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Grow Your Business Social Media

How to Use Instagram Stories for Your Business

How to Use Instagram Stories for Your Business
Credit: Natee Meepian/Shutterstock

Like Snapchat Stories or Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories allows you to post photos and videos in chronological succession to tell a "story" over the course of a day. These images do not appear in your regular collection of Instagram posts; instead, after a 24-hour period, anything you've posted to your story will disappear.

"Instagram's new update is a direct duplication of Snapchat's functionality, with a few key parts missing, for now," said Jenny Marder, director of social media at Red Tettemer O'Connell + Partners. "Similarities include the ability to add captions or colored filters, but lack 'lenses' which add in more of a fun factor for current Snapchat users."

According to an Instagram release, with Instagram Stories, users won't have to worry about over-posting. They can share as much as they want throughout the day, without clogging their followers' feeds.

Instagram is a useful tool for small business owners. The free app is an excellent source to showcase products and make feel customers feel included in "behind the scenes" aspects of your business. And now you can shop through the Stories, thanks to a partnership with Shopify. Merchants simply tag products in a post that will allow users to click to buy without leaving the app. 

"Small businesses have an advantage when it comes to new tools like Instagram Stories. My advice is to use them and tweak your strategy along the way," Marder said. "Bigger companies have far more hoops to jump through when it comes to creating platform strategy and overall content, so use the size of your business as a way to experiment with new tools."

Business owners should take into consideration that does not mean the end of Instagram's staple "feed" which showcases permanent photos. Ultimately, this means deciding which content deserves the urgency of the Stories and permanency of the traditional feed.

"Small businesses often tend to have fewer resources and on the ground efforts for social, so finding the balance between [stories and more permanent] posts will be critical," said Andrew Caravella, vice president of marketing at Sprout Social. "The main focus should continue to be on cultivating community through engagement and ongoing dialogue."

The dialogue in particular can reach different demographics based on the app, so social media managers should take into account that though the update is a lot like Snapchat, the reach isn't the same depending on the platform.

With the development of Stories, Instagram has tapped into the viewing behaviors of the younger audience, Marder suggests the company understands the teen demographic using the app deletes posts that don't get enough likes or engagements.

"The most noteworthy aspect of this entire release is the amount of users currently on Instagram versus Snapchat, as well as the demographic differences," Marder said. "Instagram and Snapchat skew younger on average than Facebook, and its advertising offerings are much more enticing for brands hoping to reach millennials and Generation Z."

As for the older audience, Marder adds, Instagram Stories allows them to stay on the platform they've started to migrate to, rather than learning an entirely new platform. Snapchat's design has already proven to be a struggle for the older demographic to understand, based on its somewhat complicated user interface. On Instagram, this demographic will learn how to create the same type of fleeting content without natural challenge that comes along with learning a new technology.

"For small businesses and new brands trying to find their voice on social, Instagram Stories will be a great way to test content, find out what works and adapt very quickly," Caravella said. 

Additional reporting by Shannon Gausepohl.

Anna Attkisson

After getting infected with the publishing bug at Wireless World and Cellular Business magazines, Anna Attkisson went on to dabble in all sorts of publications covering everything from children's fashion to financial planning, cars and travel. She then spent 10 years, writing and editing for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide. And now she oversees the editorial planning for Business.com and Business News Daily. She has a B.S. in journalism from the University of Kansas and is passionate about learning.

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