I absolutely love Instagram, pretty pictures and a friendly community. It’s one of those many areas that bloggers need to focus on, because brands love it too, and it’s a great way to get exposure for them (and us). If an influencer is seen with a product or using a service, it attracts more people to them. The more followers you have the better for you and your personal brand. You can also get sponsored Instagram posts. I’ve had a few sponsored Instagram posts now, and I’ve really got stuck in to Instagram stories. They’re not going anywhere, in fact users are moving away from snapchat in favour of Instagram stories.
Why use Instagram stories?
Well, it helps get you noticed. When you add to your story, it puts your profile pic at the top of your followers’ feed and it reminds them you’re there. It’s also good for promotion, you can talk about your latest post, review, whatever you want to promote, or if you don’t want to do video, you can do shots of your post/ product. It can also put your account in view with new people and gain new followers. At the moment you can only have the swipe up feature when you hit 10k followers and above. On some accounts you’ll see ‘swipe up for more,’ and if you do you can click a link. All accounts will be able to swipe up to link to an IGTV video.
Giving your followers a story with not so perfectly styled shots will give them an insight into you and your life and gives them a chance to get to know you and any other projects you’ve got going on. Although the pictures and videos disappear after 24 hours, most phones have the option to save photos from Instagram, so all mine get saved onto my phone and I can then make videos or slideshows of them for use on other platforms if I want to.
How to use Instagram stories
The basics – go to your profile, tap home and then there’s 2 ways to add a story.
- Swipe right and the camera screen comes up.
- Tap and hold your story head and tap add to your story
Once you have the camera screen up, you’ve got some options:
So let’s go through those options individually and take a look at what these mean.
Going live on Instagram – when you start a live broadcast, all of your followers will get a notification that you’re starting a live video and prompts them to watch it, unless they’ve turned off those notifications. You can then broadcast for as long as you want. If you want to make sure it’s saved, check the settings by using the cog icon before you start. People will be able to interact and ask questions, and you’ll be able to see how many are watching. It can be nerve wracking, so have an idea of what you’re going to do or say. You can film in selfie mode or outwards. To flip the camera, next to the shoot button is an arrow sign.
Normal mode – in this mode you can take still pictures in the moment, or tap and hold for video. For video, the timer starts going round in a circle, you have a minute to record. If you have more to say or add, just add another story. You can do it in selfie or outward mode.
Boomerang – this is where you film a short clip or series of photos and boomerang makes it into a video on a loop. Have a play around and see what works. I don’t use it that much because it makes my eyes go funny! But there are certain clips which really work with boomerang.
Type– as it says on the tin, you can type a message onto a coloured background to post
Hands-free – really good to use when you’re doing video, instead of pressing and holding the button down, just press once and it will start the countdown.
Superzoom – This is when you can focus in on a subject with a music sound effect
Focus – this will focus on the person or object in the foreground and blur out the background.
Music – You can search for music to add to your story with or without lyrics.
Once you’ve chosen your mode, you can also add filters to make it more fun if you want. Next to the flip camera arrow you’ll see a face with stars, tap that and you’ll get a set of faces come up. Every now and again they change them up. You can use them on your face, your kids faces or you can turn the camera round and film someone else with a filter. I’ve seen some funny ones where they are filming their partner who has no idea they have a filter on!
After you’ve taken your shot or video and you’re happy with it (if not, hit cancel and start again, except with live obviously), you can swipe left again and add a filter if you want to enhance it. Then, hit done. You can then either save the photo to your device or press the + button above ‘Your Story.’ Once you’ve done that, your profile button changes to one with a red circle around it, which people can then tap to see your story. The pictures or videos will disappear after 24 hours, so you just keep adding to it. When you view your own story you can see how many people watched it.
Tips and hacks to make the most out of Instagram Stories
Firstly, keep doing it regularly. Secondly, don’t add too much, it can be off putting if you click on someone’s story and they have so many white bars at the top you know you’re not going to get through them all. If you do, users will most likely skip through a lot of it. Some people treat it like a vlog, and add a lot of video which works for them and their followers. It’s finding what works for you. I find a minimum of 4 stories a day works well.
Take a look at some big companies who are doing stories, and some top bloggers or people who are in the same business as you, see what sort of things they’re doing and take inspiration from them. Always make it your own and your style will soon emerge. It’s OK to change things round and only do it if you enjoy it, not if it’s a chore.
Make it interesting – it’s called a story for a reason, so random pictures without explanations, lots of shots of your dinner and selfies may not be so popular. You can add text, drawings, emojis, quizzes, questions and stickers to mix things up. Experiment a bit and find your style. You can find story templates around, there are loads of Instagram story templates on Canva which you can adapt.
Stick to your niche – if you’re a parent blogger, stick to parenting, day to day family life etc., keep it relevant to your audience, but don’t make it all promotional or people will be turned off.
Talk about or put photos in of your latest blog posts, your eBook, sign up list, anything you’re working on.
To add text, tap the Aa button in the top right hand corner. Once you’ve written your text you can change the colour by tapping the colour spots below, swipe left for more colours. To change the size, tap the circle to the left of the colours, or once you’ve hit done you can use your fingers to enlarge or make smaller. If you tap the A with the frame around it at the top, it makes a background colour come up which can be changed to suit. You can add emojis too.
To draw freehand, tap the pen icon, then you can choose from pen which gives a thin line, thicker line and ‘magic’ which gives a line with a glow. You’ve then got a rubber to erase any bits you don’t want. You can change the colours as before. Use it to write, draw arrows, highlight, or draw freehand.
You don’t have to take photos in the moment – if you swipe up when you’re in story mode you’ll see your last 24 hours of whatever’s on your camera roll. This gives you a bit more creative freedom to edit movies, add music, and edit photos if you want to. There is a way to add older photos to your story, by editing the time or date tags on your photos. If you’re not sure, just search ‘How to change the date and time on photos for X camera/phone’ and you’ll find it’s pretty easy to do.
Now here’s the best secret to Instagram stories! I was told this by a fellow blogger (who I can’t remember her name, if it’s you give me a shout) and it’s genius. You can use up to 10 hashtags in each Instagram story. BUT – you don’t have to stick them all over your picture. Write your hashtags out that you want to use, then pick a colour that you have in your photo somewhere, black is the easiest, then shrink the hashtag list right down to teeny tiny and hide it in a shadow – no one sees them, but they’re still there, and it means when someone searches one of the hashtags, your story will come up. I’ve noticed I get loads more views when I use hashtags compared to none. At the moment I’m getting more views on my stories than likes on my pictures.
That’s your round up of Instagram stories, and how to get the most out of them, have you tried them out yet? Follow me on Instagram to see mine, and drop me a comment here with your IG handle and I’ll check yours out. Don’t forget to include my hashtag #thisparentlife for all your parenting posts. If you’re a parent blogger, come join us on my Facebook group Parent Blogs, where we chat all things blogging, share tips and help each other grow. Want more blogging tips? Check out The complete bloggers guide to Pinterest, Essential tools all successful bloggers use and Essential Twitter Tips.
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