How businesses can use Instagram Stories to grow

Instagram Stories is one of the fastest growing social media formats in the world. However, its rules of engagement are quite different than other formats, including its feed-based Instagram Post predecessor. We hope that this guide will help businesses launch their Instagram Stories strategy by demystifying this high potential format.

  1. Why should companies care about Instagram Stories?
  2. How companies can get started with Instagram Stories
  3. How to create attractive Instagram Stories

Why should companies care about Instagram Stories?

Stories are the native format of the mobile era, and Instagram Stories have recently surpassed 500M daily active users. If Instagram Stories were a standalone product, it would still be one of the top 5 largest social media companies in the world! While Instagram is a mature, widely adopted product, Stories is still a bit earlier in the adoption cycle.

Instagram now has 500M DAU

Practically speaking, this means that the people who use Stories tend to be younger and more digitally savvy. This is a real opportunity for businesses to take advantage of this groundswell, but also comes with quite a learning curve as the way Instagram Stories work is quite different from its feed-based counterparts.

Why Instagram Stories are good for businesses

Stories are a more lean-back, passive consumption model for users which means that people are more willing to view content from lots of brands with less discernment than they might otherwise have in other media formats. Further, since the launch of Stories, Instagram has started applying more weight in their algorithm to companies that are regular creators of Stories that have high engagement. This means that outside of the direct benefit companies can get from Stories, they also carry a second-order effect of helping your feed-based posts get seen more consistently as well.

Not only do Stories users skew more digitally native and engage with the Instagram app for longer, Stories are literally the first thing that users see when they open the Instagram app. It’s no wonder that Stories adoption is growing so fast!

A view of the Instagram home screen

Why to use Instagram Stories instead of posts

Despite their rise in popularity, Stories still show less adoption among businesses than their feed-based counterparts. This is largely due to the temporal nature of the product, which places even more importance upon producing design assets by companies. Social media marketing is already a time consuming process for businesses, and Stories only makes this more true given the voracity of its users for new things all the time.

All together, this means that there’s still more demand for Stories content from businesses than there is supply of it today. If you look across your industry set, it’s likely that less than 20% of them consistently post stories today. This creates a real opportunity for businesses to capture an audience and build their brand by focusing on this new social media format.

How companies can get started with Instagram Stories

Getting started with Stories is as easy as swiping right from within the Instagram app to access the Story Maker screen. However, there’s a lot more to it than that if you want to really nail your Instagram Story presence. Due to the volume of throughput needed to win at stories, you need to have a clear point of view on your holistic strategy before even dipping your toe in the water.

Decide on Instagram Stories posting frequency

The value businesses accrue from stories compounds with time, so you shouldn’t expect to see much impact from just posting one story. Instead, businesses must commit to at least 4-6 weeks of Stories posting to even begin to understand whether it will have any impact for them.

A good rule of thumb is for businesses to start by posting 2-3 stories per day, either 5 or 7 days a week. Consistency is important here, as all of the posts are temporal and disappear after 24 hours. Plus, it takes time for Instagram to understand the relative utility of your posts and who they should be shown to.

Decide on your Instagram Stories content calendar

Given this high bar for content throughput, it’s critical to have a clearly defined content calendar upfront. Roughly speaking a sound Instagram Stories content calendar will account for 40-50 posts per month.

There are four main types of content that businesses can consider posting:

  1. Your own content: Things like blog posts, new products, sales or promotions. This should account for no more than 30% of your content calendar, otherwise companies risk their accounts feeling too “promotional” to end users. If you're a creator platform, you can also highlight the users of your product in a way that feels authentic.
  2. Relevant industry news: Important news and updates from around the world that are relevant to your industry and the interests that your users will have. Generally speaking this will be less easy to plan for ahead of time, as news should be shared the same day that it is covered in the press.
  3. Polls and surveys: Some of the most engaging posts in Instagram Stories use their native polls functionality. Polls can be as simple as 👍 or 👎 on a news headline, or asking users questions that you then re-share and incorporate into your content strategy.
  4. Re-sharing influencer content: This can be a great way to get on the radar of influencers relevant to your industry, and can start to create the dialogue with them for future collaborations. When you share influencer content they will often start to follow you as well and can potentially re-share your content as well.

How to create attractive Instagram Stories

Generally speaking, Instagram Stories content can be created by a graphic designer in a tool like Adobe Photoshop or by a marketer in a tool like Canva. These posts can take anywhere from 5-20 minutes each to create, depending on whether they are animated and on how complex they are. When added up across the month, however, this can lead to a time commitment of 5-10 hours per month as each post has to be created manually by hand.

Another alternative is to use Aesthetic, which automatically generates social media posts for its users. All you have to do is enter the URL of the content that you want to turn into social posts, and pick from your favorite variation. This can be a big time saver for companies that want to invest into building their Instagram Stories presence without having to bring on additional resources to help them manage it. You can get started with Aesthetic for free now to see how it would work for powering your Instagram Stories strategy.

How to save Instagram Stories to Collections

While Stories do disappear from the Stories feed after 24 hours, companies are able to save their stories to their profiles using Collections. Collections can serve as a great way for businesses to get repeated value from their Stories investment, and can also act as a great preview to potential future followers about what types of content to expect from you in the future.

The best types of collections to create are around different topics that you post content about frequently. This could be big announcements or new content from your company, or evergreen news content that got lots of engagement from your follower base.

A view of the Instagram collections

The most important thing is to get creative with your content strategy, and don’t be afraid to try new things! If you’re interested in setting up your social media presence without the extra creative overhead, learn more about how Aesthetic can help you with your marketing today!