If you’re reading a post about posting on Instagram Stories in order to increase your followers, you’ll already be aware of why Instagram can be a great social media channel for your business. You’re already posting on your feed, but are you posting on your Instagram Stories regularly? Before we get started with what Instagram Stories are and give you some ideas for posts, take a look at some of these incredible statistics!
Instagram Stories statistics
- Instagram has over 1 billion accounts worldwide that are active every month
- More than 500 million accounts use Instagram Stories every day
- Over 90% of accounts follow a business on Instagram
- A third of the most viewed Stories are from businesses
- 200 million Instagram users view at least one business profile every day
- Brands post an average of 2.5 Stories per week
- 62% of Instagram users say they have become more interested in a brand or product after seeing a Story about it
- Brands posting Stories on Instagram have an 85% completion rate
What is an Instagram Story?
Instagram Stories is a feature that was added in 2016 that has allowed users to add images, video and live content to their profile, but in a slideshow format. At first, the Stories feature was heavily criticised for being too much like the My Story feature in Snapchat – and indeed, many similar features exist in both apps, including the content only being available for 24 hours, adding text, drawings and emojis to each Story, and filters and augmented reality features are available. Story content can be shown in an arranged sequence, and can be saved in Highlights, so that the content doesn’t disappear after 24 hours.
Instagram designed the Stories feature for people to be able share more of their lives with their followers, and to show parts of their lives that they want people to see but maybe don’t make it to their main Instagram feed – especially if a certain ‘Instagram Aesthetic’ is being adhered to. Businesses are able to use the Instagram Story feature to show their followers more about their business, to be more authentic and to help customers find out more about the brand.
Before you get cracking – be sure you’ve ticked these off!
Whether you’re new to using Instagram for your business or you’re a seasoned pro looking for new ways to increase your following, it never hurts to just check that you’ve got the basics covered. By getting these right, you’ll be more likely to get more followers organically – and that’s exactly what you’ll be looking for.
Check your profile
It’s incredibly basic, but you wouldn’t believe how many Instagram accounts we see that belong to businesses that don’t use their bio properly. Your Instagram handle should be the same as your other social media accounts where at all possible, so that it’s easy for people to see that your account belongs to your business and isn’t a fake. If the exact name isn’t available, try and get a similar one across all your platforms – try ‘official’ or ‘social’ at the end of your account name.
Once your account name is set up, it’s important to ensure you have the right information in your bio – you only get 150 characters in your bio, but that’s prime real estate! Make sure you’ve added your website link, and that you’ve set your company logo as your image.
Your Instagram followers want to see your content, and they will come to know when to expect it from you. Getting the right balance of how many posts you’re making is important too – and as we’ve said before, quality is so much more important than quantity. If you’re posting on your feed, or your Story all day every day, your followers are likely to stop following you pretty quickly! Posting your well-planned content a few times a week, at times that your followers or target customers are likely to be online will be much more effective than trying to post more often and being stressed about what you’re going to post next.
Create a compelling style
As you already know, Instagram is all about the pictures – and so a consistent style is important for your brand. Google ‘Instagram Aesthetic’ and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands of articles and mentions about it – but it isn’t just a case of making your feed look and feel the same throughout.
Think about your brand and what you want your followers and customers to take from your Instagram feed. Styling your feed according to your branding will help customers feel they have found the authenticity in your brand, and it will help them recognise your photos in their feed. For you, keeping your aesthetic consistent can even help you come up with new ideas when you’re running on empty.
Use captions thoughtfully
When you’re planning your Instagram content, you’ll be planning the images that go on your feed carefully – you’ll be trying to choose images that appeal to your followers and any target customers that find you on Instagram. But although a picture might speak a thousand words, using great captions will help you to create a better experience for your followers. You get 2,200 characters for your Instagram captions, so you can really make the most to get your brand voice heard, and get a really full message read by your followers.
If your picture really does tell the whole story, then consider using one or two emojis to convey additional meaning. However long your captions are, don’t forget to use relevant hashtags – they will help new followers to find your content – and include a call to action.
There are countless articles recommending the optimal number of hashtags to apply to a post, and there are just as many suggestions for what that number is! You’re allowed to use up to 30 hashtags, but that doesn’t mean you need to use all of those.
Using the most relevant hashtags for your brand and your products, as well as identifying those that are so overused they are almost worthless is important too – because otherwise your post gets lost amongst millions of others.
There’s a trend to add your hashtags a couple of lines below your bio, or on your first comment – either way is fine, since once your followers start commenting those hashtags will move down and off the screen pretty quickly.
Add your Instagram handle to your branding
Wherever you communicate with people is an opportunity to encourage them to follow you on social media. So, add your Instagram (and other social media channels) handle to as many places as possible. Online that means on your email signature, on your website, and cross-promoting your social media channels. Offline, when you’re ordering your next lot of stationery, update your company letterheads, invoices and packing slips, business cards and any marketing materials like leaflets or brochures.
If you spot another opportunity to advertise your social media handle, it is well worth doing so. If people notice you have an Instagram account and they’re interested in your business, then there is more chance that they will follow you.
35 great ideas for your Instagram Stories
This is what you came to this post for – the ideas that you can use to help you populate your Instagram Stories. With 35 options, we’ve provided what could amount to over a month’s worth of content ideas. Some of these ideas you might use on the same day, but with this many to choose from, you can keep creating content all month long and not repeat an idea – unless you want to, of course!
- Use location markers
This is especially important if your business has a customer facing premises – it is another way you can advertise yourself! Research has shown you’re likely to get a 50% increase in Story views if you add location markers to your Story posts, and if you add relevant hashtags as well, you’re likely to get even more views. Super easy!
- Create a poll
There’s an incredibly useful feature on Instagram now that businesses can use to find out just what their customers are looking for – adding a poll to your Story. You can choose to ask your customers silly questions, to increase your engagement – like, should you have a chocolate biscuit or a custard cream with your morning cuppa! Getting your followers to do something like responding to a poll – although it is simple, will increase their investment in your brand and make it more likely that they will respond in the future, and
Once you’ve started to see bigger numbers of replies, you can start to add more questions that can influence your business decisions. For example, if you’re considering releasing your bestselling product in another colour, you might ask whether customers would like to see it in yellow or green.
- Ask followers to message you
You’re on a social media channel – so use it to be sociable with your followers! Inviting your followers to message you is showing them that you care about them. If you’re going to use this as a strategy to increase your followers, you’ll need to be prepared to actually reply to any direct messages – otherwise people will clearly see that you’re just paying lip service and they will stop following you.
- Ask people to turn on their notifications
While you’re on your Story, remind people to turn on their post notifications! Then every time you post something, their phone will alert them – which will increase the number of likes and comments that you’ll get.
- Be real
Your followers are following you for a dose of authenticity. Your Instagram Stories is a place you can show off what is really going on – and if you’re having a ridiculously busy day, or you’re not having a great day – talk about it! Although some followers will be looking for complete positivity, the majority will appreciate you being real about what is going on. If you’re normally upbeat but just don’t feel that today, you can say that – everybody has a rough day now and again, and you can always acknowledge how you’re looking forward to bouncing back tomorrow!
- Get on your soapbox!
If you’ve got a bee in your bonnet, or there is something you feel passionately about that is on your mind, it’s very likely to make for an engaging Instagram Story. You’re allowed to have an opinion, although you will need to bear in mind that others are allowed to hold another point of view – so you will need to be ready to get DMs (direct messages) about your Story. You’re likely to see an increase in followers from people who agree with what you say, but you need to be ready for people unfollowing you if the opinion you hold is a little more controversial.
- Talk about your new products or services
When you’re launching anything new, draw attention to it by talking about it on your Instagram Stories! You can start with a teaser photo – and work up to a product reveal from there. You can combine these Story posts with Instagram Live content to really get your followers excited about your new product or service.
- Add stickers
For Story posts that you feel require a little more pizazz, add in some stickers! Use them to hide faces of team members who don’t want to be seen on the Story, or if you’re out for lunch or after work drinks with your team, add ‘Cheers’ stickers – and of course, use the appropriate hashtags, such as #companydrinks
- Talk about your range of products and services
We just mentioned talking about exiting new stuff on your Instagram Story, but you didn’t get to the level you have without your old faithful, best selling products. Your long-term followers are likely to be aware of your top selling products, but you can highlight other items that you have too – which can increase the number of orders, or people booking that service. And don’t forget, as the number of followers increases, you’ll find that the new followers will be interested to learn more about those best sellers, and why they’re best sellers too.
- Add shoutouts
You might think that shoutouts have had their day, but that’s not the case. Shoutouts are another way that you can reward your long-term customers and followers for their loyalty – especially if they have been gracious enough to tag you in their Instagram posts. Try taking a screenshot of their post, then add that to your Story and tag them, maybe add a ‘thank you’ sticker. It costs you nothing but a couple of seconds of your time, and your customer feels more invested in your brand as a result. They’ll be excited you mentioned them, then they will tell friends and followers about it – and as every businessperson knows, good word of mouth is incredibly valuable.
- Add a Swipe Up
When you have finally grown your followers to more than 10,000, you’ll get access to the Swipe Up feature in your Instagram Stories. This is a fantastic way to link to other website content. If you’re talking about a product, you can add a Swipe Up to take the follower directly to the page with your listing on, or if you’re holding a giveaway, or you just posted something new on your blog – whatever you want to draw attention to, really.
- Show off your latest Instagram post
Won’t people see your latest post in their feed, you might be thinking. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that people are spending more time watching Stories, rather than scrolling their feeds. And there are a lot of people who follow a LOT of accounts, which means that they’re scrolling through their feed without really paying a lot of attention. So it can be worth showing that you have a new post on your feed. Take a screenshot, then add a sticker – there are some great ‘new post’ stickers – and add that to your Story. Easy!
- Add exciting videos
You’re probably already adding videos about your business to your Instagram Story, and you might even have added some viral videos, if they’re relevant. But if you can take a moment to edit your videos using a video editing app, or even post one of your TikTok videos on your Instagram Story, then people are more likely to share them.
- Add raw videos
If you don’t have time to edit your videos, that’s fine – depending on the content of your video, just adding music can be all you need to enhance the content. Snatch little clips of video all over the place – from your stock room, to the shop floor, to that trade event or your coffee run. You only need 15 seconds to have enough video for one Story slide, and the authenticity will be appreciated by your followers.
- Add a quote to your slide
Do you have a quote that you live by? Or perhaps you’ve stumbled on one that has particularly inspired you recently? Add one to a photo you’ve taken, and post – simple! If you want to make your post really pop, you can use websites like Canva to help you create your post. Amongst many other useful, quick and easy templates, they have Instagram templates that make it really simple to drag and drop, add text to your photo and so on.
- Keep your Story simple
When you want to get your point across simply – for example, you want to say Good Morning, or Good Night – then using a simple background, or a photo with your message typed onto it will work just as well.
- Share a success story
You work hard every day to make your business a success. But it isn’t every day that you’ll receive amazing feedback from your customers. Sometimes, it might be a while between positive feedback from your customers! When you get some great feedback, you might add screenshots of that feedback to your Instagram Story. By using a screenshot, you’re making it clear that the feedback came from a real customer, which will help increase the trust in your business. If you can tag the person as well, as we suggested before, you’ll be helping them to feel even more positivity towards your brand – which again, can boost good word of mouth.
If using a screenshot doesn’t feel quite right, then you might film a Story, talking about how fantastic it was to receive the feedback, how it made you feel, and how you’re going to implement that feedback in your business.
- Showcase your achievements
Did you just win an industry award? Or get featured in a news article? Shout about it on your Instagram Story! It’s OK to blow your own trumpet – let’s face it, nobody else is going to do that for you! It is worth getting the balance right though – if you’re seen to be showing off too much, people might get fed up, and start to unfollow you. Keep it humble.
- Demonstrate your work
Whether you’re any kind of artist, or you’re in a creative industry like hairdressing, or you’re in engineering – then your Instagram Story can be a great place to show off what you’re currently working on. You might do a short video, use photos to illustrate your progress (or as a preview, if you’re creating something new that you will be selling soon) and use it to create hype about it.
- Show behind the scenes at your business
People LOVE to see what goes on behind the scenes. Where your customers are already following you on Instagram, they’re doing so because they’re interested in your business. Obviously, the nature of your business means that a behind the scenes video might look really different to someone else’s. You might create a video of unpacking new stock, remerchandising your stock on the shop floor, or it might be a case of filming you at your desk as you work. If a process is going to take you longer than a 15 second video (and we think we’re pretty safe in thinking most people’s work takes more than 15 seconds!) then you can record the whole thing and add it to your Instagram Story at double speed, or use time-lapse to create your Story post.
- Create branded wallpapers
If you’re great at using Canva, or other graphic design tools, you can create mobile wallpapers for people to use on their phones. We’ve seen companies creating calendars on their wallpaper downloads with key dates highlighted – such as where a subscription box is being dispatched, or the countdown to Christmas, for example. Creating these wallpapers isn’t difficult, and every time someone reuses it, they will be reminded of your brand (because your branding will be on the wallpaper, of course) and other people may see it, so your brand reach is even further.
Don’t forget to use a Story slide beforehand, so that your followers are ready to screenshot. Just use a quick “Get ready to screenshot!” on the slide before your wallpaper. If you have these free wallpapers available on your website, you can also add a swipe up to take them directly there – with the added bonus that once someone is on your website, they’re more likely to take a look around, and become a paying customer.
- Make a product review
If you have new products to talk about, you’ve tried out a product to help you in your daily life (even if that’s just a new brand of coffee!) or you’re just about to launch a new product, creating a product review can be a great way to spark interest. Be honest about whatever you’re reviewing – whether there’s something lacking, or you’re blown away by how great it is, then say that. And don’t forget to use hashtags and tag the brand that you’re reviewing, so they can see it and return the love by featuring you on their feed.
- Use a brand hashtag
This isn’t just for Stories, but there’s a lot of mileage in creating your own hashtag for your brand. Depending on your business, your bespoke hashtag might be a product name, your brand name or something bigger – like a lifestyle aspiration or a movement that your customers want to be part of. Big-name brands like Boohoo are using #boohoointhehouse, while Nike use their iconic slogan for their brand hashtag – #justdoit. Whether you decide to run with a slogan-based hashtag, your company name or a play on words that might increase your following, it’s always a good idea.
- Show off your workspace
How is your desk looking? Are you a super minimalist person, or is your desk ‘organised chaos’? Or are you one of those lucky people that has a laptop lifestyle and can work by the pool or on the beach while you’re on your travels? We’ve talked about showing ‘behind the scenes’ at your workplace, and showing your individual workspace is another way to populate your Instagram Story. You might combine your #workplace post with a poll – for example, “are you a tidy desker, or organised chaos?” – that information could tell you a lot about your followers and your target customer!
- Cross-promote your other social media
If you’re on Instagram, chances are you’re on other social media channels too. And although you’re on the case building your followers on Instagram if you’re reading this post, you’ll probably be wanting to increase your followers on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and so on. By talking about your other social media channels – and of course, your YouTube channel, if you’re posting there too – on your Instagram Story, then you’re encouraging your followers to follow you on your other channels. They get more of your content, you increase the reach of your brand and the opportunities for your posts to be shared. Win-win, we think!
- Create a giveaway
Adding a giveaway to your Instagram Story is a fantastic way to increase engagement and to encourage new followers. There are plenty of different tactics to expose new followers to your giveaway, such as asking followers to share on their Story and tag you, or you might work with another brand – so you partner up, and they give away something from your brand on their Story, and you give away something from their brand to your followers. All they have to do is follow the partner brand and tag you both in a Story post, for example. Both your brands benefit from increased engagement and new followers.
- Create a favourites or ‘best of’ post
You’ll have seen this kind of content on YouTube and on blogs – people doing roundups of their favourite things of the month. Businesses might create Stories about their favourite things of the month by team members (if you’re a sole trader and you are the whole team, take notes throughout the month!) or they might create a list of their top bestselling items for the month.
- Do an unboxing
We see so many influencers doing this – and for good reason. People love to see new things being unboxed, from expensive designer bags and tech through to cool little gadgets they found on Amazon or Wish for a bargain. Grab your smartphone, start recording, and show off your new find. If you’re going to be using your delivery for work, talk about how it will impact on your workday. Will it make you work harder, better, faster or make your team stronger? Once your followers grow sufficiently, other brands may start to reach out to you so you can unbox their products on camera.
- Show off a before and after
Where businesses carry out any kind of transformations, this is a perfect addition to your Instagram Stories. Hairdressers, landscape gardeners, painter/decorators, personal trainers and many more types of business that makeover anything will find this type of content brings the followers. Take plenty of photos or video – especially if the makeover is a substantial one (like in the case of a landscape gardener) and choose whether to create one Story slide, or several.
- Create guides or tutorials
Although creating guides and tutorials is probably best saved for YouTube, your blog and your website, you can still add that content to your Instagram Story. If you can make mini guides, and then add a Swipe Up to your longer, in-depth tutorial content, that’s a great way to get more people to your website. If you’re not in the type of industry where creating a how-to guide would be useful (nuclear scientists, offshore engineers and so on…!) then you could talk to your audience and see what they would like to know about your industry. You might find that some of your followers really are interested in seeing tutorial type content, and you’ll be able to capitalise on that.
- Tips and tricks
Rather than posting a long how-to guide, try creating a short tip of the day, or a ‘hack’ that shows off a completely new way to use a product. You can try inviting your followers to send you their tips and tricks – which you can then repost on your Story, and tag them to show off just how clever your customers and followers are.
- Go behind the scenes at events
Most industries have events, and if you’re planning to attend such an event, you can talk about it on your Instagram Story! Show photos of full conference centres, tag keynote speakers, and talk about the seminars or lectures that you’re attending, and what you’ve learnt that you can put into practice in your business. Maybe you’ve discovered some amazing new products that you can’t wait to start selling, or you’ve made a business connection that you’re going to collaborate with – you might not be able to tell your followers the details right now, but you can definitely start hyping them up with the excitement.
- Take your Instagram Story Live
To get a really big following on Instagram, there’s nothing better than creating Live content. Instagram Live is exactly what it sounds like – you’re broadcasting in real time on your Story – and there are plenty of options to make your Live session even more interesting. If you’re planning to go Live at a certain time, then promote that in the days leading up to it, maybe with a countdown on some of your Story slides.
- Use Story Highlights
When you create some absolutely cracking Story content, you won’t want to lose it. Considering that your Instagram Stories are only available for 24 hours after you post them, adding those posts you don’t want to lose to your Story Highlights will mean you can hang onto them, and your followers will be able to see them for as long as you keep them as a highlight. In addition, you can curate your Story Highlights so they have different covers – which means you can show off your products in one Story Highlight, content from an industry event in another, and so on. You’ll know what works for you – so go ahead and start using those Highlights!
- Use follower content
If you’re encouraging your followers to tag you in their posts, then make the most of it. Reposting your follower’s content on your Instagram Stories will mean that you don’t need to create original content – your followers are doing it for you. You’ll want to pop them a DM and ask if you can feature their content on your Story, but there’s relatively few people that won’t be flattered by the request!
Instagram Stories features timeline
August 2016: Instagram launches the Stories format to great acclaim.
November 2016: Instagram adds Boomerang (a type of short video) and Mentions to Stories.
December 2016: Instagram adds stickers to Instagram Stories.
January 2017: Instagram adds Live Video on Instagram Stories.
March 2017: Instagram adds Stories to the Home Feed.
May 2017: Instagram adds face and hashtag stickers to Stories.
July 2017: Instagram adds the option to reply to Stories with a photo or video.
May 2018: Instagram allows feed posts to be shared to Stories.
June 2018: Instagram introduces Shoppable Instagram Stories, plus the ability to add music to Stories.
November 2018: Instagram enables sharing Stories with close friends only.
Use your Instagram Story Insights
When you’re posting to your Instagram Stories, you will want to know how well your posts are doing, and there is some really useful information that you can use to find out how successful a particular type of Story is.
You only get Story Insights once your Instagram account has been changed to a business account, so if you haven’t done so already, make sure you’ve done that. If you have, it’s pretty simple to access the Story Insights for the current Story. Simply tap the Story, swipe up and you’ll be able to tap the eye icon to show the Instagram users who saw the Story, and the chart icon to see the Insights for that Story.
You’ll get what might feel like a mind-boggling amount of information about your Instagram Stories here:
- Impressions – the total number of views your Story had
- Reach – the number of unique accounts that watched your Story
- Taps forward – the number of times someone tapped to skip through to the next Story slide
- Taps back – the number of times someone tapped to return to a previous Story slide
- Replies – the number of messages sent through the Send Message option on your Story
- Swipe away – the number of times people swiped to skip to the next account’s Story
- Exits – the number of times someone left the Story viewer to return to their feed
- Next story – the number of taps to the next account’s Story
It depends on what you’re trying to achieve from your Instagram Stories as to which metric you will be most interested in. For example, if you find that your impressions are high compared to the reach, then that will indicate people are watching your Story multiple times. What was it about that particular Story that made them carry on watching? Can you replicate that?
If you want to get even more out of your Instagram Stories data, you can find third-party apps and tools that can help you get even more information out of your Insights – especially if you’re using Ads in your Instagram Stories – something we’ve not even touched on in this post! If you want to grow your following further, you could also use an Instagram chatbot.
Your Instagram Stories can be a brilliant way to engage with your followers and target customers. They’re inexpensive to produce content for, since they’re designed to be less formal than your Instagram feed – so you can use short clips of video, or you and your team can plan your Instagram Story content depending on what is going on in your business from day to day.
For the best results, be sure to plan your Instagram Stories activities – yes, some can be off the cuff, and perfection is definitely not necessary, but having a plan will ensure you’re not scrabbling around for ideas when you need to post. Finally, remember – if your customers engage with you through your Instagram Stories, then be sure to show them the love back.
Last Updated on September 10, 2020
Aires Loutsaris is a content marketing specialist working with some of the world’s biggest VC funded startups and eCommerce companies. He has 15 years of experience in organic search optimisation and content writing with over 2500 students enrolled in his Udemy SEO course. An ex-head of two award-winning agencies, he has lectured at the University of the Arts, London College of Fashion on content marketing and has consulted for all three of the Universities he studied at: The Open University, The University of Hull and Kings College University of London. Feel free to connect with Aires on LinkedIn or Facebook.