If I had written this post a year ago, it would have been much simpler. It probably would be titled something like, “What Should You Share to Your Snapchat Story?” or “How to Entertain Your Audience on Snapchat.” And we would talk about one Stories platform and using that one single Stories platform for your business.
Now, things are a bit more complicated. Instagram launched their own Snapchat clone in August of last year, starting off the Stories war. Since then, we’ve also seen some form of Stories pop up on WhatsApp, Medium, Facebook Messenger, and Facebook itself.
And to go off on a quick tangent here, someone please tell me why Facebook needs so many different versions of Stories. Because this is getting a little out of hand. Also, do any of you have friends who use Messenger My Day or Facebook Stories? Because literally none of my friends post to either one.
Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
So, with so many different versions of Stories, how do you decide which one(s) to use for your business? Let’s dive in to each different Stories platform, who uses each one, how easy it is to grow a following, and if it’s right for your business. Then we’ll get into the really fun stuff and talk about content ideas for your own Story.
Let’s start with the OG, Snapchat Stories. When Snapchat originated, it was simply meant to send disappearing photos to your friends. (Insert suggestive eyebrows.) It created Stories back in October 2013 so that users could then start posting 24-hour photos and videos that all of their friends could see. This was pretty revolutionary for the platform and brought it from a simple messaging app to more of a social network.
And Snapchat had been the only platform with anything like these disappearing 24-hour photos/videos for the better part of three years.
Snapchat currently has 166 million daily active users. Because of the 24-hour Story aspect to the platform, daily active users is a much more important metric than monthly active users. 43% of those users are in the US and 33% are in Europe. 10 billion videos are watched on the platform every single day.
Snapchat is much more popular with younger audiences, as they love the disappearing message feature. (Me, personally, I save all of my actual chats because there’s no way I’d remember any of my conversations without doing so.)
The platform is very intuitive and easy to use.
Here’s the caveat.
It’s extremely difficult to grow your Snapchat following.
I love Snapchat. It’s probably my most-used social media platform. But I only use it with friends. There were a few businesses that I recommended trying out Snapchat, but that was before Instagram Stories came along.
Snapchat doesn’t have a search feature, or a way to find new people to follow. Instead, you have to know a user’s phone number or exact username in order to search for them. Snapchat introduced Snapcodes a couple of years ago to give users an easier way to share their Snapchat handle. If you open the app and take a photo of someone’s Snapcode, their account will pop up and give you the option to follow them.
So, basically, if you’re trying to grow your business account on Snapchat, the only way to do so is by cross-promoting your Snapcode on your website, in your email newsletter, and on your other social media accounts. This may have been a smart idea a year ago when there were no other apps similar to Snapchat. Now? Not so much.
If your audience is teens and young millennials, then yes. You probably still want to make room for Snapchat in your social media strategy. Other than that, another Stories platform might actually be more useful.
Instagram Stories was the first big copycat to come out of the bag. When these were introduced, digital marketers everywhere gave a collaborative gasp as we waited to see what Snapchat would do next. Snapchat has still survived, however they’re doing whatever they can to ensure no one copies their software again.
When it comes to personal use, Instagram doesn’t come close to Snapchat in my book. I love my Snap streaks, Snapchat memories, the new Snap Map, etc. I rarely use Instagram Stories on my personal account. If I do, it’s for blog/business related things. However, I do use (and recommend using) Instagram Stories for each of my clients. It’s a great way to share behind-the-scenes photo or video in real time, or to share little tidbits that simply don’t fit in with the aesthetic in your feed.
Instagram Stories hasn’t even had its first birthday yet, but they’re already killing it. While Snapchat is still at 166 million daily active users, Instagram Stories just hit 250 million daily active users. This, of course, is aided by the fact that Instagram itself has 700 million monthly active users, with an estimated 400 million of those accessing the platform daily.
This is one of the reasons that Instagram Stories are a much more effective Stories platform than Snapchat: it already has a huge user base, and your account already has followers that are automatically going to be given access to view your Stories. If your Instagram account is public, even people who don’t follow you can view your Stories. Plus, it’s much easier to grow a following on Instagram.
Instagram is most popular with millennials. In fact, ages 18-34 accounts for about 2/3 of their entire user base. So if you’re targeting Gen Y, you probably want to be on Instagram regardless.
Do you know what else I love about Instagram Stories? They make it incredibly easy for you to create content specifically for your Story. Whereas Snapchat adds an obnoxious white border around any content not snapped in the app, Instagram has absolutely no problem if you want to upload photos or videos to your Story. This makes it even more business-friendly than Snapchat Stories.
I’m going to talk about both Facebook Stories and Messenger My Day in this little section.
Basically, I think both are dumb. Facebook’s got it going on with their child company Instagram. I feel like at this point, it’s basically just Zuck being petty AF that Evan Spiegel wouldn’t sell him Snapchat.
Let me explain a little bit more why I think both Facebook Stories and Messenger My Day are dumb.
I have seen maybe five of my Facebook friends ever even use either one of them. And it happened maybe once or twice and then never again. My Facebook Stories feed is always empty. In fact, it’s a surprise when there actually is a single Story posted. And Messenger My Day was just a sad attempt at increasing the usage of Facebook Messenger.
However, let’s still include it as a contender and talk about what would happen if you did use Facebook Stories.
First of all, Facebook Stories and Messenger My Day aren’t connected to business pages. Instead, they’re shown to your personal friend’s list. So these would potentially only be beneficial to you if you are your business. For example, a copywriter, photographer, event planner, etc.
If you use your personal network to help you find new clients, then using Facebook Stories or Messenger My Day could potentially be a great way to show off to your Facebook friends what you do and help to bring in new business.
And since so few people use Facebook Stories, you might actually be pleasantly surprised by the number of people who are viewing your story.
Otherwise these aren’t really going to be helpful to your business. They may be fun ways to share photos or videos with your Facebook friends, but that’s about it.
WhatsApp launched their own Snapchat clone in February 2017. Although they initially faced backlash because they replaced their text status feature with it, they’ve brought the text version back and are now sitting pretty with both options.
For those of you unfamiliar with the platform, WhatsApp is a messaging app (also owned by Facebook, BTW) that you can download onto your smartphone to send and receive free instant messages with your friends. Although it’s essentially the same thing as a text message these days (back when SMS was a thing, people were all about WhatsApp and the ability to send free messages), it still has a huge userbase.
In fact, over 1 billion people use WhatsApp to communicate with each other, and over 250 million use their Snapchat Stories clone, Status. (These are daily active users, FYI.)
Let’s think about that for a second: an app that’s basically the same thing as a text message has more people using its Stories feature than the original creator. By almost 100 million.
But I’m not being fair. WhatsApp has evolved into an app that is much greater than just a text message. It still offers free messaging, just like it did when it was conceived in 2009 (I think I was still using a Razr at this point). You can also use it to make voice and video calls, as well as create large group messages. It syncs from your phone to your computer so that you can type some of your messages as well. You can leave voice messages. You can even use it to share documents. In fact, it could be great to use for chats amongst your team (although I’m a much bigger proponent for Slack for teams).
The only time I’ve used the app was to keep in touch with one of my best friends while she traveled around South America for a month. Free long distance? Yep, I’m about that life.
However, WhatsApp is not a platform you’re going to use to market your business in any way other than maybe advertising between users’ Statuses. So while Status can be a great way to communicate with friends or colleagues, it’s not really suitable for business.
This is one Stories feature that I think has done a really incredible job taking the concept of Stories, but repurposing it and adapting it to become something new.
Rather than posting real-time photo or video, Medium Series is another way for businesses to tell a story. And I really love what Buffer has done with their own Medium Serieses(?).
Let’s backtrack a little bit, though.
Medium is essentially an online platform for users to publish stories. In fact, there are entire publications that are hosted on Medium, like Thrive Global, The Billfold, and The Mission (just to name a few that I follow). And this might not be the worst way to start an online publication considering Medium already has 60 million monthly readers who read 4.5 million hours of content on the platform each month–meaning 60 million potential people could find your article or publication and share it with their friends.
Not only are there certain publications created exclusively on Medium, but many other websites and businesses will publish their content on Medium in addition to their own website. This way, they can reach a whole new audience with their articles that they might not have been able to reach organically from their own website.
Buffer is a good example of this. They have a kick-ass blog, but they also publish some of their content on their social media tips blog on Medium. They shorten their content, but just barely. This article on Medium is an 8-minute read while the same article on the Buffer Blog is a 10-minute read.
Medium Series is a smartphone-only feature on Medium that essentially allows content creators to repurpose their content in a fun and interactive way. Creators can put a single image/paragraph (or more if they choose) on each slide and the reader gets to tap through the whole Series until they’ve finished reading. You can also have an entire slide be an image that the reader can move their phone around to view more of or upload videos to a slide.
There are so many different ways to use this cool feature and it’s a much cooler way to repurpose Stories than simply implementing a carbon copy on your platform (lookin’ at you, Instagram and Facebook 👀).
Although not all of these Stories competitors are equal, they’re still all new and different ways of viewing media, and the fact that they all popped up at once is not a coincidence. Internet users digest content differently, and we like having bite-sized pieces to take in one at a time.
This is also why it’s so incredibly important to break up your written content with images, subheadings, and other visual elements. No online reader wants to navigate to a website with a huge wall of text. They’ll click away immediately.
And now that social media is used more and more on mobile and not desktop, the different ways to share content is evolving. These Stories platforms are exclusively for mobile. Snapchat is a completely mobile-only app, and you don’t see Stories on your Facebook or Instagram feeds. Medium allows you to search for Series on desktop, but if you choose to view one, your only option is to “Send to phone” and read it there.
To stay ahead of the curve, your business should definitely be including some form of Stories implementation in your social media strategy. There are so many different and creative ways to utilize Stories for your business, so here are a few ideas to get you started.
(Disclaimer: most/all of these examples will be from Instagram Stories. That’s because I think it’s universally the most effective Stories platform for businesses. With that being said, it’s not going to be that way for every single business. However, for the majority of businesses, it will be the best Stories platform for you to spend your time and resources.)
1. Promote a blog post.
One of the most obvious and basic ways to use Stories is to promote a recent blog post. (And when I say basic, I don’t mean in a bad way. This is a great way to share your blog posts with your followers!)
Sometimes your blog post graphics might not really fit in with your feed’s aesthetic. Or maybe you’re insane and you just post too many new blog posts for it to make sense to create a new Instagram post about each one. (And I say this with love and a tiny bit of resentment seeing as this is like my second or third blog post all year.)
Whatever the case, posting your vertical blog post graphic in your Instagram Story is a great way to promote your post.
If you have over 10,000 followers, you automatically get the option to add a link to your Story on Instagram (as you can see done in the last three examples above). I’m sure Instagram will roll this out to all users soon, as Snapchat has actually added this feature across their whole app recently.
Another great way to do this (especially for magazine-style blogs who have multiple content creators and post more than once daily) is to have a round up of your most popular or newest posts of the week. Check out how GenTwenty did a roundup of their new posts this week.
They even used a bunch of cute animations on each of their posts as well to make them more eye-catching. (FYI, Nicole, if you happen to read this post, let’s talk about what animation software you used here because they’re fa-boo.)
2. Share a Boomerang.
This is specific to Instagram Stories because Instagram owns/works extremely well with Boomerang. For those of you who may not know what a Boomerang is, it’s a quick 1 second looping video. It takes video for about half a second, rewinds it, and plays it again. It’s actually a really neat concept and is really fun to use to create unique content.
Since it’s not possible for me to screenshot a moving Story, here’s an example of how I’ve used a Boomerang as an Instagram post on my agency’s feed:
There are so many fun ways to play around with the Boomerang app, and I recommend you download it immediately and try it out!
3. Share behind the scenes.
Again, a lot of behind the scenes content simply doesn’t fit in with your feed’s aesthetic. This is why Stories are so popular: you can share unfiltered, raw content that doesn’t necessarily have to be pretty. After all, it’s only available for viewing for 24 hours.
So taking photos or videos of something you’re working on behind the scenes, putting together a new office space, unloading new inventory, etc., is a great way to engage your followers and show them what’s going on at your business while still helping you keep a clean Instagram feed. Win-win, am I right?!
Here are a few examples of how some businesses have used their Story to show behind the scenes (ignore the screenshots of video that are blurry–not ideal, but I felt like they were still good ways to show how you can use Stories).
Have you seen Catana Comics before? If not, you should. They’re adorable and hilarious. But I love watching her Story because she’ll often post video clips or timelapses of her drawing the comics and it’s really neat to watch her process.
Career Contessa tagged a few of their team members in this BTS image, Sephora posted video clips from an event they were hosting, and Cassey Ho from Blogilates shared a video of her participating in one of her brand’s pilates classes.
If you’re making cakes or cookies, we 100% want to see the behind the scenes of that and drool and wish we could eat all of your creations (I know it’s not just me, guys). Classy Career Girl took photos and videos of her team setting up their new work space (brand new Mac and all 😍). And the SC Stockshop showcased a few new stock photos they’re adding to their collection.
4. Promote a product or service.
Of course, this is also what your Instagram feed is for. But it’s fun to switch up your medium every once in awhile. Like I said earlier, Stories are the future. People want different ways of consuming content. So post your product photos on your feed, but also come up with a creative way to share them on your Stories.
These are all different ways of promoting a product. Sephora opened a face cream and had someone show it off and rub it on their hand to show the consistency. Day Designer let followers know that they only had a few of that planner left so those who wanted it could get it before it’s gone.
Kat Von D Beauty used a really simple way of promoting their product, and if nothing else, your business can do this too. Simply take a screenshot of the product page on your website and upload it to your Insta Story. Add some stickers, text, or hashtags to make it stand out. Erin Condren posted a Boomerang of their new sticker book.
Ring Concierge……let me just talk about her for a second. This woman is a private jeweler in NYC, and damn does she have some gorgeous (and, ahem, huge) rings for sale. I’m obsessed with her Instagram only because I like to look at huge diamonds. And boy, does she know how to show them off.
Nectar & Stone is another amazing Instagram for sweets. This photo is gorgeous and is promoting their desserts. Knitting Wonders is showing off one of her crocheted blankets that she’s creating to sell (this could also be seen as BTS content). And Holly Fox is showing off their finished cookies. YUM.
5. Do a Stories takeover.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a screenshot of any of these, but a Stories takeover can be a great way to partner with another brand or work with an influencer.
As an example, Buffer created a post last week with Adobe Spark on creating graphics for your Instagram Stories (super relevant to this post, so you should check it out). As part of their partnership, Buffer’s digital marketing manager did a takeover on Adobe Spark’s Story to talk about the info shared in the blog post and the different ways to use Instagram Stories.
If you work with brands as an influencer, if you work with influencers as a brand, or if your brand partners with other brands, consider an Instagram Stories to be another way to get in front of their audience or vice versa.
Create graphics to upload with informational tidbits, record yourself speaking, and be sure to tag your own Instagram handle in your takeover so viewers know where to find you.
6. Record quick video tips.
This is another moving Story, so no screenshots here, either.
However, recording quick video tips on your Story is probably one of the best and most effective ways to use it. Stories allow you to record 10-second video snippets, so turning the camera on you and just snapping a quick video of you explaining your latest blog post, your newest product, giving informational tips, and more, is a great way to engage with your audience.
One smart thing to do is pre-record your video. Instagram allows you to upload any content (photo or video) that you’ve created within the last 24 hours. So you can use your iPhone camera, or even a professional camera to take 10-second video increments of you talking.
In fact, at my agency we create weekly training videos as a part of our DIY digital marketing training suite, and I’ve created a 10-second clip from the full video that I’ve been able to upload to our Insta Story before. So if you do any professional videography in your business, you can also repurpose that content into your Story.
7. Design graphics for your story.
This is one of my favorites because graphic design is quickly becoming a new hobby. (I’m still pretty terrible, but hey I totally created a figure of a man doing a calf stretch today, and it totally sucked, but at least you could tell what he was doing.)
There are a lot of different ways to use this. You could design graphics for quick Monday Motivation quotes, to share information you’ve gathered, or to put out a cause you believe in.
Hootsuite had about 4 of these animated graphics that were helping to summarize main points from an article they’d linked to. This is a great way to get your audience more intrigued in your blog posts–try teasing bits and pieces of it and then tell them the link is in your bio (or link to it in your Story if you have over 10k followers).
In light of recent events, Bustle created graphics to upload to their Story to let their followers know of organizations they could help out in order to take a stand and do something in their community. This specific tactic isn’t the right fit for every business, but looking at how cohesive this set of graphics is can be good inspiration.
8. Share business announcements.
Your followers want to know what is going on with your business. If you have announcements, like new products, name changes, developments, and more, share it on your Story, too! You can create graphics, take photos, or take videos of you talking about what’s new.
I love how Miskunn has shared images of how her brand has evolved by showing her business’s first logo versus its current logo. Change, evolution, and adaptation in a business is always good, and should be celebrated!
Two Easels is showing off her business’s Facebook Group that you can join to get tips on hand lettering and chat with other creatives. Cross-promoting your social channels and social communities is a great idea.
Tori from Victori Media shared a screenshot of her article on Shine Text and tagged them in her Story. (Which I’m awfully glad she did, because Shine Text is actually a seriously cool concept and I’m definitely signed up.)
Classy Career Girl shared a screenshot of a Facebook event for a challenge they’re hosting. Another great example of cross-promotion!
Buffer recently underwent a change in one of their iconic position titles: Happiness Heroes. Since they’re so open and transparent about everything that goes on in their company, they of course wrote a blog post about this. They also shared graphics informing their followers of this change and why they made it on their Instagram Story.
9. Show how to use your product.
If your product isn’t super techy or industry-sensitive, chances are the general public will have some idea of how to use it. However, using your Story to give them even more ideas and inspiration is the perfect way to sell them on your product even harder.
Let’s take Catbird as an example. Sure, we all know how to wear rings. But did you know how badly you needed this exact combination of rings until you saw their Story? I don’t think so.
Use your Story to give examples of how your customers can use your product(s) in different ways to increase sales. Not everyone has a great eye for fashion, so if you sell clothes or jewelry, offering up different ways to style something can be extremely helpful to your customers.
With products that aren’t fashion-related, there are still so many ways you can show off better ways to use your products that will help to generate sales from people who weren’t sure if it would be useful to them.
10. Share content extras.
Yes, we’ve covered blog posts. But what about those things that aren’t quite blog posts that need to be shared also? Like your lead magnets and your content extras and your different methods of generating leads. All of those can and should be shared on your Instagram Story.
Day Designer shared the link to a free printable, The Muse shared the most popular focus song from their community, WHA shared some pretty stellar computer backgrounds, and Being Boss Club let their followers know they’ve created a new podcast episode.
You can create graphics like these, or you can take a picture or video of the content extra or you creating it if you don’t have graphics skillz.
11. Share quick tips with your followers.
Pop in every once in awhile to share a quick informational tip with your followers. This can be as easy as taking a picture of what you’re doing and using the text feature in the Story to tell your followers why and why it’s important.
Take a look at the above examples. There are many different ways you can share tips. You can create graphics using Canva, Adobe Spark, or Adobe Illustrator. Or you can snap a quick photo or Boomerang and use the in-app features to decorate your Story.
12. Use the stickers, hashtags, and geolocation features.
One thing I love about Instagram Stories is how customizable they are. There are so many different text and drawing styles you can use to design your Story photos/videos. You can use plain text or outlined text, and you can draw in pen, highlighter, or glow-pen.
Instagram also has really neat stickers you can use, my favorite of which is the hashtag. Instagram Stories are searchable, and if you include a hashtag in yours, it can show up in Story search results or be put together in an Instagram Story on the explore page.
You can also geotag your Stories, which could also potentially get put into a group Story on the explore page. Go take a look at the other stickers Instagram offers and play around with them in your future Stories. They’re great ways to decorate and customize your images.
13. Announce giveaway winners.
If you host an Instagram giveaway, sharing the winner in your Story is a great way to notify them that they’ve won without adding clutter or repeated graphics to your feed. Instead, you can use the text feature in Stories to tag them so they will be notified that they were mentioned in your Story.
Better yet? Look into logistics for announcing your giveaway, reminding users about it, and announcing the giveaway all on your Instagram Story. That way, you can reward your Story viewers for being so awesome. You may want to publish a post to your feed that alludes to something awesome going on in your Story to get more regular viewers as well.
14. Promote your Instagram posts.
Another clever way to utilize your Story is to promote your latest Instagram post to get more engagement. Since Stories are posted at the top of each user’s news feed, sometimes it’s more likely for a follower to view your Story before your most recent post. This can be a good strategy to point them in the right direction towards your feed.
Give it a try and see if your regular photo engagement improves. And report back to me. I’d love to hear your successes!
15. Share Instagram-only discounts.
Ummm, yes, people love sales and discounts and feeling special and being rewarded for following you. So sharing a discount just for those who watch your Instagram Story is a great way to reward the viewers.
And bonus? It’s also a great way to track ROI and see how engaged your Instagram Story viewers really are. And if no one bites? It’s the perfect opportunity for you to revisit your strategy and figure out what you need to do to get more Story viewers.
Local Works is actually a local coworking space in Charleston. So this can also be the perfect strategy for local businesses and not exclusively online stores and businesses. Try this out as a way of measuring foot traffic into your store as well.
Well, I think we’ve covered enough information to have you become pretty much the resident expert on Stories anywhere you go. Get out there and start creating some seriously awesome Stories content with all of your new ideas.
And be sure to send me examples of your content. I want to see! 🤗