It would appear that Instagram stories were something that everyone wanted, but didn’t know they needed. The tool had 100 million daily active users within just two months of its inception.They’re fun, yes – but can you use Stories to promote your company?For businesses in the digital age, Insta Stories are a fresh take on brand, product and service promotion. Nail it and you can create a deeper connection with your followers, allowing you to build loyalty, relationships and hopefully encourage sales.But how?First let’s start with exactly what Instagram stories are.What are Instagram Stories?Credit: AgorapulseAn Instagram story is a way to share photos, videos and information with your followers that will disappear after 24 hours.Separate from the planned world of user’s profiles, Instagram Stories are in place to show followers a more realistic view of the day-to-day. Stories aren’t intended to be perfect, although you can edit photos with text, drawings, stickers and other features to pretty them up.Credit: TechCrunchIf you need help on how to post them, or want to learn more about the different tools you can use to jazz up what you share – check out Instagram’s official guide here. So – Why use Instagram Stories for Business?If you’re thinking that Instagram Stories are just for sharing photos of your breakfast, you’re wrong! People aren’t only using them to connect with mates – one-third of the most viewed stories come from businesses.If that stat doesn’t impress you – how about these –One in five Insta Stories result in direct messages from viewersApprox 70% of Stories are watched with sound on – vastly different to the prevalence of silent video watching on FacebookThe app has upwards of 600 million usersAsos Instagram Stories – Credit: Ayima You know what Instagram stories are – now what do you post?Using Instagram Stories for your personal accounts vs. a business account is a very different game. Although Stories should be fun and casual, they still have to be relevant to your brand. Here’s eight ideas of what to post that works well with business – Behind the scenes pictures – they’ll help your followers feel like insiders and gain a personal connection to your brand.Product demos and how-tos – the temporary nature of Insta stories means you can show followers demos and how-tos in a bunch of different ways.Teasers – got a new product launching? Build some hype by posting a sneak peak on your Story.Promote events – want to get people along to an event you’re hosting? then let your followers know about it via a fun little Insta story invite.Go live – show those that couldn’t make it to your event what’s happening in real time by live blogging your event.Tempt with limited offers and flash sales – offering platform specific flash sales is a good way to reward your followers and remind them that you appreciate them!Instagram Story flash sale example – Credit: Alex ToobyHost a Q&A – do you get a lot of comments and messages that are similar? Why not answer them all in one hit with a slick video Q&A?Tap into trends – What’s the biggest news story of the day? Is there a way to relate it to your product? This type of guerrilla marketing via Instagram Stories can really boost your audience engagement.Behind the scenes at GoPro using Instagram Stories – Credit: EcwidDoes this all sound good? Yes? Well how about going deeper – let’s look at more opportunities to encourage a direct action from your audience (sales, clicks, conversions) with Instagram Stories. Call to Action – Swipe up for MoreInstagram Stories allows you to include a very effective call to action (CTA) – if you meet the criteria. The CTA for Instagram Stories lies with the ‘swipe up’ or ‘read more’ link.Credit: Jumper Media via Gary VaynerchukAt first, Instagram only released this feature to verified business accounts, which is still what it says on their website.Credit: Instagram.However, in May of this year, despite not updating the information on their site, Instagram started to roll out this feature to more businesses. You can now use clickable stories links if you are a business profile with more than ten thousand followers.Now if you’re thinking, I’ll never get my page to 10k followers! Don’t stress. Following the trend of most Instagram features of the past, it seems only natural that the feature will soon be released to all users – so hold out! It’s a great way to add even more purpose to your stories.In the meantime, paid Instagram Story placements may be the best way to encourage a direct action from your audience. What are Instagram Story Advertisements?Instagram Story Ads allow you to create short advertisements that appear between users’ stories. The ads look like regular stories, fitting the dimensions and format. It can consist of either a single photo or video (up to 15 seconds long) and can target various business goals – from brand building to sales.There are two ways to create an Instagram Story ad – you can either use Facebook to create the ads or you can use Instagram directly. See here for more.Keep in mind though – the ads are just like any other Instagram Story, meaning they’re easily skippable with a swift tap of the screen. To be successful, you need to create something interesting and attention-grabbing. Tips on How to Make an Engaging Instagram Story AdInstagram Story ads have one major disadvantage – they’re transient – they can’t be re-watched or rewound. You need to make sure that whatever you’re posting gets the message across before it’s gone forever. They are also quite limiting for people who lack a creative flair, Sarah Rogers, performance social at CPC Strategy said,’your creative should be ‘thoughtful’ because people are very much in a ‘browsing friends and family’ content mindset – in other words, just make sure it doesn’t feel too much like an ad.Here are some tips:Keep it simple, but effective: viewers need to get hooked within seconds and need to remember your ad from one view.Inform: make sure to provide only the most important info, and that you have a clear call to action from your post.Make use of full screen: you’ve got more space – so use it!Ask questions: Prompting user generated content (UGC) works, according to Neil Patel 92% of consumers trust UGC. Like Target did in this post:The major advantage of Instagram Story ads is that they are an inexpensive form of marketing, that is flexible and easy to navigate. They allow businesses to engage with audiences that may be hard to target elsewhere, and are a great tool for building brand awareness._____________________ Have you ever used Instagram stories for your business? And in what way? Let us know!If you need help developing your Instagram account, contact Visible today!