If you’re new to Instagram, (and even if you’re not) you might be a bit confused about Instagram stories.  What are those tiny little circles across the top of the screen? How do you post your own stories? And what on earth is the point anyway?  I mean, you already have an Instagram feed – what’s so different about the stories feature?

Instagram (IG) stories just appeared one day and we’re supposed to know what to do with them.  But it’s not always obvious how to use them to their full potential.

Because the truth is that they CAN help you add another dimension to your social media marketing.  And it’s really not that hard.

I’ve been playing with IG stories over the last few months and have come up with 5 ways they can help you in your business:

They give your customers ‘behind the scenes’ access:

To be willing to buy from us online, our customers have to get to LIKE, KNOW and TRUST us. But how on earth can that happen when we’ve never even met them?!  The answer? To give them a little glimpse into our everyday lives.  

Now of course there is a limit.  I wouldn’t recommend letting everyone know that you’re having treatment on your ingrowing toenails or anything.  But allowing people in for a sneak peek into your life can really help them to get to know and trust you as a REAL person. After all, people buy from people, so anything you can do to show people who you are as a person is helpful.

It’s often difficult to do this on the Instagram grid, where it’s everything needs to look pretty and polished.  But it’s really easy to do this on Instagram stories, in a much more casual way.

Your photos don’t have to be as polished:

Yep, as I mentioned above, Instagram stories don’t have to be as polished and pretty as the photos on your main grid. Neither do they have to all fit a consistent look.  You can try things out, and know they’re only there for 24 hours. Plus they’re not laid out on a grid – so they don’t have to collectively make sense in the way the photos you post on your normal feed needs to.

This means you can be much more spontaneous on Instagram stories, with less time spent editing photos and more time just being you.

You can share other people’s posts:

Yes, you CAN repost other people’s posts on your feed.  However, if you have a specific strategy in place on what you post on your feed, you probably just don’t have much space to do this. 

It’s great to be part of a community and be able to repost other posts – of organisations you belong to, of like-minded people or of other accounts your customers would be interested in.  But there’s not always room to do this on your grid. Instagram stories gives you a chance to repost exactly what you like, as much as you like.

Attract a different audience:

The thing is, the way people use Instagram is constantly evolving. Fewer people are looking at your bio page and feed now, and more are scrolling through IG stories instead.

If you don’t use IG stories, then you’re potentially missing a huge audience of people out there. 

You get to do fun stuff:

Fact: Flicking through IG stories is frighteningly addictive!  How often have you started looking at someone’s stories only to find yourself quickly scrolling through load of other people’s stories in sequence?

There’s so much fun stuff out there you can do on IG stories – from polls, to questions to countdown clocks.  These can be useful to get feedback, add another aspect to your marketing and just to show you’ve got a sense of humour.

However, a word of caution on the polls.  Polls are amazing tools to get people thinking – but sometimes people don’t truly know what they want until it’s laid out in front of them.  So, for example, if you’re asking them to vote on a hypothetical pendant idea, just take the result with a pinch of salt.

It’s a great way to let people know about the ideas you’re trying out, but don’t rely on the results as customer research.  The people voting in your poll aren’t necessarily your customers, so you won’t get a reliable result. It is however, a great way and easy way to invite people to interact with you (and get to know you).  All good first steps on them getting to like, know and trust you.

So, in short, IG stories are a fantastic tool to help you show the real YOU behind your brand.  And for your customers to get to know you in an informal way. There’s no limit to what you can post, it doesn’t have to make sense as part of a story on a grid.

But most importantly, story posts disappear in 24 hours.  This means you get the chance to try things out, have some fun and see what works without any commitment.

So why not give them a go?

Let me know how you use IG stories to connect with your customers…