February 22, 2019

Six Ways Small Businesses Can Use Instagram Stories to Increase Engagement

Instagram is constantly changing, but one thing remains the same: Instagram should be a cornerstone of your social media strategy (especially in 2019). The social media platform is a useful platform for small businesses that want to have two-way conversations with their audiences and create long-lasting customer relationships.

Though Instagram has introduced a variety of features over the past few years, one of the most impactful ways you can upgrade your social media strategy is to incorporate Instagram Stories into your marketing.

What’s an Instagram Story?

For those of you who are new to the Instagram game or just haven’t had a chance to play around with Instagram Stories, here’s a little explanation of how the feature works. Every Instagram profile has the option to post a “story” to their account. There’s no limit to how many “stories” you can post. Each post only lasts 24 hours and can be found by clicking on the profile picture of the account, or in the story feed that rests at the top of the Instagram feed. You can upload or choose to capture photos and videos. And better yet, Instagram has filters you can apply to your photos and videos to give them a polished look.

Instagram Stories Are Growing

Instagram Stories aren’t just growing, they are exploding. Over 400 million users are viewing, watching, interacting, and tapping through Instagram Stories daily. You read that right, daily. That’s a whole lot of people that can experience your company in 10 seconds or less.

If the 400 million users a day statistic didn’t sell you on Instagram Stories, then keep reading. Instagram Stories require less planning and fewer resources but have big payoffs. These posts don’t require a “peak time” to post at because they live on your stories for 24 hours, meaning if you have night owls or early birds in your target market, you can capture both.

How Small Businesses Benefit From Instagram Stories

You don’t have to be an international corporation to add Instagram Stories to your social media toolkit. The most localized business really stands to benefit from Instagram Stories. If the feature seems a little overwhelming, here are six easy ways you can start using Instagram Stories.

1) Use Location Stickers to Generate Local Buzz

No matter how many physical locations your business has, you can generate localized traffic and engage with users in your area through story posts. A great way to do this is by using location stickers in your stories. Posting behind-the-scenes snapshots at your business or of a new service are great, but it’s even better to include a shiny location sticker that attaches your post to that location. This way, you can even show up on that location’s “Explore” page on Instagram. And guess what? People that are searching that location can see your story without even following you.

Here at PHOS, we’ll add the “Gainesville” location sticker to our posts to create a conversation in our home city!

A screenshot of PHOS Creative using location sticker

The more engagement in your story, the more likely your story will show up in explore results. This is especially beneficial if you are looking to capture more interest in people moving to your geographic area if you are a home service business. Or, if you have a restaurant or business that heavily relies on tourists, you can be easily found by them through this method.

2) Post to Your Facebook Story, Too!

If you have a Facebook page for your business, you can easily add your Instagram story post to your Facebook page’s story as well! A story can be cross-posted to increase engagement across both channels. And don’t worry – Facebook stories has its strong points too. Over 150 million people are watching Facebook stories daily. Another perk about posting the same story on both platforms is that you don’t have to spend more time creating content. When you post on Instagram, just tap the “Post to Facebook” option and boom, you’re all set!

3) Highlights Lets Content Live Past 24 Hours

You might be hesitant to put effort into something that will disappear in a day, but we’re here to ease your Instagram worries! Instagram Stories may disappear from your story after 24 hours, but they can continue to live on in Instagram Story Highlights. Just tap the “plus sign” under your business profile, add a branded cover, and select any past stories that you want to feature on your Instagram profile. Additionally, Instagram will let you include stories you posted about before you even knew highlights were a thing.

The blood, sweat, and maybe tears put into each story won’t be wasted with Instagram Highlights. Organizing your posts into categories such as “About Us”, “New Products”, “Testimonials”, “How-To’s”, and “FAQs” can help users navigate to your most helpful content at any time. Plus, users who may not follow you or haven’t interacted with you can find information related to your services and your company right when they look at your profile. Think of your Instagram Highlights as your website’s navigation bar.

At PHOS, we use our five core values to organize past stories on our Instagram account. Everything we do at our company falls under one of these values: love, community, creativity, leadership, and integrity.

A screenshot of story highlights on PHOS Creative's Instagram

Users can see how we follow these values each and every day with just one tap!

4) Share Milestones With Countdown Stickers

Another new feature that small businesses can use to engage with followers and those not following you are countdown stickers. You can input a specific day and have a live countdown going on your Instagram story post.

Small businesses have an advantage with this feature because you can celebrate so many milestones with your followers. Be authentic and share big moments through countdown stickers. Opening a new location across town or in another area? Post it with a countdown sticker. Celebrating your 5 year anniversary? Throw a countdown sticker on it! Celebrating big milestones or small moments alongside your followers creates a deeper link between you and the people that care about your business.

5) Generate Sales With Shoppable Stickers

If your small business has e-commerce, then you are sure to benefit from using shoppable stickers. Plus, Instagram doesn’t require an account to have a minimum number of followers to use this feature. All you need is to have an online portal where you sell products. To use shoppable stickers, simply post new products or on-sale items and then tag them on your story to help users navigate from Instagram to your online storefront.

6) Engage New Customers and Nurture Followers

Above all the benefits we discussed above, Instagram Stories puts a voice to your business. Small businesses rely on trust and stories help you do exactly that! You can use functions like polls to create fun content that makes users stop and engage with your story. Or, try the questions function to get direct feedback from your followers.

You can provide behind-the-scenes content that allows your followers to get an inside look that others may not see. The more authentic the better. Plus, Instagram story posts are growing 15 times faster than feed-based sharing, according to Hootsuite’s 2019 Social Media Trends Report. So there’s no better time than now to get started with the feature!

Now Go Do It!

How do you start using Instagram Stories? Just jump right in! There is no one right way to use Instagram Stories. All you need is a commitment to posting and a willingness to try. You don’t have to be perfect and spend hours editing your content. The appeal of Instagram Stories is that it’s real-time, authentic, and unfiltered. Showcase your voice and what matters to your company through your stories and keep the branded content for your page’s feed.

At PHOS, we want to tell your story in a variety of ways. Social media channels like Instagram create big opportunities to convert leads to customers and customers into devoted fans of your business, at any size. Take a peek at our Social Media Marketing Services page for more information about the social media expertise that our team can provide your business.

Bailey Revis

Bailey is dedicated to infusing joy into every single touchpoint she has at PHOS with team members, clients, and our community. As Director of Marketing, she oversees our incredible team of marketers, supporting them as they foster great relationships and exceed our clients’ goals.

Outside of PHOS, you’ll likely find Bailey talking non-stop about Taylor Swift, enjoying an abundant amount of cold brew, curating incredibly niche Spotify playlists, or chasing sunsets.