Of the more than 1 billion people who use Instagram each month, over half of them use Instagram Stories daily—and lucky for you, they’re hungry for content from brands. According to Instagram, eight out of 10 users follow at least one business account. So how can you leverage the stories feature to grow an engaged following and increase your bottom line?
In the video below, we’ve got Nathan Chan revealing his top strategies for using Instagram Stories to grow your account. As the editor of Foundr, Nathan grew our account to 1 million followers in just two years. Today, we’re at nearly 2 million and counting! He also runs water bottle company Healthish, which has already amassed over 50,000 followers. Collectively, both of these companies have generated millions of dollars through Instagram.
So trust us when we say that you don’t want to miss this one! Watch the video below and then read on for an in-depth analysis of Nathan’s tips on how to use Instagram Stories to skyrocket your growth.
1. Show Behind-the-Scenes Content
Instagram Stories have a huge advantage over regular posts in that they don’t have to be polished. What a relief! This is your opportunity to share real, down-to-earth content that gives your followers a glimpse behind the curtain.
Whether you’ve got a business or personal brand account, showing behind-the-scenes content can satisfy your followers’ cravings for authenticity and exclusivity. When brainstorming what to share, ask yourself these questions: What products are you working on right now? What goes on at a typical morning meeting? Who’s new at the office? These are all things that may not make for a great feed post but can make for exciting stories content.
Here’s an example of how we do it at Foundr:
We took our followers behind the scenes of a shoot with Marie Forleo. By having Nathan address our audience directly and show the lights and cameras set up in the background, we took our followers backstage with us and gave them a glimpse of something they wouldn’t normally get to see.
You can do the same with your followers. Connect with them by taking them along for the journey. After all, humans love to follow a good story. Just take a look at Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, a book that summarized his work exploring the universality of the human story.
The hero’s journey is a basic plot found in some of the most beloved movies and books—think of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or The Wizard of Oz—where the protagonist is called to an adventure, faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and overcomes them to achieve a transformation.
Audiences don’t want a bland story about how everything went well—give them excitement, danger, and obstacles to keep them interested! Every entrepreneur has a hero’s journey. Show that to your audience to be more relatable.
To take it to the next level, involve your followers by asking for their opinions, turning this hero’s journey into a “choose-your-own-adventure” story. Not only will it keep things more interesting for your audience, but it also will help you understand their needs and wants. For example, you could show photos of your latest prototypes and ask them to vote on a color. Or, you could ask them what topic you should blog about next.
Remember, if you’ve set your Instagram up as a business account, you have access to free analytics. Even if you’re just starting to learn how to use Instagram Stories, the more you share, the more data you’ll gather to inform your decisions. So don’t be afraid of experimenting! Show your commute to the office, your morning routine, your product development process. By sharing a variety of content and checking your Instagram analytics, you’ll be able to tell what your audience responds to best.
2. Use Instagram Polls to Make Sales
Sure, Instagram polling is a great way to engage your audience and find out what they think, but did you know it can be a powerful tool to make direct sales?
Nathan shares this genius hack on how to use polls to create a one-to-one sales conversation:
Step 1: Post a poll asking if they’re interested in your offer.
At Foundr, we offered a print copy of our Richard Branson issue for free as long as people covered shipping and handling. In our Instagram Story, we included a poll with the answer choices of “yes” and “no.”
Step 2: Pull up the story settings to see answers.
After a couple of hours, we pulled up the story settings to see the answers. Instagram will show you which users said “yes” and which users said “no.”
Step 3: Direct message those who answered “yes.”
For those who said “yes,” we sent them a direct message. To make things more efficient, type out a message and simply copy, paste, and send to each person. This creates a one-to-one communication channel, which is more effective in sales than casting a wide net.
3. Show Vulnerability
What does it mean to be vulnerable? It means sharing the hard stuff, such as when your shipments are delayed, you fell short of your quarterly goals, or you’re not sure where to take the company next. Being vulnerable in any circumstance is scary, but it’s what builds authenticity and trust in any relationship.
If you have a personal brand, vulnerability is especially important because your audience has more of a connection to you as a person rather than as a business. “The more real, the more raw, the more open, the more honest you can be, it’s just way stronger to connect with your audience,” Nathan says.
Check out how @jockowillink does it. He posts every day when he gets up at 4:30 a.m., and in his stories, he shows the real grit and discipline that goes on behind the scenes to get fit.
Another opportunity to show vulnerability is being transparent about business failure. Nathan gives this example: Imagine you had a physical product for sale but ran out of stock, accumulating backlogs of orders. Customers are upset and are demanding to know where their packages are. You could get on stories and broadcast a video acknowledging your failure and telling your audience exactly what you’re doing now to make things right.
“There’s this culture within Instagram that everything has to be a beautiful photo,” Nathan says. “Everything has to be glossy. Everybody’s life on their Instagram is their highlight reel. And I think people connect so much more deeply with you or your brand or your company if it isn’t just always a highlight reel.”
Again, use your stories to post content that isn’t picture-perfect enough for your feed. Your audience is hungry for authenticity.
4. Be Consistent
Here’s the thing about algorithms: They’re looking for consistency (to be more specific, they’re looking for consistently good content). To encourage the Instagram algorithm to prioritize your content, Nathan recommends posting to stories every single day. Why? The most recent story tends to appear on the left-hand side. The more consistent you are, the higher the likelihood that people will see it.
It’s not quite as simple as being the most recent story, however. Remember when Instagram used to show posts in your feed in chronological order? In 2016, the social media platform did away with its chronological algorithm in favor of serving posts based on your interests and interactions. The stories algorithm works similarly. A simple scroll through my personal Instagram account shows that. I’ve noticed that when I follow someone, if they have an active story at the time, it moves to the front (left-hand side) immediately, even if their story is older than the stories of other accounts I’m following. I’ve also noticed that if I skip someone’s story too many times, Instagram will de-prioritize their story and move them to the right.
One thing I like to check on when I share stories is what I think of as the “drop-off rate.” For example, if 50 people viewed your first story, but only 25 viewed your second one, then there’s a 50% drop-off rate that tells you that the first story didn’t provide value to your viewers. They lost interest and skipped. Pay close attention to this and adjust your content accordingly.
5. Provide Value
To provide the most value, take advantage of the wide variety of content types you can share on Instagram Stories.
Promoting Other Channels
Here at Foundr, we provide a lot of valuable video content on our YouTube channel, so we sometimes cross-promote that channel via Instagram Stories.
You can do the same thing with your stories. Just be careful to do this sparingly so as not to weary your audience.
We also promote our latest blog posts by showing a graphic with the title and allowing viewers to swipe up to read the full post.
To create beautiful graphics for your story, try using Canva (it’s free!), which comes with pre-made templates with the appropriate dimensions for Instagram Stories.
Here’s a great example from Russell Brunson of how to repurpose content for your Instagram Stories. This is an audio clip of his podcast, along with transcribed words, to entice his viewers to swipe up to listen to the full episode.
To turn your podcast episode into a compelling Instagram Story, you can use Wavve. Here’s how:
Step 1: Sign up for a free Wavve account.
Step 2: Choose a free image provided by Wavve, or create your own image with Canva and upload it.
Step 3: Upload an audio clip from your podcast (mp3, wav, or mp4a).
Step 4: Get it transcribed.
Wavve can transcribe the audio for you. I was really impressed with the accuracy of the transcription.
Tada! Now, you have a video file with your podcast audio, an image, and the captions ready to upload to Instagram Stories.
Step 5: Download the video file.
Download the video from Wavve and send it to your phone to upload to Instagram.
With a free Wavve account, you can create up to one minute of video per month. If you need more, there are paid plans available.
As we talked about earlier, showing a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your business is exciting for your followers because it’s something the public doesn’t often get to see. You can use videos or photos to share a day in your life as an entrepreneur.
I loved this behind-the-scenes video Marie Forleo shared in her stories of the moment she found out her book hit #1 on the New York Times best-seller list. You can hear and see her joy! I thought it was an intimate way to bring her viewers into a rare and beautiful moment for her.
Did you know you can post your IGTV episodes directly to your stories? This is yet another way to cross-promote content and get your viewers to check out your other channels.
Here’s how Russell Brunson does it:
Instagram Feed Posts
To get into the mindset of your followers, Nathan encourages you to examine your own Instagram habits. Rather than checking an individual account’s posts, users typically open up the app and immediately check out the latest stories. So keep this in mind and don’t forget to share your feed posts in your stories as well to ensure they get seen.
But you’re not limited to merely resharing your own posts. You can even reshare posts from other people’s Instagram feed! This is a great way to leverage user-generated content to foster your community.
On the Foundr account, we’ll sometimes reshare posts from our community, like this one about our masterclass:
What If You Don’t Have the ‘Swipe Up’ Feature?
Instagram still limits the “swipe up” stories feature to verified accounts and accounts with at least 10,000 followers. If you’re not there yet, you can work around this by directing people to your bio, where they can click the link.
For this, use an Instagram custom link service such as Linktree, or create a special landing page on your own website to direct your viewers to.
I also recently found out about this IGTV hack thanks to Vanessa Lau. By creating an IGTV channel, you can make a workaround to the “swipe up” feature that lets your story viewers swipe up to watch your IGTV video, which then allows them to click the link within the IGTV video. It’s two steps (instead of one) for your followers to take, but it’s a decent workaround to use until you reach 10,000 followers.
Level Up Your ‘Gram Game: Use Instagram Stories to Grow Your Account!
The Instagram game is changing. The platform is no longer just a place to curate a picture-perfect feed. Thanks to stories, entrepreneurs can share more authentic, behind-the-scenes content that their followers crave.
Let’s recap Nathan’s top tips on how to use Instagram Stories to grow your account:
- Give a glimpse behind the scenes.
- Use polling to create one-to-one sales conversations.
- Show vulnerability to foster a connection with your audience.
- Be consistent.
- Always provide value.
We want to hear your thoughts on these strategies. Go test them out, and leave a comment below to let us know how it went!