Instagram reels are entertaining, short-form videos that allow you to bring your brand to life and expand its presence. They're a great way to promote your products, meet new customers, and showcase your creativity.
Learn how to create better stories on social media platforms using these powerful strategies.
How do you ensure your Stories are good and worth watching for the users?
The most important piece of the puzzle: the quality.
Before we get into the technical details, it’s first important to consider the very concept of your story.
Is this something people want to see? Are you overdoing it?
Quantity and regularity is a big consideration for many creators making social media Stories.
So then just how often should you post and at what time of day?
As for quantity, the general advice for social media in general is that you should post once or twice a day. This has been shown by studies to be more effective than posting either more or less regularly. The problem with this however, is that Stories work differently from other posts and so we can’t extrapolate this information.
Whereas posts to your main feed risk ‘clogging up’ users’ feeds and becoming irritating (or simply being buried and therefore gaining no benefit), posts to your Story will appear at the top of the page and not in a queue.
Moreover, while Instagram and Facebook use complex algorithms that favour the individual user in order to determine which posts to show, this is not how Stories work. Stories are far more weighted by chronology, meaning in other words that the most recent Story is the one that you will be shown first.
And THAT means that you can more easily get seen if you post more regularly. This way, you’ll be the first Story presented when more people open up their phones, in turn meaning that you’ll get more eyeballs on your content.
Don’t go crazy, but there is no reason not to post 10 times in a row if the idea you’re trying to get across benefits from it. Don’t do this all the time though, or your viewers might still judge you!
As for timing, the best time to post is just when people will be getting home from work. That means roughly 6pm in your local area, but you’ll need to be strategic to target the most countries possible if you have an international brand.
This is the other big question to ask yourself when posting Stories: what is this about?
Is it well suited to the format?
Should you be posting it at all?
Anything can be a Story. You can post an image of a product and call that a Story.
Generally though, this will simply beg the question:
why wasn’t that a regular post?
Users want to see you use Stories to post about things that are happening now.
That is why they’re so often used to post about concerts, travel, meetings, seminars, and similar events.
But this is also what makes them a great fit for product launches, special deals, competitions, shout-outs, polls, and clips of other things that you might be doing.
Going on a business meeting somewhere interesting? Why not bring your followers via Stories? Just created a new post for your blog? Stories!
Stories also work extremely well for news sites.
If you have a tech channel and a big company releases a new smartphone or computer, then you can write about it on the blog and then immediately share that post as news to your Stories.
If you find yourself struggling to come up with ideas for Stories, then consider creating a kind of recurring theme or even a ‘series’. A good example was when actor Chris Pratt used Stories to share what he was eating every day on his diet.
They were funny, short, and a great insight into his life at the time. They also had the added bonus of showing a bit more of his life through things happening in the background or other stars in the videos.
Your Stories don’t need to be extremely high quality. In fact, that is often considered to be one of their biggest benefits: that they can be made quickly and don’t need to be works of art.
With that said though, creators like Peter McKinnon are showing everyone else up by showing just how attractive and professional they can be.
So, depending on the nature of your brand, you might choose to stand out with a highly polished and beautiful Story. At the very least, learning some basics when it comes to photography, editing, framing, and more can help to elevate the level of your Stories and all the rest of your content for that matter!
The first thing you should do is to equip yourself. If you hope to take the best pictures that will look professional on your account, then you should have a camera that will be able to take high definition images and you should have editing software so that you can add that extra bit of professional polish.
You’re probably used to taking photos for Instagram and Snapchat on your phone. And that of course is something you can still do. To take a high quality photo you just need a phone with a good sensor, high megapixel count, and respectable post-processing. Good options include mostly anything by Apple or Samsung, the Pixel phones, Nokia phones etc.
BUT you also have the option to take photos from your gallery – which you might have added via an SD card or WiFi transfer. This is how you can take photos with a professional DSLR or Mirrorless camera.
And you WILL see the difference.
This is especially true if you shoot in RAW with a flat color profile and then do a little editing as well. This means that the camera will minimize post-processing, providing more information from the original image to play with. That in turn means you can really create that dynamic, HD looking contrast and crush those blacs/get the colors to pop.
If you run a business with a social account then you should be constantly ready to capture images when the opportunities present themselves. For instance, when I sold my old car in cash not long ago, I took the opportunity to photograph the money in a range of scenarios ready for potential use on my money making channel. Likewise, you might find when you're on a walk that you see a great cityscape which could be used in a range of generic motivational posts. Make sure you have your camera on you at all times, and that you are actively looking out for great photo-ops so that you can create a great resource to draw on in future.
This is another thing to consider: the photos don’t need to be posted as soon as they’re taken. You can post photos from months ago, or even post photos and videos from stock video/photography sites. This lets you create more content, more affordably.
While you aren't going to become a pro overnight, taking great photos is often simply a matter of taking the time to consciously set up the image rather than just pointing and shooting head on. Think for instance about your foreground and background images elements, and about whether having a leaf in the foreground could help to create more of a sense of three-dimensional depth. Meanwhile look for things like paths and lines that can draw the eye in, and think about elements that can frame the action.
You don’t necessarily need professional lighting equipment meanwhile, but thinking about the angle you take the shot in relationship to the natural light sources can make a big difference in just a few seconds.
Just take a bit more time and think about your composition as well as your subject and your photography will improve greatly.
There are many more advanced techniques and strategies. we’ll take a look at some of them, as well as how you can leverage the most powerful in order to drive far more direct sales.
One of the great things about Stories is the way that they naturally stitch together and play in sequence. This means that if you are thoughtful about which of your images you post in which order, you can turn your content into a kind of slideshow or video. This is a particularly popular way to promote articles for instance.
Here, each story might consist of a caption from your article or a key point that has a kind of cliff-hanger and picture as a backdrop. The user would keep tapping through the Stories to keep hearing more and to be guided through the narrative. It’s an excellent strategy for engagement and for driving more people to an article.
One relatively new feature from Instagram, is the ability to save photos from your stories onto your regular post grid as ‘albums’. Once you’ve saved a story or you decide you want to post it normally, you’ll be able to select up to ten of those images and videos and then post them as an album. This is a way to contain a whole story in a single node – perhaps an experience such as a trip abroad, or a concert.
This has the appeal of letting you turn your hard work into something more permanent and concrete, and of course there is potential marketing value from these albums that extends beyond the life of a single post. Some might say it cheapens the concept, but seeing as it is an optional feature, it’s hard to argue with it.
The main objective of any form of marketing is of course to sell, and converting that hard work into sales can sometimes be difficult – especially owing to some of the limitations of the platform.
For example, Instagram does not allow you to include the ‘swipe up to buy’ option through Stories unless you have enough followers. You could opt to use Snapchat instead as that does include a link, but that reaches a much smaller audience and a younger demographic.
So instead, another option is to create a poll. The great thing about polls is that it allows you to see who answered and what they said. This means that you can then contact individual users based on their answers!
One way to use this is to run a poll asking people their opinion on whether your audience would be interested in X new product from you. When you get the responses, you can then contact each of those now-qualified leads directly, knowing that there is a high chance they will convert to sales!
Another strategy is to use the tried-and-tested ‘link in bio’ option. Here, you simply include a link to your online store in your Instagram bio, and then promote it from within the content.
While Stories are immensely powerful and have huge potential for marketers, they unfortunately do not work in a vacuum. And more specifically, that is to say that Stories on their own are not enough to make a huge impact. That’s because a Story is only one small part of a much larger social media marketing strategy.
And your social media marketing strategy is likewise just one part of a much bigger puzzle that is your internet marketing strategy!
In order for Stories to work, you need to have that initial following, as well as a good amount of trust and engagement from your audience. This chapter will quickly go over some of how to go about getting that.
The first thing you need to do is to ensure that you choose a niche and then stick to it. This is where a lot of people will go wrong – and it’s why most general users don’t have lots of followers.
Think about it logically: who would you want to follow on Instagram or Facebook?
Someone that provides interesting content that appeals to you.
If that content is completely random, then you’ll find there is no reason to keep coming back.
Follow most people though and you’ll get pictures of their holidays, of their partners, of their pets and of them doing ‘selfies’ in the mirror. Unless you know that person this isn’t going to be of much interest to anyone – so choose a topic and stick to it if you want to get followers.
Your business is likely to define this topic, so the next challenge is to find a way to take the industry you work in and make that into something interesting and ideally somewhat visual so that you can really sell it from your account.
This is where many businesses struggle. If you are a travel writer, then coming up with a great theme for your Instagram account will seem easy. But if you happen to run a business that provides legal consulting... how do you turn that into something people want to follow?
The answer is to think about the lifestyle, and about the ‘value proposition’. In other words, what is it that you are helping people to achieve? As a legal consultant, that will depend on your clientele.
If you are marketing to businesses then that might mean helping people to achieve their dreams and find success. If you are marketing to families, then it might mean helping them to achieve security financially.
This then can provide the tone and topic for your photos. Are these images of people doing business, of tips for small companies? Or are they images of families and activities for families? Either can work, and from there, the Stories will then share a little of your personality and behind the scenes. This is the cherry on top of the cake.
What’s also crucial for your Stories, for your social media marketing, and for your marketing as a whole, is to set out with a strong brand. Remember, the big advantage of Stories is to let people get to know you more as a brand – to let them feel closer to you and to build trust and engagement.
This works a lot more effectively if the brand is something that people can really get behind.
Note here the important distinction between a brand and a logo. A brand is much more than a logo. Your branding starts when you identify your mission statement – who does your business set out to help and how? What are your values?
Take a look at the best business accounts on Instagram and you’ll see that they all have a clear message and objective. If we go back to the “1,000 True Fans” concept, you essentially need to be more than just a business in order to establish those real fans.
No one is a “fan” of their heating company... but you get genuinely fans of Apple. The thing is, there’s no reason you can’t be a fan of a heating company. Not if that company stands for being eco- friendly, being simple for customers, being convenient... Not if that company also does other interesting things and has a stellar social media account.
Know your audience, don’t try to cater to everyone, and know what you’re here to do. Create a logo that expresses this intent and hopefully you’ll attract the right kind of customer who has the potential for high engagement. This the kind of customer who will watch your Stories and who will become more loyal to your brand each time they do!
What’s also of course rather important, is that you take great pictures. We mentioned that this was somewhat important for Stories, but for your general accounts it becomes much more crucial. Even if you choose a topic that interests a lot of people, you’re not going to keep your followers very long if all your images are grainy and at awkward angles.
As such then, it’s highly important that you also brush up on your photography skills. This is something that you can learn with a little practice and by reading up online – so put the time in to improve your craft and follow the tips from earlier in this book.
The same goes for other forms of social media. If you have a Twitter account, then you need to Tweet interesting and humorous things. If you have a Facebook page, then make sure that you are sharing interesting content relevant to your audience through it.
The big takeaway? Offer value. Make sure you are providing a good reason for people to follow you. Too many brands – especially older corporate businesses – will make the mistake of only ever posting about their own services or industry. Again, this is something that they think makes them somehow more professional and they are often afraid to venture outside of that comfort zone.
But think realistically: how likely would you personally be to want to follow an account that only ever posted about how effective its EPOS system is? You need to provide good content to ensure that the next time you post, your followers want to look!
And remember, engagement is more important than followers!
Of course, people are also going to stop following you pretty quickly if you never post, so you also need to make sure you use the site often if you want to gather some momentum.
And better yet, be active in liking other people’s photos and posts too and commenting – that way people will come to see who liked their picture and you’ll bring in lots of new visitors.
Try to get into the habit of posting once or twice a day and where this isn’t possible, use automated systems and scheduling apps to keep a steady flow of content to your channel even in your absence.
Finally, you need to make sure that people can actually find your sit in the first place, which is where using the right tags come into place.
Tags work in Instagram just the same way that they work on Twitter: you use a hash next to the word that you think people are going to search for, and then that way people can start browsing by theme.
This is similar to picking keywords and keyphrases in SEO:
you need to choose things that people are likely to look for, and which the right people are going to look for. This requires you to think about what’s always popular, what’s currently ‘in vogue’, and also what people are likely to search for within your niche.
As we’ve seen, using tags that aren’t too popular is an important tip as well, to ensure that your content doesn’t get drowned out right away. On Instagram in particular, users are allowed to include 30 tags with every post. Our advice? Include all thirty. Think of this as thirty free chance to play the lottery – there really is no reason not to take every opportunity!
Let’s take an example of a fitness brand. This fitness brand is the personal brand belonging to a sole trader that runs a blog and that sells personal training online. That seller is now going to use their social media platforms and their Stories in order to reach the largest audience possible and engage with them on a deeper level.
Start by creating your logo and your brand. Identify your buyer persona (the exact person you’re selling to) and your mission statement, then create a logo and site design that expresses this.
Create a blog and post here every two days with relatively short 500-word blog posts. These aren’t particularly SEO optimized but aimed rather to work well on social, with strong, eye-catching titles.
Next, you’re going to set up your social accounts. Try to get your company onto as many different platforms as possible and to use your company name and logo on every single one. The objective is to ‘be everywhere’ and to be as consistent as possible with the image you are putting forward.
You will then post to those social accounts regularly, making sure to provide real value as you do. It’s these actions that will help you to start to build a following that views you as more than a simple product manufacturer or service provider – but as a brand with a set of ideals and a real mission statement.
By doing this ground work, that’s when you can make a real impact with your Social Media Stories. That’s when you’ll have an army of followers who actually care what you do with your day, who want the inside scoop, and who are excited by your new releases and your Q&As.
Post to Stories once or twice a day – maybe more if you can – and you’ll remain in their notification trays and on their minds. Respond to questions and take the time to interact with your audience.
If you can do all that, then thanks to Stories and strong branding, you will have an audience that is more highly engaged and involved than 90% of audiences out there!
Follow this up with the occasional Story that promotes a product or that gauges interest, and you can convert some of those warm leads to buyers.
And that is how you employ Stories to their fullest. Good luck! It’s time to write your own success story!
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