How to use Instagram Stories to SELL MORE

When Instagram first introduced stories, it was criticized for blatantly copying Snapchat. The functionality was the same. Take photos from the app camera, put them up without any fancy edits. Viewing these photos came with a timer and they disappeared after clocking in 24 hours.

In the past one year since it was introduced, Instagram story hasn’t only evolved as a medium that does way more than Snapchat can, it has also become an important marketing medium.

Instagram stories are big winners this year
The Instagram Story is a big winner this year

So why is the Instagram story such a hit?

  1. The ephemeral content that self-destructs in 24 hours adds an immediacy that makes viewers act on CTAs.
  2. The unpolished nature of it humanizes accounts/businesses more easily than permanent posts.
  3. Unlike Snapchat that restricts the viewable audience to only contacts/friends, Instagram stories can be viewed by anybody, depending on your profile settings. If your profile is set to public (like it should be if you are marketing and/or you have a business profile on Instagram), your stories will also be public.
  4. They can be edited any which way, as long as they fit into the story dimensions. They can be hashtagged as well as tagged with locations. This makes them discoverable by the larger Instagram audience.
  5. They are more readily viewable than Instagram posts are. Stories take up the first row of the user’s newsfeed. When a user clicks on one story, all the other stories autoplay till the window is closed. This makes them more bankable than posts.

Currently, the hottest marketing trend, we break down Instagram stories for you so you can sell more through it.

How to create an Instagram story

Step 1: Finding the story icon

On your Instagram home, your profile icon will appear on top, along the row where everybody’s stories appear. There will be a + sign on the bottom right of your icon. You’ll see this also on your profile page. Click on that.

 

Step 2: Choosing your content

This will open up Instagram’s inbuilt camera. You can click your story-image here, or you can choose from your camera roll. If you want to access your camera roll photos, you’ll have to click on the tiny thumbnail of your photos that appears on the bottom left corner of your story camera. Earlier, Instagram allowed only photos clicked in the last 24 hours to be used in stories, but now, any photo from your phone gallery can be used, irrespective of timeline.

At this step, you also get to choose the kind of story you would want to put up. Currently, Instagram offers a variety of options. You can put up the usual image/video under ‘Normal’. Go ‘Live’, like on Facebook. Take a fun ‘Boomerang’. Or make other videos like ‘Superzoom’, ‘Rewind’, ‘Hands-free’ and ‘Stop-motion’.

Step 3: Editing your story

If you swipe right/left, you’ll find a variety of filters. Drawing tools and text edit options appear along the top right of your story. Swiping up will leave you with options to add stickers/hashtags/location/occasion-specials, etc. Tap ‘Done’ when you’ve finished.

           

Step 4: Sharing your story

Once your story is ready, hit ‘Send to’. This will open up the following options for you. You can choose ‘Your Story’ and let it be viewed by everyone, like other top row stories. Or you can personally send it across to a specific user or create a special group of users that you want to share your story with. And there you have it!

           

Step 5: Adding another story

If you want to add another story, while you have an active story, all you need to do is click and hold your story icon, till the ‘Add to your story’ option appears. If your story isn’t to your liking, you can also delete it by viewing it, and clicking on the ‘…’ that appears on the bottom right. The option to delete/share your story/change your story settings will appear. You can customize your Instagram story audience, choose whether you want it to be shareable or not, as well as whether users can respond to it with photos/text or not.

          

How to archive and highlight your Instagram stories

Throughout this year, Instagram has been upgrading its story feature. The latest addition to the list comes in the form of story highlights on the user’s profile.

Stories have always come with a 24-hours-only tag. This new feature changes all of that.

Instagram now wants you to have the chance to go back to your favorite moments and highlight them whenever it suits your mood.

With the new upgrade, all your stories will automatically get stored in your archives once they expire. That’s the little clock symbol on the top of your profile. Your stories and other archived posts are all stored here. When you want to highlight a story or repost a story or publish it as a post, you can do it all from here.

You can also directly highlight an existing story by choosing the option at the bottom of the story.

Instagram story highlights appear on the top row of your profile (regular stories appear only on the top row of your home and around your profile icon), below your bio and right above your posts. Without the 24-hour expiration, stories can be open for new audiences to discover. Unlike posts, they can be categorized, which makes their usage more relevant, especially for business. Imagine you can now separate your product posters/discounts/coupons/works-in-progress and so much more, and highlight them right on top of your profile!

How to market with Instagram stories

With 250 million daily users of Instagram stories, the feature has shot up in the list of favorite tools for online marketers. The option of variable content also makes an effective medium to get users to engage.

To market right using stories, here’s what you need to do:

Tip 1: Add hashtags and location to your stories. Both of these make your story discoverable. So when you’re showcasing a product in your story, choose the hashtag most appropriate for it (one hashtag per story only to avoid clutter). You can find relevant hashtags through OrangeTwig’s hashtag research tool.

If you’re hosting a popup, add your location. You will be more likely to pop up on suggestion lists of people in and around the area.

Tip 2: Get interactive. I like stories where the user is hosting a poll or asking a question. There are more chances of your target group engaging with you if your story has a CTA. Can’t decide on what to make next? Ask your audience.

Instagram story poll example        Forever21 Instagram Story poll

Tip 3: Mention other people. Other sellers. Or even better, customers who have used your products and liked it. Exchange mentions. It benefits both you and whoever you are exchanging with, since it opens up a new audience for both of you.

A popular thing to try is a takeover. This lets you take over someone else’s account for a day while they take over yours. You endorse their products and they endorse yours. It keeps things interesting, as your followers get to see someone new. More importantly, you are introduced to a whole new set of people.

A couple of things to take note of while you do that:

  • Know who you are exchanging with, because you would want them to maintain the polished look of your Instagram that you have worked at.
  • Treat their account better. It’s your one shot, you have to make the best of it. First impression lasts longer than it’s given credit for.

Tip 4: Give your audience insider news. People view stories so they can see something more, something that’s not on your Instagram feed. Your followers would love the opportunity to see the inner workings of your business. Give them a glimpse of what’s happening behind the scenes. Are you working on a new mitten? Are you at the post office to ship out new orders? Are you trying to mind the dog while knitting a beanie? Is your family pitching in to help? Show them to your followers. The unpolished insider look will humanize your brand, while the strategic insights will peak your viewer’s interest.

Tip 5: Make announcements. Since stories follow a timeline, they are a great medium for product/shop-related announcements. Showcase new arrivals. Share product photos. Got a deal running for a day? This is where you let your viewers know. The deal will expire so it doesn’t make sense to put it in the permanent feed. The impermanent nature of the story makes it the best place to notify viewers about special discounts and coupon codes and trending products.

Tip 6: Exclusivity for followers. While stories can be viewed by everybody unless changed in the settings, this is a good place to give preference to those who like/follow/comment on your profile/posts. Reward those who engage with you. Host a giveaway. Restrict some offers to just your followers. You can highlight some stories under a category that’s just ‘Followers’.  Non followers will invariably be tempted to take a look.

Maintain exclusivity for your Instagram followers
Only your followers get the invite

Tip 6: Rotate your medium. Keep your story content interesting. If you’re putting up an image today, try a boomerang tomorrow, a stop-motion video the day after. While polished, keep your content fun. Play around with the tools available. Draw comic strips, thought bubbles, speech bubbles, etc. Superimpose photos.

Tip 7: Tease. Because stories last just a few seconds, they are the perfect medium to tease your customers. Give them a teasing glimpse of a part of an upcoming product. Show a teaser about an upcoming announcement. It’s a fantastic way to keep your customers on edge. In a good way.

Tip 8: Make your story shoppable. If you have a verified account, or a business account with over 10k followers, Instagram will let you add links to you story. When you open your story camera, you’ll see a link symbol right on top, next to the other edit tools. When you tap that, you’ll be able to put in a url. When your viewers see your story, they will notice a ‘See More’ option at the bottom. Tapping this or simply swiping up will take them directly to the url you’ve put in.

DKNY Instagram story link       Mango instagram story

If this feature is available to you, you can drive traffic straight to your product page. You can also link them up to your latest blog post, other social media and any other external page related to your business. It’s arguably Instagram’s best marketing medium.

Tip 9: Go Live. Instagram Live videos are the same as Facebook Live videos, but considering the effectiveness of Instagram marketing, it has seen more success than its predecessor. These work great for real time sale bonanzas, or even as a chance for you to directly interact with your followers. Live videos can be saved, shared and replayed as stories. Viewers can also comment on your ongoing Live and you can respond to them in the video itself.

What’s even better, is that you can add a participant to your Live video. You could add another seller, whose products complement yours. Or you could add a customer who has used and liked a product you’re featuring. Imagine a little interview. To lighten it up, take advance of the various filters Instagram has. Yes, you can get dog years while on Live.

Tip 10: Make your content memorable. The Instagram story is not just your online photo album. You don’t get much time here, so what you put up has to be to the point. Make stories that will stay on your audience’s mind. Make it count.

A word of advice

With all the new upgrades, users have free reign to use Instagram stories any which way they want. Marketing on social media means you can experiment with and deploy any number of strategies to see what works for you. There are a few things to note, though:

  • Find your strategy. Don’t go overboard with how you use stories.
  • Even though there is now the option to highlight your stories and repost old ones, make more use of their real time aspect. It draws in viewers because of the immediacy and impermanence.
  • Use stories to keep your feed clean. I know the urge to post every image you click, every video you shoot, but to maintain the overall aesthetic of your Instagram feed, you should only put the very best photos up there. For the rest, there’s the story.
  • Establish a routine. Consistency shouldn’t just be in regard to posting permanent content. Even stories require consistency. Don’t go quiet for 2 weeks and them bombard your followers with 10 stories at a go.
  • Remember that you are a brand. Your audience needs to remember that, too. Don’t stray so far from your regular Instagram content that they don’t recognize your brand.
Your brand is everything

Instagram is constantly upgrading its features, which increasingly makes it the most suitable social media platform for online sellers and marketers. This is the best time to be selling on it. Don’t miss out.

Read about the best Instagram practices here and check out our InstaSuccess Toolkit.