13 Tips on How to Make Captivating Instagram Stories That Drive Sales & Grow Your Following

After Instagram introduced stories, users were still figuring out their relationship to the app, and how it relates to Snapchat. Stories are essentially a stolen feature. Nevertheless, after about a month, users began to engage with their followers and become equally as creative as they did after the first couple of waves of users came through Instagram in its inception. Remember when we used Instagram effects? Times have changed.

Users found many different and creative uses for their stories. Some use the stories for behind the scenes. Some use it to tell long, daily stories. The benefits are that you are connecting with followers, have an extra outlet for sponsored content, and can showcase quick & dirty shots instead of the polished gallery photos. 

Use Instagram stories to build relationships with your followers. 

To give you some quick numbers, as of June, Instagram hit 1 billion monthly active users. Out of those, 300 million watch stories daily.  This is very important to remember when understanding the ecosystem of Instagram as a whole. With what seems like weekly added features, Instagram is positioning itself to be the primary app for the freshest, most creative, most desired content. 

So how can you utilize the traffic on this app to help your business or your brand sell products, expand on the product pipeline, build out a dedicated newsletter list? By expressing yourself through stories and utilizing them to the best of their potential.

Before I give you the goods, let's look at what the standard for the stories should be. Stories are the place where you build relationships with your users. 

You should consider how you are presenting yourself or your business to your followers. It's  up to you on how personal you'd like to get with your followers, but understand that your followers like seeing who is behind the screen. Who is the person that's producing the content? What does he/she like to do? What are their hobbies? The more authentic you are, the easier it is for your followers (and new ones) to connect with you. You don't have to give them your blood type and your social security number, but share with them some things about yourself! 

While stories are meant to be quick and dirty, chopped pieces of your day or behind the scenes, that doesn't mean they can't be done tastefully and with creativity and care. Just like with any good story, think about how you are going about your day to day, sharing content with your users. What is in it for them when they watch your stories? Are they being entertained, given valuable content, connecting with you better?

Producing a good story doesn't need to be difficult. A story should have a beginning, a middle, a climax, and an end. This invites your followers to go on this journey with you, and the stories don't even have to be super long! 

The other day I shared a recipe I was attempting to cook. I am very vocal with my followers that I try to lead a healthy life, and am working on avoiding sugar as well as trying the keto diet. I posted a recipe I wanted to try, tagged a friend to thank them for the recommendation, and added a few more story posts to document my process. I showcased the intent, the middle part (where I show the ingredients), and the end where I showcased my meal. This could have been improved with a little bit more about the process (such as the shrimp cooking) or maybe a video of me telling my users how I enjoy (or can improve) the meal a la Martha Steward. 

I even had several friends and followers reach out to me with some questions and feedback! This is one of those ways where I can connect with the users in a very carefree, easy way that doesn't take too much of my time but has significant impact. 

One more thing I could also have done offer a question to get the followers to talk to me further. I could have simply asked "Would you ever try zoodles?" or "How great does this look?". Get. The. People. To. Talk. To. You. 

And when users send you direct messages and responses to your stories, respond to them! Always. It could be simply emojis, or a quick answer to say "Yeah I totally agree" but make sure to respond. This preps the followers to understand that you enjoy speaking with them, and will answer their comments / questions.

Lastly, always end your stories with a call to action. It could be simple, like "Send me your favorite keto recipes" or "Tag me in your best and most favorite dinner recipes". This conditions the users to think of you and share their favorite things with you (and everyone loves to talk about their favorites!) . This also builds your users up to when you have calls to action that are going to benefit your business or want to build out the conversations in the future, the users will know that their feedback will be welcomed by you.

So with all of this set as the backdrop to our stories, let me share some pieces of advice on how you can best utilize the stories.

I've compiled some suggestions to help you create more engaging stories.

1. Use polls to raise engagement

Fantastic and quick, polls are an easy way to ask your followers to participate!  Tap on the square smiley icon in the upper right corner. When stickers and graphics pop up, choose the sliding bar to add a poll. You can customize the emoji in the middle and choose whichever one suits your question best, and edit the color of the text to your preference.

You can use polls to build on the inclusivity and interactivity of your page. Let your users help you decide what to eat for lunch, what blog posts to release next, which color lipstick you should wear, etc. Polls can be particularly helpful in letting your users feel connected and included in your life. 

After you build a rapport of communication with your users, a fantastic way you can use polls is by asking question and direct messaging all of the ones who responded to continue the conversation. Let's say you ask "Would you be interested in a giveaway?" and then reach out personally to all of the people who respond to your poll to ask what would they be interested in for the giveaway, what sorts of products or tools you could talk about in your Instagram more, etc.

Include a call to action at the end. It can be as simple as saying  "DM me your favorite products and maybe I'll include them in a giveaway".  Again, use the polls as the very beginning of your interaction, and then build on those touchpoints.

2. Add gifs to your stories 

Take a photo (or upload one by moving your finger in the upward direction) in your stories. Tap on the square smiley icon in the upper right corner. When stickers and graphics pop up, click the "GIF" sticker to open the search window for all the gifs. Choose one you like, and it will be added to your story! 

GIFs and the rest of the creative little pieces can really spice up an image and make it very unique to your style. It's like an extension of a brand! The way you present your stories should set you apart from the rest of the users. 

A simple way to utilize a GIF is by showcasing that you've recently uploaded a new post to your gallery. Add a flashing heart or a fun arrow to light up the way to your new post, without giving away too much. 

3. Add stickers and develop your own style

After taking or uploading the photo, click the little smiley square face in the upper right corner to bring up a slew of stickers that you can add to your story. You can add things like the location, time, temperature, or go with other fun graphics provided by Instagram. By tapping on the specific sticker, after you add the sticker to the page, you can change the sticker into a couple variables offered by Instagram.

4. Add the best stories to your Highlight Reel

Instagram added a chance for users to save their stories (or parts of stories) into highlights, found at the top of the user profile. Highlights can offer your users a high level overview of what your page is about. Many users utilize icons to specify categories. 

5. Post 'evergreen' content 

What's that? It's content that never goes out of style. 

6. Consistency matters here just as much as with your gallery

Don't forget to upload stories daily. You don't need to upload a ton, and it certainly doesn't have to illustrate you doing anything remarkable. In fact, stories really humanize the user and let the followers see the day-to-day. Don't be afraid to share thoughts, music suggestions, food photos, moments from your day, etc. 

7. Keep checking your engagement

Look at your analytics! What are the numbers telling you? Take a look at your engagement by swiping up on a piece of your story. 

8. Use stories as a way to share behinds the scenes, engage with your audience

I've seen so many creative ways of utilizing stories. Use your skills to give users some insights into how you do your work! For example, photographers can offer advice on how to pose with a model, or how to scout the best location. 

9. Go live!

Create engagement! Tons of users have utilized this feature to connect with their followers, answer questions, lead a workshop, showcase how they do their work (photography editing, baking, exploring, etc).

10. Offer sale codes only found in the stories 

This is a great way to drive traffic from a different social media platform that may have more followers. If you've got a following on Facebook, or a newsletter, you can alert people ahead of time that "There will be a special sale code, posted to Instagram stories only for 24 story on DD/MM/YY". This will allow people to not only figure out that you are active on Instagram, but also get excited about this special offer. 

11. Drive traffic to your feed

As far as companies are concerned, stories are great but not quite as lucrative as the feed. That doesn't mean you shouldn't make them engaging! It does mean though that your averages (engagement, followers, comments) matter a ton so you should never forget about them. Drive traffic to your gallery posts with creative ways such as giveaways, contests, competitions.

12. Offer daily / weekly reminders to your followers and chances to get exclusive access

This goes well with the bullet above, but stories are fantastic for showcasing limited engagements that you are happy to answer questions about. Users can see a fresh update with any extra information you've got. Users can also quickly respond to stories, which means that you or your team can be immediately helpful with promoting the event. 

13. Add a filter to your story

By swiping to the side (left or right), Instagram will help you add a filter to your story. There are 11 options currently, and they work both on photos and videos. 

14. Host giveaways

Direct messages allow users to send each other all sorts of content, including URL links. Post to your story that you are giving away XYZ, and have them direct message you for the specific link. You can say something like "I created a guide with 100+ resources on how to become an influencer. DM me for the link" and when people reach out to you, send them the URL to your blog, engage them in a conversation, ask them about their goals, dreams, wishes. Set yourself up as a solution to these questions and build this relationship.

This drives traffic to your blog, helps you connect with your followers, gives you product expansion ideas, and really solidifes you as the thought leader on this topic.


Khrystyna Oros