It’s not a secret I spend a lot of time on Instagram – I love it! But in case you aren’t on the app as much as I am, let’s start from the beginning. What is an Instagram story? Simply put, they are stories that live for 24 hours and then go away. That is how they started, but things have changed and they have become much more. Ultimately, they give your people a little behind the scenes into what your life looks like.
There are definitely some best practices when it comes to using Instagram stories for your personal brand, and that’s what we are talking about today!
Tip #1: Dashes, not dots
If you’re looking at an Instagram story, at the top you’ll see dashes that represent each 15 second story. When these look like dashes, all is well. When they start looking more like little dots–like when you’ve had a lot to say that day!–you might want to chill a bit on the story’ing. Some days you’re going to have more content than others and that is totally okay, but when you start seeing dots, your story becomes a lot more cumbersome for people to watch, and they’ll start swiping over to the next story, or just exiting in general. If you’re long winded like me, you’re going to have some days where you end up with dots. Don’t let this get you down! Just keep in mind that even though you want to give your people a good peek into your behind-the-scenes, you also want to be respectful of their time. There’s a quote that goes, “never use a long word when a shorter one will do”, and Instagram stories are a similar beast. Keep it short and sweet to best keep you audience’s attention.
Tip #2: Use stories for real-time, real-life updates
Honestly, the best-best practice there is is to use Instagram stories for real-time, real-life updates. What does this mean? Honestly, just show up. You don’t need to be perfect and polished, you can just show up with a messy bun and no makeup. Try and get to the point where you’re cool with that level of raw-ness, because that is what people are looking for. Instagram feeds have become so curated and beautiful, which can also be fun in its own way, but stories can be fun peek behind the curtain. It can be the messy behind-the-scenes – people are okay with that! I know it can feel like there is a LOT to do when it comes to social media; don’t let Instagram stories become another ‘thing’ for you. Use the behind-the-scenes nature to your advantage. Don’t make it complicated!
Tip #3: Show your face
I know, this makes people hella nervous. We’re creatives, we don’t want to get in front of the camera. But that face to face connection, even if it’s via Instagram, is where the connection comes from. And when we’re talking personal branding, it’s all about connection. So try it! Do it little by little. Close your door, take a deep breath, make sure your family isn’t watching, and just do it. Showing up on Instagram stories has just become a part of my day now, and it makes that discomfort in the beginning totally worth it.
Tip #4: Use captions
Did you know that 85% of video on Facebook and Instagram is watched with the sound off? There’s a reason people use that little “sound on” sticker when they want you to turn your volume up! You’re probably guilty of this too. Because of that, captioning your stories can help in case others are in a place they cannot listen to your story out loud. You can type out what you are saying manually, or you can use apps, like Clipomatic, that will automatically caption everything you are saying. Make it as easy as possible for someone to watch or listen to your story by using captions!
Tip #5: Save your best stories to your Highlights
If you’re like me, you have probably come across an Instagram profile that you really like, but you can’t quite figure out what the person is all about. You just need a little more information. That is why highlights are great for this. Highlights allow you to give others a little preview into who you are and what kind of content they can expect from you if they were to follow you. Examples may be: Amazon hauls, about me, try-on sessions, recipes, lightroom mobile presets, behind the scenes, and so much more.
It can be handy for those who are already following you and just want to look back on a story you posted in the past. But highlights are also really handy for people who might be new to your account and want to get a feel for the kind of stories you do on a daily basis. An FAQ highlight can be really helpful if you find yourself answering the same questions over and over again. You can have the answers in the highlight reel and send people there for more information – you can serve the audience but not get overwhelmed by needing to answer a ton of DMs on the same subject all of the time.
It’s also worth mentioning that you can brand your Instagram highlight covers. This highlights are going to appear as circles on your Instagram bio, and you can change the cover art. You can use you branding colors, photos, or you can create graphics. We like using Canva to create cover art graphics. For example, a graphic of a camera could be the cover art for a highlight about photography tips. This makes your Instagram profile look really cohesive, which helps your brand shine. (The link above is an affiliate link for Canva Pro, which my team uses and I highly recommend; however, I used Canva Free for years and loved it, too!)
I know often times Instagram can feel like another things we have to do. But don’t forget, Instagram is a really fun app. Don’t let it get too complicated. Keep it simple, show up, connect with people, and just be yourself. You’ll see success in the app, and even more than that, you’ll start having fun.