Instagram Stories: How you can use video and photos to build your business

Here's how to formulate a robust strategy for your brand on the booming social platform that is Instagram.

People go to Instagram to connect and communicate with businesses they love. In fact, more than 200 million daily active Instagrammers visit a business profile each. With Instagram influencing 75 per cent of purchase decisions, it’s more important than ever to have a robust strategy for your brand on this booming social platform.

Instagram is continually reinventing itself, adding more and more features. As a small business owner, it can be hard to know where to best direct your marketing efforts and what content you should be producing.

2016 saw the introduction of Instagram Stories – 15-second video or photo clips that disappear after 24-hours, a rival to Snapchat. They’ve been an enormous hit with the Instagram community and make for some seriously addictive viewing. Recent stats show more of us are neglecting to scroll our feeds, preferring to spend time watching the Stories of our friends, family and favourite brands.

All aboard the Stories train

More than 150 million users have a direct conversation with a business on Instagram, every day, with a third of those messages beginning with an Instagram story. So why do Instagram Stories encourage conversation more than a post to your gallery?

“You can turn window shoppers into VIP shoppers”

Sam Burgess, founder of content marketing consultancy Social Mouth says, ‘People buy from people. Your passion, enthusiasm and knowledge come across on film, and that in itself is compelling. Stories help to build know, like, trust; the three things needed for someone to want to buy from a business.’

By being on camera you make yourself, as a small business owner, much more approachable, Burgess adds. ‘Prospective customers feel that they can reach out to you directly and ask you questions such as shipping or sizing and you can delight them by going above and beyond with your customer service. Instagram Direct (private message) is an opportunity for you to chat with your customer one-on-one and close the sale.’

Give your audience a reason to follow your Stories

Stories allow businesses to share valuable insights and behind-the-scenes content, as well as snippets of your life as a business owner. Live broadcast or document in-store events, take your customer on a ‘day-in-the-life’ journey, introduce the team, show them how something is made or even give styling tips. Involve your community in your business by inviting them in, and by doing this you can turn window shoppers into VIP shoppers.

Embrace the fear, and go for it

The number one barrier preventing business owners from showing up on Stories is fear, Burgess says. However, having worked with hundreds of small business owners to build their business and personal brand online, she offers a few steps you can take to fight the fear and bring out your inner presenter:

  • Set yourself a 30-day challenge. Plan out topics for 30 days, so you know roughly what you intend to share each day. Remember your intention is to add value to your customer, increase trust and bring them closer to your brand.
  • When filming, imagine that you are speaking to your favourite customer, by being clear on who you are talking to, will shape the exact content to share. Always have just one person in mind, that way it feels a lot less daunting.
  • Play your clips back for a sound quality check, no matter how hard it is to hear your voice on camera, by watching your Stories you will be able to improve quicker.
  • Don’t be at mercy to the 15-second countdown. Apps such as Continual/CutStory (iOS), Story Split/Story Cutter (Android) can cut up a longer video for you
  • Avoid ‘over-share’. Our short attention spans mean 6-8 clips per 24-hour period is ample; always leave your audience wanting more. Be sure to include a beginning, middle and end to each of your Stories so that users know that there are no more clips to come.

“Create content your community wants to consume rather than content you want to create”

Stories sharing is soon to surpass the 96 million posts already shared per day on the platform. ‘What businesses are loving about Stories is that it is an efficient, easy way to connect with your audience, build trust and break down the barriers between brand and customer,’ Burgess says.

As with all content marketing, you should create content your community wants to consume rather than content you want to create. ‘If you can’t think as to how they would respond, then it’s possibly not the right thing to be sharing,’ says Burgess.

‘With Stories only lasting 24-hours, there’s less pressure on ‘picture perfect’ to be , so swipe right, and hit record.’

Case study: David Armstrong, CEO of HolidayPiratesdiscusses how his travel brand’s use of Instagram and Stories allowed the company to engage its users better.  

David Armstrong

HolidayPirates began life as a travel blog in 2011 but was turned into a company in 2012. Today, we’re one of Europe’s fastest growing, free-to-use, travel search platforms and apps, with over 10 million engaged and active online followers.

I’ve spent the majority of my career working within the travel and tourism industry, and the thing that makes HolidayPirates so special compared to the companies that I’ve worked for in the past, is our incredibly engaged fans. Our users are always keen to interact with us and happy to provide us with feedback to help us improve.

Building a loyal userbase

Since the very beginning, we’ve been generating a loyal userbase via social media. While our largest channel is Facebook, we also find Instagram incredibly useful for inspiring our users to think about their next holiday location, and also to create a connection with them by producing engaging and relatable content dedicated to that channel.

Helped by our proprietary algorithms, our editors search the web on a daily basis in order to identify and publish the best international travel deals available, and our aim is to inspire our users by showing them how to find amazing travel deals, so that they can see the world for prices they wouldn’t even imagine possible.

Inspirational messages are often best communicated through photo and video content, so we find Instagram to be the perfect channel for inspirational purposes. Ever since setting up our Instagram account in 2013 it has also been a place where we can hold a more light-hearted conversation with our followers, as well as share fun and engaging content.

For a long time, we used this platform as a way to maintain engagement with our userbase. However, Instagram Stories is now a key element and game changer for the channel, and we are promoting our deal content via this medium. Although growing our fanbase is still our highest priority, we believe that Instagram stories and the other new possibilities (such as the shopping feature) that have been recently made available have a huge potential to drive traffic and conversions for our travel deals.

A sustainable way of acquiring and retaining users

At HolidayPirates, social media stands for a highly sustainable way of acquiring and retaining users. By joining Facebook very early on, we managed to grow an important user base which now allows us to acquire most of our traffic organically, without spending huge sums of money acquiring users via Google Adwords.

My advice to other businesses is to join these platforms early on and closely watch how they develop, keep testing and learn from your inevitable mistakes that you will make along the way. It’s important to evolve alongside these platforms and have a flexible strategy.

In our case, Instagram is used to inspire our users and to spark conversations with them and their friends. For this we focus on relatable and engaging content, while on Facebook, or through subscribed direct messages on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, we share more detailed information about our deals.

With a proper strategy, social channels such as Instagram can do wonders for your business. The key advice we can offer is to test everything, learn from your mistakes and keep up to date with all the emerging social media trends.

Further reading on social media

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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