With its algorithm change and multiple updates, Instagram has evolved from being just a social media feed full of pictures. It has now transformed into a platform that is dominating its competition. I will be exploring why Instagram’s Stories is a great tool to use and how their other features can optimise user experience.

In August 2016, Instagram Stories appeared on our feeds with much doubt over whether it would succeed against the obvious competitor – Snapchat. Fast forward to 2018 and with over 200 million daily active users, it has completely surpassed Snapchat, making it one of the fastest growing platforms ever! If your business hasn’t used Instagram Stories before or you’re sceptical about how relevant it is – be sure to read on.

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Compared to Snapchat, Instagram Stories is a more approachable feature. Snapchat users found their app experience to be clunky and hard to learn – especially with the latest update which completely switched the layout. It was the final push that led users to abandon the app and head for Instagram Stories – a platform they were already using.

It’s simple to use Instagram Stories; the basic way is to swipe across to open it from your feed. You can then take a picture or video and send to the story! It also allows you to add much more to your content, such as hashtags or tagging people – so you get the most from it.

Like Snapchat, your stories last for 24 hours when you first upload them, but the new ‘Highlights’ feature allows you to extend that. Whether your story is about a certain product or a business event, using Highlights lets you save the 24-hour story and keeps it on your profile as a separate story. Anyone visiting can then watch that story days or weeks after it was initially posted.

Unlike Snapchat; if you’re a social media influencer or a celebrity you can get your story seen on the Discover page, Instagram allows ALL stories to be discoverable. Even if they don’t follow you they can still see your posts! One way to get ‘discovered’ is to include the use of hashtags on your story. When someone is searching through a hashtag, your story with that hashtag will appear at the top of the feed. Also tagging your location in your story will mean that it will appear in that location’s general story – a great way to promote your business to the area.

Why you should use stories

Instagram Stories also allows you to promote exclusivity! By using them as a type of ‘behind-the-scenes’ look and giving ‘sneak peeks’ it gives followers and viewers a sense of exclusivity. People like to feel special and be rewarded, even if it’s just because they decided to follow your account. But it’s good for you too, it creates hype for your business and attracts more people to your page as you’ll be seen as being interactive.

Be personal with your Instagram stories. People like to see and feel like they know the people behind the business and who they are buying from. Show your face, your staff, your office! Don’t feel like you always have to do serious business posts; if something funny happens in the office or you go out for team lunch – show it! Viewers can see that you have a strong team dynamic and they’ll enjoy seeing how happy things look rather than it being constantly corporate.

Social media management can sometimes feel like a chore for your business but with a feature like Instagram stories it allows you to put the fun into social media management! If you have someone in charge of running your social media sites, then this is the perfect feature to use. It allows them to create a personality for your business as well being creative.

When you reach a specific follower count (10,000) a ‘swipe up’ option becomes available on your Stories. This is helpful when pushing a product or service as it takes them straight to that page in one simple motion. However, you should make sure your website is mobile-friendly as it would be embarrassing if it didn’t work properly when they swipe up.

Product tags

If you don’t have enough followers for the ‘swipe up’ feature then don’t fear! Instagram have just announced a new feature that allows users to shop in-app. This is similar to tagging your friends or brands in a picture but you just tag a product. To activate the shop-post feature here’s what you do:

1. The main thing to make sure (apart from having the app) is making sure it’s up to date.

2. Ensure your product catalog is synced with Facebook shop – Instagram pulls your Facebook feed through so you can connect your store using BigCommerce’s Channel Manager.

3. Click the options tab on your Instagram business profile and click on ‘Products’ where you’ll have a quick introduction to the new feature.

4. Authenticate your business account via your Facebook account – it’s how Instagram will know what products you have. This is where you can choose what product catalogue you want to sync for the shopping feature.

5. There you have it! Now instead of just having the option to tag people you can tag both people and your products!

There are many possibilities available now for businesses to use Instagram as a marketing option. If you have any questions about using Instagram for business or want to learn more – please get in touch!

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