How to Use Instagram Stories for Business: Online Shop Owners


How to Use Instagram Stories for Business: Online Shop Owners

Guys! Have you seen the new Instagram ‘stories’ feature?! It’s like Snapchat + Instagram got together (or like one totally ripped off the other!) minus the fun face filters??  Before we get into how to use Instagram Stories for business and how it’s different from Snapchat, if you’re sitting there like yo Kate, I haven’t even figured out Snapchat yet…let me explain.

Instagram Stories is basically a loop of images/videos you share that each stay up for 24 hours. You can add new content to it and it will continuously loop all active content from the past 24 hours. So if you share 3 images within one hour, they will be on a continuous loop if someone selects to watch your “story” until they reach the 24 hour mark and then each would drop off and disappear (you’ll still have access in your Archive — see here for more archive features!). On Instagram, they’re featured across the top of your homepage as little circles.

I don’t know about you, but this feels like a bigger change than that whole algorithm freak out because its a totally new way you can interact with your audience!

So, as a business and online shop owner, how should you use it?

How to Use Instagram Stories for Business: Online Shop Owners. 6 ways to use Instagram's new feature, plus how it's the same yet different from Snapchat
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How to Use Instagram Stories for Business: Online Shop Owners

  1. Don’t go crazy and feel you need to develop this huge strategy; but DO post intentionally. They’re all only live for 24 hours (unless you add to your ‘highlights’ section), so feel free to have a little fun -while still being profesh. I used GramSlam to better understand how I can create an intentional strategy, while still having fun and sharing personal moments too.
  2. Take advantage of the ‘real time’ feeling. I love the idea of sharing true in the moment experiences, behind the scenes or fun updates. There is the option to upload a photo (which I review in ‘how to add’ below), but I personally use that only for certain campaigns or particular messages and try to keep it true to a semi-unfiltered / this is real life kinda feel.
  3. Show customers your products in action. No perfectly staged anything. Just you sippin’ out of your freshly designed mug, a glance around your kitchen with your pretty new linens, or twirling in your latest dress arrivals. Fashion show anyone?
  4. Introduce yourself! Show the face behind the business, during #fridayintroductions would be a great chance to share your regular post utilizing the hashtag and then direct them to check out your story to hear more from you directly! And on that note…
  5. Direct them somewhere > Give a sneak peak of a new product, updated sale merchandise, or a new blog post and then tell them where to go for more information: your bio link, latest Instagram post, shop page, twitter, etc.
  6. Use it to keep your feed clean! Want to share a little sneaky peak or short announcement, but it would eff up the whole look of the cohesive feed you’ve been working so hard on? Share it here instead – especially if it’s a short term announcement for a sale or update that doesn’t need to be around forever in your main feed.
  7. Establish a routine or share a consistent part of your day or process. Go on a daily walk or have a special morning ritual? Share that (doesn’t have to be daily, but consistently) so followers know what to expect and look forward to it. You can share advice, a special part of your day or a dose of inspiration – up to you!

Before we dive into how Instagram Stories is (or is not) like Snapchat (kidding, it pretty much is), I wanted to share my thoughts from the first OMG what is this through this morning:

  • No Make Up, No Problem. The biggest trend I’ve seen, or more accurately heard, on videos is women apologizing for not wearing make up or letting us know oops I have a messy hair day or not even showing their face because “I don’t have make up on”. And to that I say, embrace it! We’re all live humans behind the screens. You don’t need to be perfectly made up just to say hi and talk about your business. I think this shows how far that “filtered” view of a perfect life on Instagram has crept into our real lives where we suddenly feel we can’t show ourselves without the perfect lenses to cover up our imperfections. With that being said (hi Kate, here’s the other side of your mouth)… don’t feel this is free reign to show ANYTHING. Keep it on your business, introduce some personal touches of your life, share how you live; but don’t stray so far from your brand that I wouldn’t recognize the parallels between your “feed” and your “stories”.
  • So.Much.Content. It took me over 25 minutes this morning to cruise through all my stories and that didn’t even include scrolling through my feed yet! I’m not sure if this will calm down once people get used to stories or ramp up in the other direction as they start to use it even more. But to this I say, guard your time. Set those social media limits so you’re not sucked away from your actual work (you know, what makes your money honey). The good news though is since you likely have way more followers on Instagram than you do Snapchat (if you even participate), you don’t need to work to re-build a new audience and that is awesome. Once someone clicks in to watch a story, it rolls through everyone’s until they opt out; so you don’t even need to shout for people to go check it out.
    • One additional note to consider – unless you’re doing something crazy cool for a day or two, don’t bombard your followers with a ton of images and videos I’ve read several comments online already that people are realizing they follow too many people or don’t want to follow because they’re either sharing too frequently (we’re talking multiple multiple videos and images each day). Or like I mentioned above, they weren’t sharing content similar enough to what their feed was known for so there was a disconnect between the brand expectations.
  • Let Instagram Stories supplement your brand and feed and tell a bigger story. Instagram Stories are now discoverable through hashtags and “by location” feeds that Instagram curates, so it’s possible one of your stories could be the first introduction someone has to your brand. Think of ways to tie your life or daily happenings back into your customer’s story.
  • We are not in control. Social media will be an ever-changing landscape so while it’s important to capitalize on the social media trends, your primary focus should be building that email list which will always be yours.
  • Don’t have Instagram Stories yet? Don’t panic… it’s rolling out to everyone so you should have it soon!

How to Create and Add to an Instagram Story:

  • To Create:
    • From your Instagram home page, select the + with a circle around it in the top left. Snap a picture or press and hold to record a video, then hit the check mark to share.
    • Or swipe right and the screen will pop up (similar to how you can access messages if you swipe left). If I got those swiping rights/lefts wrong its because I’m too old and married to have been on Tinder haha…
    • To add photos or video previously taken, follow one of the same steps above, but then pull down and it will open your media from the last 24 hours. It doesn’t let you pull from further back.
  • To Add:
    • Just repeat steps above! Each image or video will run consecutively one right after the next until their 24-hour mark is up!

Another key tip – Stand out on Instagram Stories by taking your videos and photos to the next level. Go BEYOND what everyone else is doing by using simple apps and tricks to elevate your stories.

I found some of the best recommended apps to use (plus learned how with 18 video tutorials) with GramSlam. Alex is an absolute pro at effectively using video and gives so much value to help your brand truly stand out with this new feature.

How are Instagram Stories similar to Snapchat:

  • Visibility to who has viewed your story. Literally looks the same as Snapchat’s – little eyeball at the bottom with a number next to it.
  • Ability to add text + draw on the image or video. (My favorite feature on da snaps) Although Instagram actually added a really cool neon font, it’s the third option once you click the little writing icon – go check it out.
  • Able to download and save photos or videos to your phone’s camera roll. I will admit Instagram’s camera quality seems to be far better than Snapchat.
  • You can select an individual story or run through all, as you’re watching they’ll flip you into the next person’s automatically.

How are Instagram Stories different than Snapchat:

  • You already have an engaged audience. Unlike having to download a new app and build your followers up all over again, your audience is there waiting. Plus Instagram has more than 300 million users, double that of Snapchat.
  • Who can view your story: Your Instagram Stories are open to everyone provided your account is public, unlike Snapchat which requires you to follow someone before viewing. However IG Stories does let you set parameters on who is able to view; select the 3 dots in the bottom right hand and update “Hide Story From” to choose select people.
  • Choose who can reply to your story: In the same screen change “Allow Message Replies” from:
    • Your Followers
    • Followers you Follow Back
    • Off
  • You can take one of your shared “stories” and post it on your actual Instagram feed.
    • Select the little eyeball at the bottom, a screen will pop up. On the right hand side there are 3 icons: Download, Upload, Trash.
    • Can also select the 3 dots on the bottom right hand side and options pop up to: Delete, Save Photo, Share as Post, or Story Settings

Instagram Story Ideas and Designs

If you’re looking for ways to keep your story a little more cleaned up, or even give yourself some ‘go to” content, so you’re not always creating on the fly – that’s cool too!

You can use Canva to create a few different template options, like I did here.

Or invest in an inexpensive template pack, I’m really obsessed with the clean look of this Instagram Stories Template pack from Sparrow & Snow; perfect for promotional offers or even directing your audience to a blog post.

See more Instagram + Instagram Story Templates here! They’re a really nice easy nice saver to upgrade the look of your account and brand.

So, what do you think? Do we like it, hate it, need to play around first? Let me know in the comments below! And find me over on Instagram so I can see if you try it out! @theshopfiles

Want to learn more about Instagram? Check out these posts:

How to Convert Instagram Traffic to Sales + Visitors in ONE Click

Why the Instagram Algorithm Change is NOT Reason to Panic (and what to do instead)

How to Find the Best Hashtags for Your Business (plus 70+ hashtag ideas)

Instagram Marketing Mistakes You Might Be Making (and how to fix them)

How to Create a Cohesive Instagram Feed

Backdrop Ideas for Instagram Photography Under $25

Benefits of Scheduling Social Media



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