How To Use Instagram Stories For Business

12 min read

Instagram Stories allow you to share a stream of off-the-cuff memories that disappear after 24 hours. They are great for sharing spontaneous moments, engaging your audience with quizzes and questions, and even selling on Instagram.

How can businesses harness the power of Instagram Stories to promote themselves? Read on to hear our take on the matter!

What Are Instagram Stories for Business?

To understand the popularity of Instagram Stories, first we must understand the rise of Snapchat.

Snapchat’s growth has been largely fueled by the “My Story” feature introduced in October 2013. This feature allows anyone to share a series of pictures that disappear within 24 hours.

Since the pictures don’t show up in your friends’ feeds (unlike Instagram or Facebook), you have a lot more leeway in sharing random moments. This takes the pressure of making “perfect” posts off content creation, which makes sharing much easier.

Snapchat monthly active users

Since the “My Story” feature was launched, sharing on Snapchat has skyrocketed. So it’s no wonder that Instagram and Facebook (as well as other social media platforms) eventually adopted this format.

What is the benefit of Instagram stories?

“But why are Instagram Stories better than posts? Is that even true?” — you may ask. Let’s take a closer look at some differences between regular posts and Stories.

The traditional Instagram model used to focus heavily on capturing “perfect” moments. The image filters, user tagging and description-focused format placed considerable pressure on users to share high-quality pictures.

Even more, since every picture you shared on Instagram ended up on your followers’ feeds, there was an implicit expectation that your pictures would be worth sharing — a big departure from the freewheeling, “as it happens” nature of Stories.

If your Instagram grid is a diary of the best moments of your life, Stories are a reflection of the chaos of the everyday. They can both exist side-by-side, but the Stories format makes it much easier to share the ins-and-outs of your daily life without unnecessarily interrupting your friends.

Instagram took the best of two worlds and merged them into one sharing platform. Nowadays, you can use “regular” Instagram to share your best moments, and Stories to share your day-to-day life.

How Instagram Stories Work

If you open Instagram, you’ll see a bar at the top of your feed. This is the “Stories” section. If you click on any of the icons here, you’ll be taken to that page’s Stories section.

Image: Instagram

To post your Instagram Story, tap the camera icon in the top left of your screen or swipe right from anywhere in Feed.

Tap the circle icon at the bottom of the screen to take a photo, or tap and hold to record a video. To choose a photo or video from your phone’s gallery, swipe up anywhere on the screen.

You can then add text, emojis, gifs, and/or various interactive stickers (like questions or quizzes). It’s also possible to tag people, places, and even products in your Stories.

Once you’re done, tap “Your Story” in the bottom left to add your story to your follower’s story feeds.

You can change your Story settings by going into your profile and tapping Settings → Privacy → Story. Here, you can decide who you want to show the story to. Of course, if you’re running a business, you probably want your pictures to be visible to everyone.

You can also save Stories to Highlights that appear under your bio. Highlights remain visible until you remove them, even after the original story has disappeared.

Is there a limit on Instagram stories?

You have a 15-second limit per individual Story. If you upload a video that’s longer than 15 seconds, it will be divided into 15-second pieces for you. You can’t post more than 100 Stories in 24 hours.

How often should a business post Instagram Stories?

More is more with stories! It’s best to post to Stories as often as possible, even several times a day. By posting Instagram Stories more often, you have a better chance of appearing at the top of the stories feed. That means you have more chances for discovery during the day.

How does the Instagram algorithm work with Stories?

Instagram wants to make sure it’s always showing users the latest stories from their favorite profiles. Accounts that post regularly appear at the top of users’ feed if they watch and engage with these profiles. That also signals to the algorithm that these profiles regularly post quality content that their followers are interested in.

How to make stories more engaging?

The more engagement your Stories get, the higher they’ll be ranked by the platform’s algorithm. You can encourage audience engagement with Instagram Stories stickers. The best ones for interacting with the followers are polls, emoji sliders, and question stickers.

Also, remind your followers that they can react to your Stories by sending “quick emoji reactions”. That’s another way to show the app that your content is worth boosting.

Instagram Stories vs. Regular Instagram

The question now is: how do Instagram Stories differ from regular Instagram? Here’s how:

Stories don’t appear in the feed. All pictures you add to your Stories won’t show up in the regular feed at all. They’ll show up only when someone taps your profile picture at the top of their feed.

This means that you can safely share tens of pictures without worrying about cluttering up your followers’ feeds.

Stories are ephemeral. Each picture or video in the feed only lasts for 24 hours. The ephemeral nature of Stories encourages casual sharing. Since the pictures won’t live forever on your profile, you can safely share nearly anything (within good taste, of course).

This is a big departure from the finely-crafted nature of regular Instagram updates.

You can see who watched each part of your story. Think of this as built-in engagement analytics: Instagram will show you who watched different updates in your story.

This is great for segmenting your audience. You can easily classify followers who watch every part of your story as “highly engaged” while those who drop off after 1-2 updates would have poor engagement.

You can edit pictures with emojis, text, gifs, tags, and stickers. This might sound like a little thing, but it can have a big impact on how your followers interact with your stories.

Better storytelling. You can use all these additional effects — stickers, text, emojis, etc. — to create better stories with minimal text.

More casual updates. Regular Instagram focuses heavily on perfecting every moment. You’d take the right shot, use the right filters, and share it with the right filters. There is no sense of serendipity about any of these updates.

On the other hand, emojis, finger paint, etc. turn Instagram Stories into a far more casual sharing platform. Instead of spending hours searching for just the right filter, you can add wacky emojis and play around with finger paint before sharing your updates.

This changes the expectations from the high stakes of a grid post completely. Instead of perfection, your followers on Stories want serendipity.

How to Use Instagram Stories Grow Your Business

Instagram Stories is a fantastic tool to brand and promote your business. So, how do you take advantage of Instagram Stories?

The platform is perfect for letting your hair down — metaphorically speaking — and showing off what your brand is all about. Instead of the carefully controlled brand narrative your competitors are promoting, you can use Instagram Stories to create a more intimate, personal and effervescent brand voice.

Wonder how you make a professional Instagram story? Let’s look at some ways for doing this.

Build buzz for a new launch or new content

The Instagram Stories’ 24-hours only format is perfectly suited for building buzz. Instead of “coming soon” pictures cluttering up your feed, you can tease followers with glimpses of new products.

For example, artist Tommy Siegel used stories to create buzz for his new book: he reposted stories of his customers who pre-ordered the book. He also announced a book release party live on Instagram.

Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to new product launches; you can also use Stories to build up anticipation for new content.

Run limited sales and pre-sales

Another great way to use the 24-hour format is to run limited edition sales of select products.

For example, JCrew ran a 24-hour limited sale of its new pink sunglasses through Instagram Stories:


The story shared multiple images of models wearing the pink sunglasses. In between the pictures were images informing followers about the new sunglasses and the limited Instagram sale of 50 pairs of glasses.

This sale format works for two reasons:

  • Scarcity: In the above example, the sale was limited to only the first 50 pairs. This creates scarcity — one of the pillars of persuasion — and promotes action.
  • Urgency: Since the sale is limited to 24-hours, it creates a natural incentive to take action (just with the JCrew example above).

Share “behind the scenes” stories about your brand

What does an average day at your business look like? What kind of people are behind the things you create? What kind of offices do you work in? What kind of food do you have in your cafeteria?

These might be simple questions, but answering them does something incredible: it makes your brand more “human”.

Instagram Stories is a perfect for sharing these “behind the scenes” stories. Instead of adding carefully crafted marketing stories to your feed, use the Stories feature to share an average day in your business.

Vogue knows that every fashionista would love a sneak peak at a fashion show behind the scenes. They use Instagram Stories to meet their audience’s expectations for exclusive, behind-the-scenes content that only they can provide.

Share exclusive content

You can turn Instagram Stories into a platform where you reward your most engaged followers with exclusive content.

This is content that doesn’t show up on any other social profile. It’s live for just 24-hours and visible only to people who actively engage with your brand on Instagram.

For example, Mercedes-Benz shared gorgeous pictures from a test drive of its G-Class SUV. These pictures showed behind the scenes footage of how Mercedes tests its cars along with stunning shots of the German countryside in rains.

G-Class SUV

This is a perfect example of how exclusive behind the scenes pictures can promote loyalty and engagement. You can make your followers feel “special” by sharing updates no one else gets to see.

Another tactic is to cross post to Instagram Stories with a profile that has a similar audience. This way your exclusive content attracts new followers who might be interested in your profile.

The best way to cross promote is to run a competition or a contest, and let followers choose the winner. For example, the Museum of Modern Art partnered with Victoria and Albert Museum for a competition:

Get feedback from users

What kind of stories should you share? What should you focus on in your social media updates? Would your followers prefer seeing images or videos in your stories?

As it turns out, the best people to answer these questions are your followers themselves. For example, when TacoBell launched its first Instagram story, it directly asked its followers: “What would you like to see on our Instagram Story?”.

Stories is the perfect medium to ask this question since it doesn’t interrupt your regular feed. You can safely seek feedback from users within stories while leaving your main feed as polished as ever.

You can also use Instagram Stories to get feedback on your products or events. For example, Poosh uses question stickers pose important questions:

Remind users about other events, apps and pages

Have a new app, sale or ongoing contest? Instagram Stories is just the right platform for promoting them.

Ikea Australia announces a new product and creates a Twitter contest where a user can win it:

Take advantage of Stories’ editing tools to experiment with content

Emojis, text, brushes, stickers — Instagram Stories’ editing tools are extensive, and they can help you experiment with new content formats and styles.

ASOS uses poll stickers to engage followers and ask which outfits they like the most:

There is a lot of room to be creative with these editing tools. And since there is no pressure to “perfect” your updates, you can experiment with riskier storytelling angles.

Share user-generated content

It’s easy to share real-world engagement on social media — so do it! Repost images of customers to your Stories to show how your products look in real life. Take it from Puma:

Create a special hashtag and add it to your bio so that customers know how to tag their posts that feature your products. This way you create a steady stream of new story content with baked in follower engagement.

Your Turn: Why Are Instagram Stories Good for Business?

Try some of the tactics we’ve listed above to turn your stories into engines of growth. Use exclusive content to promote loyalty, behind the scenes footage to build your brand, and offer limited deals to attract and convert users.

Do you actively use Instagram Stories to promote your store? In what ways does it help your business? Share your experience and tips in the comments below!

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About the author

Kristen is a сontent creator at Ecwid. She finds inspiration in sci-fi books, jazz music and home-cooked food.

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