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ARTICLE
You’ve probably heard of Instagram Stories (if you haven’t, keep reading). You may even use Stories yourself, especially if you’re an avid Instagram fan. But have you thought about trying them out as part of your business’s social media marketing plan? If you haven’t taken advantage of this hugely popular feature yet, I’m here to persuade you to at least give it a go! After all, it’s important to engage with our target audiences in the places we’re most likely to find them. At the moment, that place is often Instagram Stories.

So, what is Instagram Stories? Well, the Stories feature was launched in 2016 and was essentially Instagram’s answer to Snapchat. These short posts (Stories) which disappear after 24 hours provided a new, fun, exclusive way for people to communicate – and audiences absolutely loved it. The move increased Instagram's widening popularity even more and by the time 2020 rolled around, 500 million people worldwide were using Instagram Stories every day.

Snapchat does remain popular with younger users, but it's fair to say Instagram Stories has been a huge success and the wider Instagram platform is now the preferred stomping ground for 23-35 year olds. This makes it perfect for marketing your DJ business for engagement parties, weddings, birthdays, and more.

For those who aren't familiar, the Stories feed can be found at the top of your Instagram home page, where you will see a collection of user names and profile pictures. To view a user's Story you click the profile picture, which then displays a series of posts (Stories) that play one after the other before automatically moving on to the next user's Story. You have the options to swipe forward and backward. To pause a Story, you tap and hold the screen. The app will continue to automatically play Stories (and adverts in between) until you exit. Moving from one user to the next, this seemingly never-ending feed is what makes Instagram Stories addictive for so many users.

The style of content used in Stories varies greatly, but the general idea is that these temporary posts allow you to connect with other users on a much more personal level. You can use this space to post ad-hoc, in-the-moment content, whether it's behind-the-scenes footage from your gigs, live videos from behind the booth, or fun musings on the nature of being a DJ. It's also a great place to share screenshots, other people's posts, or surveys and quizzes for your followers. But more on this in a minute.

As I pointed out in a previous Pro Mobile piece, a third of all Instagram Stories come from business profiles, proving that users are happy to engage with businesses through this feature. Millennial and Gen Z users crave these genuine interactions because they want to use authentic businesses who are passionate about what they do.

So, why not give Instagram Stories a go? You won't regret it, especially when your engagement starts skyrocketing. Before you dive in and get started, I've put together a handful of things you should know before you tap that share button...

1. Stories disappear after 24 hours– but you can keep them forever

Instagram Stories was created to take on Snapchat, a social media platform based entirely on ephemeral (disappearing) content. So, the idea of these Stories vanishing after a day is kind of the point! But... there is actually a way to keep your Stories permanently.

When Instagram introduced the Highlights feature, it allowed us to save Stories to our profile for users to view later. Your ‘highlights reel’ can be found above your main feed. To create a new Highlight, you should click the + symbol in the circle. You can then select previous Stories to include in the Highlight, as well as giving the Highlight a name and thumbnail image. This Highlight will then be kept above your feed permanently, for users to watch as many times as they like.

2. You can use video or images

It probably goes without saying, but for those of you who haven't used Stories before, you can include video footage or still imagery in your Stories. They're designed to be viewed on a smartphone, so portrait images and videos work best. The actual dimensions are 1920x1080px (a 16:9 ratio), but when you're first starting out it's more about giving it a go – so don't get too hung up on exact sizing. A good tip when capturing content for Instagram Stories is to use your phone camera in its standard portrait position, as this will ensure images and videos are at least the correct orientation.

3. Share your in-feed posts to your Story

A great way to promote your latest in-feed posts is by sharing them to your Stories. This will encourage more users to visit and view your feed. To share a post to your Story, simply go to the post in your feed, tap the arrow beneath the image and select 'Add Post to Your Story'. The image will open up in a new Story, where you can add text, GIFs and stickers if you wish. It's also possible to share posts by others if you want to get in their good books. This can be done via the same method but is only possible if the user has allowed their posts to be shared.

4. You can 'go live' on Stories

Facebook Live has been a thing for quite a while now, but broadcasting live is also possible on Instagram Stories. If you're already used to talking to camera then this feature will be great for you, mainly because it sends an alert to all your followers when you go live, encouraging them to click through to your Story. For this reason, it's more engaging than pre-recording a video and posting it to your Story later. Becoming comfortable on camera is something many of us struggle with (myself included) but if you've got the guts to do it, you'll be rewarded with high engagement and increased customer loyalty. Live Stories are a great way to amplify those benefits even further.

5. People love stickers and GIFs

Used tastefully, fun GIFs and stickers can make your Stories colourful, eye-catching and personable. Audiences love the use of GIFs and animations, as well as the wide range of Stickers available. These can be laid over the top of your main image or video, encouraging users to swipe, tap, answer questions, visit your profile, etc. Don't over-do it, but you should definitely use these engaging animations and features as part of your Stories.

6. Stories don't have to be perfect – have some fun!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 102, Pages 34-38.
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