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Creating More Engaging Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are time-sensitive posts that show up at the top of a user’s Instagram feed and disappear after 24 hours. The format was released in 2016 to compete with Snapchat and quickly became one of the platform’s most popular features, with big brands like CNN and The New York Times jumping on board. 

Today, more than 500 million accounts watch and engage with Instagram Stories every day. Even better, 58 percent of Instagram users say they become more interested in a product or brand after seeing an Instagram Story. Not too shabby. 

How can your business make the most of this fun, engaging format? Here are six tips to create Instagram Stories people will want to read. 

Develop a Narrative 

Instagram Stories allow you to add multiple images to the same Story, which is ideal for storytelling. For example, you could show the progress of a new product design, share steps from a how-to guide, or highlight an event you’re attending. 

Most users take video or photos over the course of a few hours, then upload them all at once in the right order. This allows you to spend more time editing, and it ensures all the images expire at the same time — preventing half your Story from hanging out without context. 

Think of an Instagram Story the same way you’d approach a written story. What is the main topic? What do your viewers need to know about each step or event? 

For example, if you want to highlight a conference, you might show the breakfast table, a video of the conference hall in the morning, a shot with co-workers at lunch, a short clip of the keynote speaker, then a clip at an after-work mixer. 

Using storytelling helps your followers feel more connected and engaged with your content — and your brand.  

Add Stickers, Questions, Text, and Polls 

Instagram Stories have several integrated features that can help drive engagement, including Shadow text, questions, polls, and stickers. All of these can be added after you take pictures or videos to help your Stories shine. 

For example, CLEwithkids, a parenting blog, uses video, emojis, and overlay text to make their Stories stand out:

CLEwithkids, a parenting blog, uses video, emojis, and overlay text to make their Stories stand out

You can also ask questions like the Zero Waste Guide does:

Zero Waste Guide asking a question in their story

Questions and polls are a particularly effective way to engage your audience. Depending on the questions you ask, this content could be used to guide your content strategy or develop new content ideas. 

To add stickers, questions, and polls, tap the + button from your Instagram feed, then choose the Sticker Icon, which looks like this:  sticker icon

Add Music or Sound to Lighten the Mood 

Music impacts our emotions, our moods, even our energy level. Adding music to your Instagram Stories encourages an emotional response to your content. Are you hopeful, excited, or nostalgic? Choose a song or tune that expresses that emotion. 

Not every Story needs music, however. Adding sound, like the sound of your train arriving or a short clip of a speech, helps users feel like they are in the moment with you, increasing engagement. 

To add music, tap the + icon in the top of your app, then select Story. Add your image, then select the sticker icon (it looks like a square being peeled off), then choose the “music” sticker. 

You’ll see a selection of songs you can add to your Story. Note that music might not be available for brand Story Ads due to copyrights. 

Make sure to add a sound sticker or “Sound on” text to let users know to turn up their sound! 

In the beginning, Instagram only allowed you to share one link — in your bio. (Which is why you’ll still see comments saying “link in bio!”) Then they released the ability to add links to Stories, but only if your account was verified or had 10,000 followers. 

Now, however, anyone can add links to Instagram Stories. Adding links is one of the most effective ways to turn Instagram traffic into website traffic and sales. 

Here’s an example from Classy Career Girl, an online site dedicated to helping women find a fulfilling career:   

Classy Career Girl includes a link in their story

The Story shares an upcoming webinar and includes a link where followers can register to attend. 

Here are a few other ways to leverage links: 

  • Share a Story that covers the main points of a recent blog, then share a link for users to read it. 
  • Post the profiles of several speakers at a webinar or conference, then add a link to sign up. 
  • Share the features of a new product, then share a link to join a waiting list. 

Adding links to your Story is as easy as adding music. Simply create a Story, tap the sticker button, and add the sticker labeled “link” to add your link. Place the link sticker on your story, and tap to adjust the color or location. 

Share User-Generated Content (and Tag Them!)

User-generated content, like reviews, builds trust. People like to see how real people like a product or service they’re considering buying. 

Sharing user-generated content in your Instagram Stories ensures more people will see that trust-building content. It’s also an easy way to say “thank you” to loyal fans. 

Even better, a USG campaign can be as simple —- or complex — as you like. If you have the resources and really want to build trust, create a branded hashtag and ask people to share their experience using those hashtags, like Rothy’s does:

The hashtag "rothysinthewild"

To expand the reach of your UGC campaign, use paid ads and email marketing to ask users to share their content. 

Then, share that content in your Stories, tagging and thanking users for sharing their thoughts. Add stickers, music, and links to make your content even more engaging. 

Host a Q&A 

Instead of asking your audience questions, how about answering them? Post a Story telling users you’ll be hosting a Q&A session and ask them to share their questions. Then, add stickers to an image and post your answer in text. 

NASA does this regularly, which helps engage their curious audience and lets them share interesting facts about the projects they’re working on: 

NASA's story includes a Q and A

Notice the swipe-up text, which allows them to share additional content about the Webb telescope. 

Pro tip — just because Instagram Stories can disappear doesn’t mean they’re gone forever! NASA saves all the great content from the Q&A sessions and adds it to a Highlight. These can be accessed from their profile page. 

What Will Your Next Instagram Story Be About? 

There’s no doubt that Instagram Stories are fun. They’re an easy way to share content, and the expiration date makes that content feel exclusive. 

Don’t be afraid to be a bit more casual than normal, especially if you’re in the B2B space. Share what makes your brand human — you’ll build a connection and get the engagement you’ve been looking for. 

Danielle Antosz
Danielle Antosz is a content marketing and SEO specialist with more than a decade of experience helping B2B, tech, and SaaS companies grow their businesses online. You can stalk her on Twitter @dantosz.

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