In 2017 Instagram stories doubled its user base in just one year. By November 2017 it had just over 300m daily users, almost 60% of its user base.
So how can Instagram stories benefit you as a small business? In April I completed an Instagram stories challenge on my own fledgling business account. The challenge was started by the fabulously supportive Sam Burgess.
Instagram stories: Hone your business pitch
Each recorded segment is only 15 seconds long. I found that recording brand elements are so helpful in honing down the pitch for my business. I’m sure we have all been in the dreaded network event, having to sell ourselves and our work. I personally really struggle with it, especially as a service based business and natural introvert. Now I feel ready for that question “Tell the group what you do?”. I can answer succinctly and confidently, with less “ems” and more positive energy!
Increase engagement and followers
Initially only friends and family were really watching my stories, even if they were about SEO or GDPR! However the Instagram algorithm must have recognised that I was active. I found that my engagement levels shot up and I started to gain more followers. As I was treating this challenge as a self-training exercise for myself this was a pleasant surprise and a major confidence boost.
On one day the prompt was to do an offer to our Stories watchers. I was pleasantly surprised when Janine took me up on my offer for a content review, she has many more years of experience than me in blogging! We still had a really productive discussion. I was able to offer my business marketing skills to support to the sales side of her business.
I asked other participants what they thought and Lucy from Zulucow also fed back that she saw an increase in engagement and sales and I know others also did.
Tell your business story
90% of my work coming from referrals from previous colleagues and clients. I know there will be further benefit in the future from the time invested in the challenge now. Emma Cossey from The Freelance Lifestyle talks about one of the scariest part of working for yourself being telling friends and family what you do. Recording video stories is a non-intrusive way of doing just that. I was able to share a little about what I do to help small businesses with their marketing. It was also an opportunity to explain some of the intricacies of web-optimised copy-writing. Initially I was wary that people who knew me in my corporate life were able to watch these stories. Actually, it has been a wonderful way to re-connect with some of these people and potentially help them with new ventures.
Discover new businesses and networking opportunities
I found some really interesting businesses through the challenge. I even bought two items for myself! However, I was most intrigued watching other service-based businesses. I loved seeing how they pitch themselves and add value to their audience. Instagram is not just a platform for creative businesses. Its visual nature can be a way to capture your customer’s attention. I hope to be able to collaborate with some of these businesses in the future.
In addition, I was able to find out about a local networking event run by Laura at DiscovHer and meet the panel members. I would never have signed up to an event like this without having pushed myself out of my comfort zone and put my business face in front of the camera.
Now that the challenge is over, I do find that I am more comfortable using IG stories and try to post something a several times a week. A key point is to only “sell” 20% of the time so I aim to offer useful tips, behind the scenes plus updates on trends in marketing for small business.
How do you find Instagram? What are your experiences with using the Stories feature? I’d love to hear how it helps you with your business, so contact me or drop a note in the comments below.