding and overall marketing goals. Whatever you choose to share on Instagram Stories, just make sure that you’re providing value for your audience - it’s the best way to keep them coming back for more.
Here are a few content examples that works well on Instagram Stories:
Promote a New Product
Launching a new product? Jump on Instagram Stories and let your customers know.
While you're creating your social media posts for the launch, make sure you also take the time to create a well-crafted Instagram Stories strategy as well - that way, you won’t miss your followers who may not see your regular posts in their feed.
A great example is The North Face, which does a great job of tailoring their promotions for Instagram Stories, keeping the message, short, sweet, and enticing:
Give Your Audience a Behind-The-Scenes Look
As noted, Instagram Stories is a great place to show off an “unfiltered” look inside your business. That’s why so many brands use Instagram Stories to give their audiences a tour of their office, a quick product tutorial, to introduce team members, or simply to show off their day-to-day.
Your followers are much more likely to convert into loyal fans when they have a clear view of what your company is all about. By bringing more transparency to your business with Instagram Stories, you’ll have the opportunity to build deeper connections and trustworthiness with your audience.
Quotes and Testimonials
This year, Instagram also introduced “Type” mode, which a new way for users to share what’s on their mind with creative text styles and backgrounds.
To switch to Type mode, all you have to do is open your camera and tap the Type button at the bottom of your screen. You’ll find it next to “Live”, along with your other camera options under the record button:
Whether you use Type mode to post your favorite song lyrics, ask your followers a question, or just let people know what’s on your mind, the feature is a great way to add personality your Instagram Stories and keep people engaged.
Instagram Stories are also a great way to delight your audience by offering them exclusive freebies. Free wallpapers, recipes, and cheat sheets are just a few examples of some freebies your business can offer - they can be a fun way to interact with your audience and grow your exposure.
If your business hasn’t gone all-in on Instagram Stories yet, now is the time. As Instagram continues to add more creative tools and features for businesses, Instagram Stories is becoming an indispensable tool for brands to help reach their marketing goals.