If you could showcase your business and all of your newest products to the widest audience possible, would you? Maybe, but advertising space can get expensive quickly.
If you could have conversations with your customers in real time, answer their questions, and get their input on important decisions, would you? That would be great, but market research isn’t cheap.
Lucky for you, all you need to make this happen is a smartphone. It’s completely free, and you’ll be working on a platform that can reach 1 billion people across the globe. This is the power of Instagram today, and specifically that of one of their most popular features: Instagram Stories. These are the images and videos that last for just 24 hours and offer a glimpse into the daily life and exciting new developments of your business. Below, we’ll explain some of the best tricks and features to use to reach a massive audience and better understand your customers using Instagram Stories for your business — and we promise, it won’t cost you a penny.
How Can My Instagram Stories Reach A Massive Audience?
You may have heard that you can sponsor Instagram Stories and posts to reach a massive, geographic and demographically-defined audience. But since we’re not looking to pay for anything, we’ll detail some of the tools you can use to expose your story to a wide audience organically. It all starts on the Instagram discover page, where users go to find interesting content that’s relevant to them. Even if an Instagram user doesn’t follow your business page, they’ll still be able to see your story if it appears on the discover page. So what can you do to appear on that page? Simply put, Instagram looks to put content on the Search & Explore page that’s extremely relevant to the user. They do this by analyzing exactly what types of posts and stories the user has seen, liked, and engaged with in the past. This is why including your most popular products that are relevant to your business is a good place to start. But what might be even more important to include in your stories are hashtags and location tags. This way, if users search for different hashtags or locations, your story will appear among their results. Here, some research into where your consumers live, and what types of hashtags they might be searching for can go a long way. When adding relevant tags to your stories, it’s important to understand your size and competition and pick your battles carefully. A small business in New York City or Toronto might be better off tagging their locations as neighbourhoods like Tribeca or Liberty Village. In regards to hashtags, while you may be tempted to include #sale in your next story, it might make more sense go with #skateshopsale instead. To appear on the Instagram Search & Explore page, you need content that’s as relevant as possible, and a skate shop in Liberty Village is likely more relevant to a potential customer than a retail store in Toronto. As you might have already realized, relevancy is the name of the game here. Posting stories of your best-selling products and popular new arrivals to your nearest targets a great place to start – you’ll quickly reach more people than you might have thought possible.
How Do Instagram Stories Help Me Understand My Customers?
We talked about how research can help you understand the locations and hashtags that your customers are using – but market research can be expensive, and we’re laser-focused on using Instagram Stories to build your business without paying a dime. Luckily, Instagram offers some excellent tools and resources to conduct that research yourself. One of the best places to look is at Instagram Insights. It’s simple and straightforward to navigate, and we highly recommend reviewing this data often, similar to the way a business might analyze sales data and accounting metrics on a continuous basis. You can find Instagram Insights by going to your business account page and tapping the bar graph icon seen in the top-right corner of the screen, or you can find Insights for each story you post by opening the story and tapping the names in the bottom-left corner of the screen. The first thing you’ll be able to do right away is get to know your followers better. Providing you have at least 100 followers, Instagram will summarize your follower demographics by gender, age, location and online times. Understanding where your customers come from, and what time of day they’re using Instagram is critical to creating stories and posts that your followers will see. Our neighbourhood skate shop might learn that their customer base is much younger than expected, and adjust accordingly. Another benefit that will help your business over the long term is Instagram Stories data, accessed from either the Insights page directly, or individual stories posts. This will show you the actions that your followers take when viewing your stories: do they reply to you, or tap forward to continue watching? Or do they exit or swipe away? These insights are crucial to understanding what your followers want to see, and how you can refine and improve your stories over time.
Can I Really Use Instagram Stories To Talk To My Customers?
The answer is yes: you can use Instagram, and specifically, Instagram Stories, to talk to your customers in many different ways, and you should! In today’s competitive marketplace, brands that can not only offer quality products but also build emotional bonds with consumers are well-positioned to see repeat business. Engaging Instagram Stories for your business can build those bonds, turn your followers into customers, and get input on everything from product preferences to resource allocation. The most straightforward tool you can use within your Instagram story is called Shoppable Stickers, provided that your business profile is connected to a Facebook catalogue. These allow you to tag some of the products in your stories, giving consumers the option to click onto a page that details the product name, price and description. From there, viewers have the option to visit the product page on your website, giving consumers an easy, straightforward way to get from your Instagram story to your website in two simple clicks. If you’re looking for a more subtle, natural way to showcase products to interested consumers, rather than using sales incentives or aggressive ad copy, these tags can be very beneficial. Another great tool we recommend using within your Instagram story is the poll sticker. This showcases a question, along with two potential answers to the viewer. The viewer can choose the option they prefer, and the poll results appear publicly.
For example, a skate shop that’s planning a large order might ask its customers: Vans or Converse? The results may surprise the store managers, and they can make adjustments to their order as a result. But poll questions don’t have to be limited to a business’ products! A business may ask customers: When will you be doing most of your holiday shopping: Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Businesses can then reallocate resources and staff members in response to the results. Our last Instagram story feature that will create interesting conversations with your customers is the Questions sticker. Here’s how it works: when you post a story, you have the option to include the Questions sticker anywhere on the story, along with a prompt, such as “Have any questions for your local skate shop?” From there, viewers can click on the sticker and post a response of up to three lines of text – much more substantive than poll questions! From your end, you can see every viewer’s response, and you can post each question, along with an informative response, as your next story.
We recommend that you not include the viewers who asked the question within your story. Ensuring anonymity will encourage more questions, and avoid offending questioners who didn’t expect their name to be published publicly within your story. Last but not least, we recommend posting the questions that will showcase your business in the most positive light. If our local skate shop is asked about services that they offer, like skateboard lessons or parking, then this would be the perfect time to respond. Our skate shop might post the question for their next story, along with a block of text saying, “Yes – our lessons happen every Thursday at 4 PM, and we offer free parking as well!” This is a great, conversational way to communicate their best services available to interested potential customers. On the other hand, if a viewer asks about a service or product that they don’t offer, you might be better off responding to the follower in a direct message, to break the unfortunate news. Whatever the response may be, that direct engagement with viewers can create a powerful emotional connection – just one of the ways Instagram is such an important platform for businesses to embrace.
In just eight short years, Instagram has grown and evolved dramatically, from a platform for selfies to an information-rich social media powerhouse. You may not see yourself as a social media savant, but no need to worry – your industry and brand are key factors when considering tone and messaging style, and we break down how consumers expect brands to act on social media here. The truth is that Instagram Stories for your business offer so much more than another social media platform. From market research and customer profiling to product showcases and brand building options, there are benefits to Instagram for every type of business. Get started with your first Instagram story today; in just 24 hours you’ll learn things about your customers that never occurred to you – and of course, it won’t cost you a thing!
To learn more about how to leverage social media to help grow your business, speak to a digital marketing expert at TechWyse by calling 866.288.6046, or contact us here.