The Social Florist

Instagram Stories: What They Are, Why They Matter, and How to Use Them

When it comes to social media platforms, Instagram boasts incredibly high user rates. By April 2017, the app had reached 200 million daily active users. That same month, Instagram announced it reached 700 million monthly active users. It’s no wonder advertisers have flocked to the app.

A little more than a year ago, Instagram added another feature that proved helpful for businesses: Instagram Stories. You likely have heard of this innovation, but might not understand exactly what these stories are or how to use them for your business. This guide explains Instagram Stories as well as why and how to get the most out of them.

What Are Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories are temporary videos and photos that appear as thumbnails in a row at the top of your followers’ feed. This content will play as a slideshow. After 24 hours, they disappear (similar to content on Snapchat).

What’s the difference between stories and regular Instagram posts? Regular Instagram photos and videos won’t disappear automatically after 24 hours. You can leave them up for as long as you like. Moreover, posts will appear in your profile and on the main feed, whereas Stories cannot be retrieved at a later date.

Why Should You Use Instagram Stories?

When Instagram introduced the Stories function, many people criticized the company for copying another popular social media platform: Snapchat. Snapchat’s stories also disappear after 24 hours.

In spite of the initial disapproval, Instagram Stories have gained traction amongst users. Approximately 150 million people share them each day. What attracts them to Instagram Stories? Some users have publicly stated that they actually prefer Instagram Stories to Snapchat’s because users are less anonymous on Instagram. If someone likes your Instagram post (you can’t like an Instagram Story), you can click on his or her profile and learn a little about that person. Conversely, if someone like your Snapchat story, you can’t see his or her profile.

How Can You Make the Most of Instagram Stories?

The benefits of posting Instagram Stories are clear. So, what are some best practices to follow to really engage with your customers?

One popular method is to go behind the scenes. At a florist shop, take pictures or video in the back room as you load flowers into the van. You could also shoot footage of a staff member assembling a bouquet, a designer on site at a wedding hall or a party venue during setup, or a recipient smiling upon receiving a floral gift (provided you have permission, of course).

Another technique is to allow someone to take over your Instagram account. An Instagram takeover, as the name implies, is when someone else takes control of your account for a certain amount of time. Florists could hand their accounts over to their delivery staff, wedding planners, photographers, or interior designers.

In addition, you could use Instagram Stories to post how-to videos, such as how to properly trim the stems of flowers once you’ve gotten them home. One of the advantages of using Instagram Stories is that, after the video ends, you can post a link to your site to direct traffic there.

Instagram Stories are also a wonderful way to announce company news or mark a milestone. Southwest Airlines used Instagram Stories to describe the retirement of its 737-500 planes. You could share the news of an upcoming sale, introduce a new employee, or celebrate your flower shop’s anniversary.

What Are Some Instagram Stories Best Practices?

Sometimes, coming up with ideas for content is easy. But there are other questions that Instagram Stories raise.

“How often should I post?” you ask. Instagram won’t penalize you for posting too often (meaning that your content won’t be pushed below that of other accounts). That said: know your audience. If they don’t like getting updates five times a day, you’ll lose followers if you inundate them.

“What’s the best time of day to post Instagram Stories?” you want to know. Since they stay up for 24 hours, there’s no pressure to post at a certain time of day to ensure you reach your followers.

“What else should I keep in mind?” you inquire. There are three other best practices to remember when creating Instagram Stories: be authentic, provide value, and use calls-to-actions (CTAs).

Authenticity means that you are original. Your followers like your content because it’s different from other retailers’ posts. Providing value is connected to authenticity. Give your followers something they can’t get anywhere else (and don’t repost the same content to Snapchat). CTAs tell your followers what they should do, such as sign up, follow, and buy.

Instagram is an amazing marketing tool for florists, and the Stories feature helps you get even more out of the platform. Take advantage of it to become more connected to followers, attract more customers, and sell more of your beautiful flowers.

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Rachel Levy Sarfin
Rachel Levy Sarfin is a Toronto-based freelancer who has written about technology for a variety of publications and blogs.
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