Ok, let’s talk about Instagram Stories for a sec.
Your customers are likely on Instagram. Over half of Millennials and Gen-Zers use Instagram daily, and that’s not nothing considering most Millennials are old enough to be homeowners!
It’s a platform where brands can thrive and connect with potential customers.
For instance, if you're a local business, you can leverage Instagram Stories to show off your company’s personality and turn your customers into fans to book more jobs.
On the surface, Stories might not appear to be the most intuitive Instagram feature, or even the one that screams “profit” the loudest.
But Instagram Stories can be incredibly powerful for small business and local service companies as both a branding platform and a lead-gen tool with the right strategy.
That’s why, in this blog, we’re not only going to cover why Instagram Stories for business is a great tool, but we’ve also put together 15 great ideas (with examples!) of what to post.
Hopefully, this will help you get the ball rolling in your next brainstorming session.
Ready? Let’s do it!
Instagram Stories is a feature that allows you to share photos or videos that disappear after 24 hours.
Instagram Stories are visible to any user, not just followers, and you can make multiple posts as often as you’d like; posts within the same 24-hour period are viewable back-to-back in a reel.
Instagram will denote a new, unviewed post to users by putting a gradient border around your profile photo.
Any user can click on the photo from your profile to view Instagram Stories, but Instagram also curates Stories at the top of the dashboard on your followers’ feeds.
Because of their short-lived nature, it's easy to overlook Instagram Stories.
Especially if you’re just getting started with Instagram for your small business, you might be thinking, “Well they’re just going to last 24 hours, so why bother?”
The truth is, Instagram Stories are an amazing way to interact with your followers, build brand awareness and drive sales!
But, I have to acknowledge, they can intimidate even the seasoned pros of Instagram.
Not everyone has the natural ability to show their face in front of the camera, and it’s 100% ok to be afraid to look silly at the beginning. Believe me. I know the feeling.
The good news is that there are a lot of ways to use Instagram Stories for business, so let’s dive into them!
First thing’s first, let’s talk about why you should use Instagram Stories for business. I have four solid reasons for you:
As we mentioned before, Instagram stories last only 24 hours, but they can be seen even by people who don’t follow you yet. This helps you reach beyond your own audience.
Consistently posting Instagram Stories helps you stay present at the top of your customers’ minds. The more customers hear from you, the higher the odds they’ll refer you to friends.
The more you connect with your audience, the more you get to understand them. Instagram Stories are a great way to elevate your content strategy in an engaging way.
Instagram Stories allow your business to interact with your audience and open up opportunities for them to tell you what they want from you. That kind of knowledge is priceless!
According to Instagram, about one-third of all views of Instagram Stories are for those published by businesses and roughly one-fifth of those views result in a direct message to the business.
People expect to see Stories from businesses and there’s nothing better than showing up for people who are ready to hear from you.
This is what makes Instagram Stories so much fun! They offer you a chance to break free from business formality and show your followers what happens behind the scenes.
My best recommendation? Don’t be afraid and just do it! Try something new. If something doesn’t work, it’s ok. They’ll disappear in 24 hours, right?
To share stories on Instagram for your small business, there are two main ways to get to the Stories tab.
You can click the plus (+) button near the top-right of your screen or swipe right anywhere on your feed.
You’ll then be taken to the posts page where a regular Post will be your default option, but all you have to do to share a Story is to, well, click on “Story.”
Now it’s time to get sharing! For a photo or video you’ve already recorded, just swipe up on your screen and you’ll see your library to select your asset of choice.
Otherwise, tap the big, white-colored circle button to take a picture directly from the app and hold it for a video.
How long do Instagram Stories last? An Instagram Story can last for up to 15 seconds. That’s how long photos in a Story will be shown.
You can still upload videos longer than 15 seconds and Instagram will just break them up into separate back-to-back posts of up to 15 seconds each.
Once you have a photo or video uploaded, it’s time to get creative!
Use the options on top to draw or add text, music or a fun sticker. Stickers are your secret weapon for boosting Instagram Story engagement (I’ll tell you all about it...keep on reading!).
When you're ready to share, tap “Your Story” at the bottom and, boom! You’ve shared a Story.
You might ask, “What should I post on my Instagram Story?” If you’re a small, local business, you need an Instagram Story marketing strategy to see your engagement metrics soar!
So far we’ve covered the why and the how, but the biggest question when it comes to using Instagram stories for business is the what, as in what the heck do I post?
Before I get started with the ideas and examples, we need to touch on something very important. The secret weapon I was talking about before: Instagram Stickers.
No matter what type of photo or video you use for your Instagram Story, there’s no denying that leveraging the power of stickers can put you ahead of the competition!
By using stickers like the poll, quiz, question, countdown or the emoji slider, you bring a nice dose of interactivity to your Stories by involving your followers with your business.
And with stickers, you enable your audience to play, vote, rate or and weigh-in with their opinions and thoughts.
Stickers are fantastic for grabbing your followers’ attention, helping them feel like they have a say and for you to get to know your audience better.
When used right, they can function like market research at the palm of your hand.
So make sure you take full advantage of all these features by using relevant stickers as much as possible.
Pro Tip: Use stickers as a starting point to come up with ideas for what to post. This way you can brainstorm more creative ways to incorporate stickers into your Stories.
Now let’s get to the fun part: What kinds of specific ways can I actually use Instagram Stories?
In the below examples you’ll see many stickers in action. Keep an eye out to see how to use stickers for Instagram Stories for ideas on how you can integrate them into your own content.
With the poll sticker, your followers can select one of two answers to a question of your choosing and cast their vote with just one click.
People love to share their opinions and they want to make it quick, so that’s what makes poll stickers such an engagement success.
The best part is that you can fully customize the poll to suit your creative needs. As you can see here, you can even use emojis!
Once you have the results of your poll, you can share them as well.
But that’s only the traditional way to use polls—don’t limit yourself! There are many ways to take advantage of this tool, like with a game of “this or that,” for example. Have fun with it!
Using the question sticker is another amazing way to interact with your audience and start building a community.
It is different from the poll in that you can ask open-ended questions and dig deeper into your followers’ preferences.
The best part is that you’re not the only one who can ask questions. You can use this sticker to allow your followers to ask questions about your business and to share fun tips & ideas.
You also have the ability to share the replies you get, which creates a sense of community as your followers feel seen and heard.
Are you having a fun team activity? Take a snap and let your followers be part of it! This is a great way to share a bit of the culture that makes your small business so special.
In the below example, you can see a local cleaning company use stickers by sharing a photo of their team decorating cakes with the quiz sticker for their followers to vote for the best cake.
Interacting with your audience and showing off your team’s fun personality is both good for local brand-building and for improving your Instagram presence via increased engagement rates.
Pro Tip: The Quiz Sticker forces you to choose one right answer. Whenever you want to use it to play games like the one above, you can write a note underneath saying “No Wrong Answers!”
Sharing photos or videos of your employees doing what they do best is an excellent example of how to use Instagram Stories for business.
These types of Instagram Stories are a great way to showcase your expertise, plus the wide variety of services you offer and the quality of the work you do.
When your biggest Instagram fans and your best customers get a personal sneak-peek at your team executing a unique job, it excites them.
That’s because it’s human behavior to gravitate towards watching and learning about service professionals doing a seemingly complex thing that you have no idea about.
Just the other day I saw a DIY-made from a local sliding-door installer. The whole 30-second video was just a sped-up recording of an employee installing a door—and I was transfixed.
My subconscious reaction? “Oh so that’s how you take out old sliding doors from their frames! I never thought of that before, but it looks cool!”
And guess what? That built-up brand recognition is now in the back of my mind for when either I need a new sliding door or if one of my friends does.
And even if the brand slips my mind, I still engaged with the video to help the company’s Instagram reach and the company now potentially has me on a retargeting list for advertising.
Talk about a win-win!
Similar to showing your team at work, Instagram Stories is the perfect place to share a good before-and-after.
It highlights the quality of your work, demonstrates your value that you bring to the table and showcases the results your customers can expect from you.
It’s almost as if before-and-after photos of a job from a small business are like free advertising!
Is there a way to share customer reviews on Instagram? Well, maybe not directly, but with a will, there’s a way! After all, reviews are a powerful thing to show off to potential customers.
Stories are an ideal way to create Instagram reviews.
What’s more, you can use Stories Highlights to create a stream of all of your customer reviews.
Stories Highlights is a feature that enables you to curate Instagram Stories that can live on your profile permanently.
So go ahead and create a Highlight called “Customer Reviews” on Instagram. Highlights are easily accessible for anyone looking at your profile.
Whenever you share a post on Instagram, it’s only shown to a portion of your total following.
By sharing your latest posts to your Stories, you bring more eyes to it. This helps you reach followers who otherwise wouldn’t see it.
This Instagram Stories idea is also a great way to repurpose content to make you more productive with your time and more efficient with your collateral.
You just got a new delivery in the mail you’re excited about? Share this excitement with your followers and let them be a part of it by documenting how you unbox it.
Additionally, you can tag the company you bought it from and, if they reshare, you get extra exposure.
And for all of you out there wondering how this helps you as a business, well, businesses get deliveries in the mail too!
Once an employer of mine signed up with a software company that had used a dinosaur in their logo and as their mascot.
Well, guess what? The company sent to our office a toy dinosaur in the mail as a welcome gift. You better believe we thought it was cute enough to share with our followers!
If you’re a local service business, for example, maybe you ordered a new piece of equipment that just got delivered and you want to show off its features & benefits to your best customers.
When it comes to visits from a postal worker to your company’s office, the possibilities really are endless!
Knowledge is better when it's shared. Show off your industry acumen by sharing tips and advice to your followers.
When you educate people about what you do, or even better, how you do it, they trust your expertise, leading to better engagement metrics, more referrals and, ultimately, higher sales.
We all need each other. Businesses help other businesses—sometimes we’re all in this together!
Use your Instagram Stories to give credit to other local businesses that help yours thrive. Remember, a little reciprocity really goes a long way.
When you show love to partner businesses, suppliers or even just a friend’s company, it’s human nature to receive some love back.
Plus, it’s not only nice to show some fellowship but these accounts will likely reshare your post to expose your business to new audiences. Just don’t forget to tag them!
Pro Tip: When tagging an account in an Instagram Story broken into multiple segments because of length, tag each segment so the other account can easily repost the whole Story.
Did you just reach a milestone worth celebrating? Or maybe a small win you’re really proud of? Share it with your followers!
Whether you completed a complex job, scaled your staff, hit a revenue goal or expanded into a new service region, people love to see others show excitement over their accomplishments.
Bonus points if you also celebrate the wins of others in your industry, just like in this below example (it ties into what we were discussing above about supporting other companies).
Instagram Stories are also the perfect space to build excitement around a giveaway or contest.
They allow you to go in depth with all the promotion details, like we did in the below example, while still leveraging engaging visuals in a convenient format without overly explaining things.
And yes, for the record, since this example was from our own account here at NiceJob, the promotion in question was a huge success!
If you ever help organize, promote or sponsor an industry event or tradeshow, don’t hesitate to include Instagram Stories as part of the marketing strategy.
Even if you’re just an attendee instead of an event organizer or sponsor, sharing fun event happenings is an incredible way to network and show your customers you’re always learning!
Don’t be afraid to break formalities and show something that is not business-related!
Sharing one of your hobbies or activities that you enjoy doing in your free time helps you connect with your audience in a personal way.
They get to know you for the person you are which helps them build a stronger connection with your brand as well.
Finally, we have social proof which, quite honestly, is pure gold. What is social proof? Social proof is using user-generated content to “prove” your worth.
This proof works so well because it’s reputable—since it doesn’t come directly from you, there’s no conflict of interest.
Examples of social proof include reviews, testimonials or any content from customers that can show your Instagram audience how proud other people are to use your services.
Sharing social proof is an excellent way to practice reputation marketing.
Reputation marketing is when you market your business by using your reputation. And social proof is a marker of your reputation. It’s that simple!
In this below example, we here at NiceJob use Instagram Stories for reputation marketing! It’s as easy as sharing a customer’s post about how happy they are with our platform.
There you have it, you’ve mastered this crash course in why Instagram Stories are such an important tool for your Instagram marketing.
From polls and stickers to sharing your wins and social proof, these Instagram Stories ideas will make you the top provider in your city and differentiate you from your competition on Instagram.
Hopefully, these 15 examples will serve you in your next brainstorming session and help you come up with unique ideas for your content strategy to boost your reach.
Now that you know how to use Instagram Stories for business, you can say hello to more engagements on social media and more revenue in your company pocket!