How to Use Instagram Stories to Build an Audience

Instagram is now officially the best social media platform for online retailers across the world. Hootsuite says that by 2020, almost 76% of U.S. businesses will be using Instagram to promote their products and reach a wider audience. Even with a super saturated market, Instagram has miraculously managed to be the best place for brands to connect with their target customers.

Considering the growing importance of Instagram in brand marketing campaigns, it is impossible to not talk about Instagram Stories.

If you don’t know what Insta Stories are, it’s an incredible feature that allows you to post a video or a photo on your Instagram account for only 24 hours. Once 24 hours are up, your “story” disappears (though, a user can choose to archive/highlight it for later viewing).

So, what’s the point if the Story disappears after 24 hours?

That short window is exactly why Stories have taken over the Insta-world by storm. Fans and avid followers can’t imagine missing out on some of the great moments posted by their favorite brands and celebrities in the form of Stories. This is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in its purest form!

Instagram stories appear in a slideshow format that can only be seen by your followers. Whatever content you share via Instagram Stories is totally separate from the pictures and videos you post to your profile. This is what makes it so effortless for the brands to connect with their followers on a deeper level.

However, as game-changing as this tool is, there is an art to creating good Instagram Stories. There are a bazillion of tools and features inside the Stories that you need to understand before you can create a memorable piece of content.

How to Get Started With Instagram Stories

Now that you know what Instagram Stories are, let’s dive into how you can also start posting your own stories like a pro:

Here is me jet-lagged using filters on selfie-mode. Insta offers so many fun filters try them all!

Recording Your Story

Go to your home feed and swipe to the right. This will open your Instagram Story camera. Or, you can also visit your profile and tap at your profile photo. Then follow these steps:

  • Tap the dual arrow icon to flip the camera view
  • Record a video by pressing and holding the center button, or
  • Take a photo by tapping the center button, or
  • Select an image from your camera roll by swiping up or tapping the square gallery icon on the bottom-left of your screen.

Once you have learned how to post your own Stories, feel free to have fun with all the different formats like REWIND, SUPERZOOM, LIVE, FOCUS, HANDS-FREE, BOOMERANG.

Customize Your Story

You can also customize your Instagram Stories before sharing them with your audience. Just follow these easy steps:

  • Open your keyboard by clicking on the ‘Aa’ icon.
  • Type in any text you want to appear over your story.
  • Press, hold, and drag this piece of text to the exact spot where you want it.
  • Squeeze the text to make it smaller or bigger
  • Click on the marker icon to get to the drawing space.
  • Click any brush stroke from the top or any color from the bottom.
  • Glide the scale on the left corner to decrease or increase the width of your brush stroke
  • Press, hold, and drag to use the brush (you can draw anything with it)
  • Swipe to the left to add a color filter.
  • This is honestly this tip of the iceberg when it comes to customizing your stories…we will dive deeper into this for you, but wanted you to have a jumping-off point!

The key is to experiment and do whatever feels right. Once you’re done unleashing your creativity, tap the “send to” button, and your video or picture will be added to your Instagram Story so your followers can enjoy it!

Check Your Instagram Story Views and Other Analytics

Once you have posted your story, you’ll want to know how many of your followers saw it. Here’s how to do that:

  • Go to your Insta Story by clicking on your profile image in your bio, or you can tap the ‘your story’ button in your home feed.
  • You will see a count of how many users have seen it in the bottom-left corner of each post in your Insta Story.
  • Swipe up to see the list of people who have viewed each individual post in your Story.
  • You can visit the feeds of these users by simply clicking on their usernames.

If you want to keep a strict eye on how many people have watched your story along with their names, follow these above steps within 24 hours of posting your Story. After that, this data will disappear unless you save the post to your Story highlights. But even then, you won’t be able to see the viewers’ names.

And, if there’s a special someone you’d rather NOT show your Stories to, just tap the three-dots to the right of that person’s username, and then click the ‘Hide Story from [their username]. Remember, they’d still be able to see your regular posts on Instagram, just not your Insta Stories.

Add a Hashtag to Your Stories

Hashtags are how your potential fans and followers find you on social media. The same goes for Instagram Stories; using a hashtag can help people find your Story. Here’s how to do it:

  • Once you have recorded your Story using the steps above, go to the top of the screen and tap the folded smiley icon.
  • Now, you’ll see a collection of stickers – click the #HASHTAG sticker.
  • Type in whatever your hashtag is and press enter.
  • Change the color scheme of your hashtag by tapping it.
  • Change the location and size of the hashtag by pinching and dragging it.

Instagram Stories lets you ‘feature' one hashtag # — but you can game the system by adding more hashtags in the comments & hiding it in the post. WHAT? Yep, it's true. You can include 10-15 hashtags in a text box & size it down & hide it behind a GIF or image or if you are Insta-advanced hide it in the actual post with the coloring feature.

ADVANCED FEATURES: Enter your hashtags & then click on the color picker in the lower-left corner & match with the background. This will hide your hashtags, but still, make them searchable. Genius, right?

PRO TIP: Store your Hashtag group in notes or create a shortcut in your phone to make it easier for you to add them to stories & not have to type them out every time. 

Now that you know how to add hashtags to your stories, be very careful about overusing them. Even though Instagram allows you to use as many as 15 hashtags per Story, think twice about using more than 2-3 hashtags at a time. Too many of them can make a post look cluttered and…sorta tacky! (or hide them…PRO TIP!)

Add Emojis and GIFs to Your Story

Ah, emojis. What would be the social media world without them? Thankfully, you don’t have to find out. If you’d like adding a personal touch to your Stories via funny GIFs, emojis, or pictures, here’s how to do it:

  • Once you have recorded your Story, tap at the folded smiley icon located at the top of your screen.
  • Choose a sticker you’d like to use.
  • Tap on the sticker to see if any extra formatting options pop up.
  • If you see anything you like, type in a search term at the top of the stickers search bar. This will show you a huge variety of GIFs.
  • Pinch and drag the GIF you like to change its location and size.

The rules are a little different if you are posting a video:

To add stickers to a video, follow the first two steps as above. Once you have selected a sticker, pin it to a precise spot.

Tap and hold it. Then use the scroll bar to choose the point in your video where you’d like to ‘pin’ the sticker. When you have found a good spot, tap PIN.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Add your location on your stories – this helps you to be ‘found' are you at an event or festival? In a town that is widely searched? Tag IT!!! You never know who will discover you based on tagging where you are.

Other Important Stuff You Need to Know

Like all the other social media platforms, Instagram has recommended guidelines for the size of Stories:

  • The maximum length of the video is 15 seconds. (If your video is longer, it will be automatically split up and get posted as 15-second parts in a sequential order).
  • The perfect picture or video is 1080 x 1920 pixels.
  • The picture or video aspect ratio is 9:16

Also, whenever you add hashtags, stickers, or text to your Story, make sure you stay inside the blue borders. Whatever content goes beyond the blue lines won’t be visible to your users.

And if you have a verified Instagram account or have more than 10,000 followers on Instagram, you can add links to your Stories. This exclusive feature can be invaluable if your account is linked to your business website or online store.

To add a link to your Stories post, just tap the link icon at the top of the screen, then tap the URL and enter your link. Click ‘Done’. It is super easy and can boost your sales. But, again, to use this feature you must have a verified account or at least 10,000 followers.

Get Started

A recent study shows that one-third of the most watched Insta Stories are from businesses. Whether you have just created an Instagram account for your business or you’re already enjoying great brand awareness courtesy of the growing crop of Instagram influencers, make sure you take full advantage of Stories. It can offer precious insight regarding your audience’s behavior, what they respond to, what’s working and what isn’t.

So, go ahead and start telling your Stories! Tag @SociallyPowered & we will share your Insta Story Successes! 💥

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About the Author

Erin Cell

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Erin Cell, is the Founder & CEO of Socially Powered, LLC. helping business owners Power Up their online presence since 2012. Erin trains and speaks on social media around the world focusing on strategy, Instagram and marketing for blockchain, cryptocurrency and events..