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As someone who has grown up in the digital age, I’ve indulged in many trends – from GIFs and memes to stories and boomerangs. It’s fair to say that I’m no stranger to jumping on the bandwagon of the latest social media craze. One of my longtime favourites is Instagram stories; something that doesn’t feel as “serious” as a post but still allows me to share aspects of my day (most frequently pictures of my dog) to my profile. This may sound like a trivial feature but make no mistake, the humble Instagram story can also be a great tool for a brand or business to help promote products or services. In fact in a blog published on the Adweek website, it was estimated that over 500 million accounts use Instagram stories daily and there are over 2 million monthly ads on stories!

If your brand is keen to follow the example of many others, then here are my 5 top tips for making the most of Instagram stories.

Make it look pretty!
My first tip is pretty self explanatory and one that is essential for engagement on a visual platform such as Instagram. From bars and coffee shops to cosmetics and food, there are so many ‘good-looking’ Instagram profiles out there that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to engage an audience. An easy way to do this is to make your content aesthetically pleasing in order for it to stand out and add value to your followers’ feeds. You can also enhance your content using some of the many tools available such as over-laying GIFs, text or music. These can instantly make your content more appealing. Just be careful not to overdo it.

Produce valuable and appropriate content
One of the best things about Instagram stories is that you control what you post, with very few restrictions. Video stories can prove to be very successful when used by businesses because the topics of your content can be endless. From product videos and reviews to behind-the-scenes vlogs and Q and As, you can post pretty much anything. A great feature of Instagram stories is being able to ‘highlight’ the post to your profile permanently instead of it disappearing after the first 24 hours. This is great when used on stories that have particularly valuable content; for example answering FAQs or providing important product information.

Fit the format
When creating content for an Instagram ad it’s always important to consider the specifications of the ad space. Regardless of whether it’s a photo or video, you need to make sure your content works from top to bottom as well as left to right. The simplest way to do this is to ensure that your content is portrait and fills the screen. If it’s landscape then you will be left with a lot of negative space which, on an image-led platform, is not appealing or the best use of space.

Remember your call to action – swipe up or swipe on?
What do you want your followers to do straight after seeing your story? If you want to increase traffic to your website then you can tell them to ‘Swipe up’ which will take them straight to a linked web page. This is a feature that is only available if you have at least 10,000 followers or you’re verified on Instagram. If you’re not one of the lucky ones with that feature available to them, then tell your followers to “click the link” in your bio – this can be just as effective.

Ask your followers
For years market research has provided companies with priceless data about customers and their behaviour. Well guess what, on Instagram you can retrieve information from your followers for free! Instagram stories allow you to ask burning questions, run polls and let your followers ask questions back. This immediately gives you useful data that can be used however you want – so why not make the most of it?

As with any social media platform, there are regular updates to the app so new features are added all the time. In the meantime, hopefully my tips have provided you with a ‘beginner’s guide’ to using Instagram stories for your brand.
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