How to Use Instagram Stories to Drive Audience Engagement

How to Use Instagram Stories to Drive Audience Engagement

It's time for you to stop playing and get it together. You keep discrediting the new tech features that continues to appear (no pun intended). You're unsure how you're going to ma If you don't already know, I'm here to tell you that you need to get on Instagrams new feature "Stories".  Recently, Instagram rolled out “Stories” — a feature that’s capturing the attention of many companies. During the first three months, Stories harnessed 100 million daily users. But why? What’s so great about Stories? And how can you use it to accomplish your goals?

How does it work exactly?

Instagram Stories are a new way for users to share pictures that a user might not want to remain on their profile indefinitely. Instead, Stories are shared with followers at the top of the regular feed and are deleted automatically after 24 hours. If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

How are Brands using Instagram Stories?

After exploring stories for the last few months I started to notice different ways brands are now taking advantage of this new feature. Using the stories format, brands have opportunities to connect with their audience and visually inspire them with their brand stories. 

How are Instagram Stories different from Snapchat?

Well first, let me tell you how they are the same. Both platforms run on the same idea (obviously we know Instagram may or may not have copied snapchat directly). Simply put, you take a picture or short video and post it under your profile, where your followers—all of them, or a select group, depending on your settings—can watch it for a span of 24 hours. Regardless both are super powerful platforms - but let me tell you the two biggest reasons why brands are engaging more with Instagram over snapchat.

Built In Audience

Unlike snapchat, you already have a built in audience as soon as you create your first of many "stories" on Instagram. (I don't understand) Great let me explain - With Snapchat you're only limited to certain segments and one of them is your friend group. There's a challenge in building up a snapchat audience. 

In addition to the built-in audience on Instagram, you also have the opportunity for increased discoverability. The content you produce on Snapchat needs to be promoted regularly across other channels or else no one will see it. Or you must follow someone on Snapchat to discover his or her content. On Instagram, there are hashtags, geotags, and the Discover section to increase your chances of being found. Also, Instagram Stories are also searchable and appear publicly on a profile if a profile is set to public. Snapchat content can disappear into the void unless someone knows exactly what to look for.

So I'm basically saying, If you have an active audience base on Instagram, you should jump on Stories quick! 



Now, How Can I Use Instagram to Drive Engagement?

There are many ways to increase engagement on Instagram, but I'm going to focus on two main areas that I use often, which cost nothing and I believe are the most effective: Instagram Live and Stories. 

Instagram Live

Instagram Live is the new ability to stream, in real time, from the Instagram app. Your community will then get a notification saying that you're "live" which just means you're now the host of your own life, event, t.v show, tutorial, etc. The possibilities are endless in the ways you can use "Live" but since I'm building a brand I use Instagram Live as an incredible way to increase website traffic & sales. 

Tips for a Successful Live Stream

Have A Clear Purpose

Like we mentioned above, think of your live stream like a mini-show, podcast episode, or blog post come alive. Have a clear topic and points. It helps to bullet things out ahead of time to keep yourself on topic. Remember that people are popping on and dropping off all the time, so it’s helpful to quickly recap your points from time to time.

Keep it Concise

I think live streams can be long or short, depending on the topic, and what your audience wants and expects from you. But most times people are not going to dedicate 20-30 minutes just to watch you. So make sure to get your point across in half the time.

Involve Your Audience

Ask questions and tell viewers to comment with their answers. Respond to them and make your stream as much of a two-way conversation as possible.

Send Them Somewhere Else (Call-to-Action)

As with all social media, the goal is to get someone to take the next step with you. Social media might be where someone discovers you or first engages with your brand, but you need to get them back to where you do business. Send them to one of your freebies or opt-ins. Comment with, or mention, a short link to a specific blog post that complements what you are talking about. Use your live stream to gain leads.

Tell a "STORIES"

Most recently, I created a series of "stories" that received a lot of engagement (below). (Everyone was in my dms asking me how I did it). Most of the dms were from people I didn't know. The most important aspect of "stories" is actually telling a story. Great story telling is one way to differentiate your brand. Story telling allows you to connect and engage with your audience on a deeper level. Because I know the brand that I've built, I was able to tell a story that my audience would understand, share, and simply love. Before you create a series of stories, really stop and think who are my audience and how will they relate to my content.

How was I able to reach people I didn't even know?.. You can now use hashtags and geotags directly on your Instagram stories. This allows other users to search for you or watch stories of certain locations. These new features on "stories" opens up your brand to a whole new audience without spending a dime.

Below I've included my personal Instagram "stories" that everyone seemed to love! As you can see below, I made sure once I created a great story, I made sure to tag users, add geotags and hashtags. 

Are you experimenting with Instagram Stories? What do you like? What don't you like? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

What I Learned from My First Year of Business

first year in business

Mentally and physically drained

I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into and why I thought it was a good idea. Then on top of that, I decided to start another side project – little did I know it would be so successful so quick. There comes a point when you have to re-evaluate all the things happening around you and from there try to make the best decision for you. Arriving at this point a few months ago made me realize how hard it was to work a full time job while trying to start something impactful on the side.

About a year ago I began with the goal of trying to provide business education to creatives looking to start businesses. The idea came about because I had spent time around so many designers and creatives that were great at their art but not so great at the business side of things. It was shocking to me that in design schools they give you the tools to create but not to sell your creation.

When I launched for the first time it was just me. Shortly after, I brought on another person, and another, and soon it was about 6 people. It was a great time because we were getting so many viewers on our newly built platform. Each person on the team had a different background and brought a lot to the table.

This was the first virtual company I began. Well, what exactly do I mean? The idea has been around for a long time. (Thank you Buffer for the inspiration. Read this great article by them talking about why they completely ditched having an office.) A virtual company is when you don’t really have a physical location; instead all the members on your team get to work remote from the comforts of their home and the flexibility of their schedule. There are many pro’s and con’s with not having a physical location. The first is cost related; When running a business the most expensive thing you’ll most likely be paying for is space/rent. The other pro is the fact that you don’t restrict talent to a certain region and in fact can hire the very best. However, there are also cons to running a virtual business. For example, sometimes it’s better to meet in person when you’re building a company culture, especially in the beginning.

Early Challenges

Personal Challenges

It’s understood that when you’re starting a company there are many challenges and obstacles along the way. I mean we were only a few months old and naive to all the difficulties that would come about. First, I’d like to just talk about some personal challenges. I was working a full time job that had me there about 60-70 hours a week (This is not a joke, welcome to consulting life). Spending that amount of time at work I didn’t even have time for myself let along friends and family. Most times I found my back against thew all and missed birthdays (sorry guys), weddings, and other important events to my friends. With all that going on I forgot to mention I was trying to run a start-up on the side trying to manage a team of six (which would later grow to a team of 16 with our summer internship program that would bring in 10 interns).

@@The personal challenges I guess you can say were my doing. What I was trying to do wasn’t physically possible.@@ (Sometimes I get this idea in my head that I’m indestructible.) Well, I learned my lesson.

Besides my own personal challenges there were also team challenges. Instead of diving deep on this topic I just want to focus on some of the key areas we struggled in and where other start-ups tend to as well. The areas where we experienced the most difficulties were around personal development, growing too quickly and accountability and responsibility.

Let me explain..

Personal Development

One of the greatest formula to a successful company (this can be found in any company you can imagine) is the ability to develop their people. What do I mean by this? Think about all the training programs provided before your start your new job. And even before you accepted the offer you saw just how polished individuals became overtime. There were workshops, development trainings which all tied into personal development. As a new start-up there are many opportunities out there that are even free to attend. It’s always important to keep your eye out for them to send your team (and even yourself). Another thing you should think about is establishing a mentorship network and an advisory board. Both will help in terms of receiving guidance and direction but also wisdom and experience in guiding your company and providing input for your people. Lastly, think about weekly check-ups. (Yes, i know the last thing on your mind is your people, but investing in them is the greatest thing not only for them but for the company.)

Growing too quickly

Yes, this is a thing! And I see it happen all too often. This is how it usually happens:

You share your idea and others express interest. They tell you they’re willing to help in any capacity. You take on the individual because you believe you need but in reality have know defined role or on boarding processes highlighting their responsibilities and etc. (Sidetone: the more people you have does not mean the more legit your company will be; not even close)

Defining roles and Accountability

Often times the missing link between an idea and execution that mostly goes missed is having well defined roles. It’s import to make sure people know and understand what’s expected of them, as well as who is in charge. It’s absolutely critical that roles are defined as the company and team grows. Miscommunication is common in start-ups that don’t really have defined roles and when things don’t get done it’s hard to track it back to who was accountable.

What mistakes have you’ve made when starting a business or thing you’re working on improving? I’m really interested in learning more and engaging in the comments below.