How to Use Instagram Stories to Organically Grow Your Business
I’m all about transparency. While I don’t have a ton of Instagram followers, I have (through a lot of trial and error), figured out how to connect with my audience in a way that I’m really proud of. I never got into blogging to take pretty pictures, to make a bunch of cash-money (although DEFINITELY not complaining about getting paid for this work), or to be famous. I started doing it to create community and to meet some rad-as-shit people. One of the most major ways I’ve built my brand and connected with my audience is through Instagram stories.
Look, I get that this is a wellness-focused blog. You might be thinking - What’s with the business shit? I’m here for yoga! I get it. Here are some yoga videos. Enjoy.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I think there’s a huge opportunity to bring more conversations about wellness and mindfulness into how we do business. I build Donuts + Down Dog with the ideas of authenticity, balance, and mindfulness in mind. All of those things absolutely also have to do with how I work, interact with clients, and run a business.
Donuts + Down Dog was also created with one mega theme in mind: let’s get past the bullshit. I’m not going to sugar coat anything. I’m going to give you real, honest advice. You have a busy-ass life and not a lot of time to dick around. It’s a fucking honor that you’re taking time to hang out on this corner of the internet. Which is why I wanted to share some of my for-real tips for using IG.
I wanted to share this information for a few reasons. First, this is all stuff that I had to learn on my own through a lot of trial and error. It’s something that I really enjoy playing around with and exploring. Secondly, there is so much shitty blogging advice out there. I’ll save you the rant, but there are a lot of people on the internet peddling straight-up garbage advice and charging for it. I want to give you the real stuff. I hope that it helps you!
Below are some of my most successful tips and tricks for using Instagram Stories to build my business and connect with my audience. I hope that you find them helpful! If you don’t already, give me a follow on Instagram.
Use video to show followers your real life. Social media is a highlight reel. It’s full of carefully edited photos that have been staged, planned, and probably styled. With that being said, accounts that are run for business purposes have a lot going on behind the scenes. If a photo is part of a paid collaboration there’s even more pressure for the end result to be perfectly lit, staged, and in line with both brands colors so that the images can be repurposed. It can be hella fucking exhausting. I do this too - I absolutely plan out my photos to make sure that they are conveying the correct messages and fit in visually with my brand. IG feeds tend to be more like a magazine; thoughtfully curated, styled, and planned out to flow together. That’s good for showing your worth as a business, and also most users prefer a pretty feed. That’s just how the cookie crumbles.
Here’s where IG stories can come in, though. While the IG feed is like a magazine, stories are the messy behind the scenes. Stories are where viewers get to know a person or a brand. Stories are where you can talk to your followers like you’re all sitting around a table drinking coffee on a Saturday morning. Stories are where you can go a bit more in-depth than you’re able to in a caption, and you also have the advantage of being able to use video to articulate your points. You can absolutely stay on brand in your stories by reiterating your main messages. I’m in the wellness space, so I use my stories to show my followers my own wellness day-to-day routine. This might be through things like sharing the ingredients of a healthy meal that might not be the most photogenic, talking about a new product that I tried, sharing my mindfulness prompts for the day, or showing how I look after a workout. My stories tend to be pretty playful - that’s just who I am as a person. If you’re a beauty blogger with a serious personality, use your stories to highlight the details of the products that you use, why you use them, and what your skincare routine is. Your stories are a great opportunity to reaffirm your brand and connect with your audience on a more intimate level.
Don’t get too fancy. Look, there are a lot of apps that you can get to style your Instagram stories. You can spend a ton of extra time getting everything to look a certain way and to fit your aesthetic, or you can use stories to showcase your real life and connect authentically with your followers. Personally I would rather do the second option. Unless you have a social media manager whose sole job is to run your IG, save yourself time and skip the fancy editing apps. I’ve used them in the past and engagement on my stories has tanked every single time. People want to know the real you. Show it to them.
Be consistent. When I first started creating stories nobody watched or engaged with them. I genuinely enjoy creating story content, so I kept posting. Now when I post my stories get hundreds of views and are a major part of how I use my brand to connect with my audience. This isn’t intended to be a humble brag (eye roll here), I just want to drive the point home that if you commit to using stories the results will follow. Now it’s pretty common for brands to include story content in our content contracts. I’ve found for me the sweet spot is about 5 days a week. I give myself permission to take a few days off during the week (because nobody should be working 24/7) and have found that doesn’t interfere too much with my engagement. By posting regularly on stories my account also shows up first for most of my followers, which is why it’s again (are you sick of this ye?!) important to be consistent.
Have a goal in mind. My goal with my stories is to authentically connect with my followers. I started Donuts + Down Dog with the intention of creating a close-knit community. Creating authentic connections is a huge part of making that happen. I use my stories to ask my audience questions, share my struggles and successes, and to talk about my current wellness obsessions. Don’t get me wrong - I absolutely post random shit. It’s fun, it’s a great way to get to know my audience, and it breaks up the monotony of constant wellness talk. But posting random shit all the time is just that, random. Get clear on what your brand is and think about how you can use stories to back that up. You absolutely can monetize your stories by using the swipe-up feature (if your account is about 10k), referring followers to a specific link/post, or sharing discount codes. Just be careful that you’re not all sales. I go for at most about 20% sales content.
Include text in your stories so that everybody can follow along. This is a big pet peeve of mine. When you think about it, most of the time when you are on social media you probably don’t have the sound on, right? So when somebody is talking in an IG story but you’re watching it in the bathroom at your work… you 'have no idea what they’re saying. Put text over your stories so that your followers know what you’re talking about! This makes stories look more professional, and you are a fucking professional, damnit! This way you’re also serving the population of your followers who might be hearing impaired. I started doing this a few months ago and get a few “thank you” messages each week from my followers for creating content that’s easy to follow. It only takes a few extra seconds to type out your message. It’s so worth it.
Create engaging content. Engaging content comes in a lot of different forms. You can also use tools like polls and questions to encourage your followers to engage with you. A few months ago I started using the questions feature to ask my audience what kind of content they wanted to see on Donuts + Down Dog. This was a great way to get my audience to talk to me, and it also helped me figure out what kind of content my audience wanted from me. It’s easy to get into the weeds of your business and get out of touch with what your customers want - we’ve all been there. Asking questions has been a great way for me to pulse-check my audience and to drive my content creation planning. Types of content that tend to be engaging are video, anything with a question in it (try to ask something that can’t be answered with YES or NO), photos of people, polls, or quizzes. When you give your audience a task, they’re more likely to respond because they know what they’re supposed to do.
Respond as much as possible. I’m going to be brutally honest with you here. If you’re putting work into creating IG stories and then not making an effort to respond to the messages you get, you’re wasting your time. Stories are a great start for connecting with your audience, but the follow through is where you create lasting relationships. There is no point in dedicating time to stories if you aren’t going to respond to your audience when they reach out to you. It’s like when you keep texting a friend to hang out and they never respond - at some point you just stop reaching out. Even if it’s just an emoji or a quick THANKS! it’s totally worth it.