Real talk: Instagram is one of the most popular platforms out there. Unfortunately, for many brands (and marketers, to be honest) it can also be the most baffling. While Instagram continues to surge in popularity — with more than 500 million daily active users — the changing algorithm can sometimes make growing your Instagram (or even getting your content seen by your existing followers) difficult. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to use Instagram to grow your brand, and utilizing Instagram Stories can help.
When Instagram Stories first emerged, a lot of people (myself included) tended to write them off. They were too similar to Snapchat, another emerging platform, and no one really knew what to post on their Stories. As the feature set has grown, however, Instagram Stories have become a vital tool for anyone interested in connecting with their audience on a deeper level and, yes, even helping you attract more followers (and generate more sales).
If you want to learn how to use Instagram Stories to grow your brand, here are a few strategies that you can implement on your own profile.
1. Go behind-the-scenes.
Whenever someone tells me that they aren’t sure what to post on Instagram Stories, the first thing I recommend is behind-the-scenes content. Think of this as a peek behind the curtain, giving your followers additional insight (or value) behind your process — whatever that might look like for you.
If you’re an author, going behind-the-scenes might show people more about your writing process, sneak peeks of your works-in-progress, or unique snippets of life as an author. Are you an entrepreneur or small business owner? Show your followers more about the services you offer, let them get to know you and see the value that you provide on a more personal level.
Who to Follow:
Sorelle Amore is an amazing example of someone who uses Instagram to showcase her work while using Instagram Stories to connect with her followers on a personal level. She’s constantly giving followers a glimpse of her life, having real conversations, and letting you see a behind-the-scenes look at everything that’s going on with her.
2. Show your face(s).
Time for some brutal honesty. The best way to get personal on Instagram Stories? Is to show your face. While not everyone is comfortable with showing their face on Instagram (especially if it isn’t directly related to their brand) there is typically some value in one-on-one interaction on Instagram.
People relate to — you guessed it — other people. Showing your face from time to time helps foster that sense of connection. Plus, selling on social media isn’t just about selling your book, product, or service. Sometimes, it’s about selling you and who you are. What you provide, and why they should care about it.
Who to Follow:
I’ve only been following Sarah Nicole Landry for a month, but I’m consistently amazed by how personable she is on her Instagram Stories. Not only do we get that behind-the-scenes look, we also get to see her face-to-face on the regular which helps her followers build that sense of true connection. As a result? She has over 500,000 followers and a craaaazy high engagement rate for a following that size.
3. Don’t overthink it.
This might feel really overwhelming, but if you want to learn how to use Instagram Stories to grow your brand — don’t stress too much over it! Do what comes naturally to you (or at least semi-naturally) and get comfortable with trial and error.
Thankfully, because Instagram Stories only last for 24 hours, that means most people aren’t going to remember if you shared a picture that wasn’t 100% perfect. It’s all about showing up consistently and connecting with your audience in an authentic way.
Still not sure what to post? Try using Instagram Stories templates to create professional and engaging stories without spending a lot of time agonizing over what to post. You can also follow other people and brands in a similar niche to get Instagram Story ideas from what they’re posting.
Who to Follow:
The Wildest Podcast. Just because you’ve got a smaller following on Instagram (or are brand new on the platform) doesn’t mean you need to stress about Instagram Stories. Even though The Wildest Podcast is fairly new, most of their Instagram Stories aren’t actually original content — the Stories are reshares of other people’s Instagram posts.
This means you can create content (using the word create loosely here) for your Stories without needing to do much work. Don’t be afraid to share other people’s work, give shout-outs, post inspiring photos, and more — as long as it’s aligned with your brand, the value you want to provide, and your goals on social media.
4. Provide value.
My friends, this is the #1 strategy that you should be using on every single social media platform, and it’s still one of the most under-utilized strategies across the board.
If you want to get more followers on Instagram, if you want to grow your brand, if you want to increase your sales — you need to be providing value on the regular. What does that mean exactly?
It means that people need a reason to follow you, and “I write books” isn’t reason enough. Give them a strong WHY and a clear expectation of what exactly they get out of following you. If you can’t answer those questions yourself, how do you expect strangers on the internet to do so?
Value comes in many forms, so it’s not like you need to be a walking encyclopedia of knowledge. Stick to your niche(s), and try things out. Watch your analytics and see what works (or doesn’t work) and go from there.
Who to Follow:
Also known as the Matcha Queen (and the Balanced Girlboss) Tiffany Napper is the queen of providing amazing value on social media. Her Instagram stories don’t just offer that sense of connection with her and her brand, they’re also *crazy* valuable. She shares advice on living a healthy(ish), balanced lifestyle, travel tips, matcha recipes, branding advice (she’s a creative director and branding mega expert), and so much more.
5. Invite engagement.
Here’s one of my only rules of social media, and it applies in 99% of cases (unless you’re already super famous). If you want to get engagement on social media, you have to invite engagement and ENGAGE BACK.
Want people to respond to your Instagram Stories? Ask questions! Share interactive things like a poll, a Q&A, or a quiz. Let people vote on which version of a product they like most, encourage them to ask you questions (or give feedback), and get creative.
Connections are formed when you really connect with people. It can be scary to open yourself up like that, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.
Who to Follow:
The Mayfair Group is one of my favorite accounts to follow on Instagram because they’re so freaking creative. A brand representation group specializing in PR, social media, sales, and more — they’ve got over 200,000 followers on their own social media (which is crazy high for a PR firm) and even sell their own product lines.
Why? Because they share content that is exactly the kind of thing their audience loves *and* loves to engage with. From screenshot-worthy horoscopes to phone backgrounds and more, they even have users help create collages and regularly invite people to participate in a Q&A on their Instagram Stories.
When it comes down to it, the best (and easiest) way to learn how to use Instagram Stories is simply practice. Try things out and find what works for you and your brand. Don’t be afraid to play around and experiment, especially since it’s only going to last for 24 hours. 😉