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10 ways artists can use Instagram Stories

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

Stories are crazy popular on Instagram. Maybe you are already using them, or maybe you have no idea what they are and where to find them. Either way, using them smartly and effectively can bring your customers or community closer and help to get your art into the hands of collectors (and out of your house/studio/gallery)!


First some basics


UPDATE: there are some changes that took place immediately after this was published. These types of app updates happen. Often. Check the bottom of this post for updates.


Stories on Instagram are the perishable photos and videos indicated by a pink ring around a user's profile image. When you are viewing your Instagram feed, you will notice them at the top as a set of circles. Clicking into them will start a string of continuously playing content from those accounts (or hashtags) that you follow. In each set of stories, there are a number of dashes across the top that indicate the number of stories in that set. The set may belong to an individual, a hashtag, or even a location (although location stories must be accessed through search or clicking a location tag at this time).





Stories can be photos or videos of up to 15 seconds in length. After the time period is up, the next story is queued automatically. When viewing from an account, hashtag or location, the stories will finish when the content of that users/hashtag/place finishes, but when viewing them from the top of your feed, the stories will continue through to the end of all of your follows if left alone.


To give yourself more time to read a story, simply hold down a finger on the story and it will freeze in place. Tapping on the right of a story screen will go to the next story and tapping to the left will go back one story. Swiping will skip to the next set of stories in your feed, and swiping back will return you to the previous set.


Swiping up will either get to the comments or to open a link embedded in the story. Accounts with 10K followers or more are able to embed custom links into stories. And swiping down gets you out of the stories feature.


To post to stories


You can either click on the first icon in the stories bar on your feed (it will be a (+) if you have no stories), or you can swipe right on your main feed. Notice that this is also where you can go "Live" - which I will write about in the future. I bring that up because I have seen people accidentally go "Live" when they were first learning about stories. There are other options to experiment with that won't expose you to creating accidental content, so click around!


The story creation screen. Ignore the hand!

Notice also the top section, there is a gear to access your settings menu and an arrow to leave the stories section.


The camera button allows you to click once for a photo or hold for a video. To the right of the camera is the switch-camera icon that toggles between front and back camera on your phone. To the right of the switch-camera icon is the filters icon, which allows you to use some of the playful Instagram filters available at the moment. To the left of the camera button is the lightning icon, allowing you to control use of the camera's flash feature. To the left of the flash is a portal into your phone photo gallery, which allows you to bring up pre-created content. If you go into your photo gallery on your camera, it will bring up a date-created tag for content older than a few days. You can hold and drag that in to the garbage icon at the bottom center to get rid of it if desired.


After taking a photo/video or loading content, you will see icons across the top. The X in the left corner is to delete the current content and start over. The downward pointing arrow saves the current image in your phone photo gallery. The link icon lets you add call to action content. Users with under 10K followers will have limited content available to add, but may include IGTV (we will cover that in a future post), Etsy or Shopify, or other content. Users with more than 10K followers will be able to add custom links. The smiley face icon lets you add tags, mentions, locations, music, polls, quizzes, stickers and more. Explore this and don't forget to explore the search in this section as well. The pen icon lets you draw on your story. The Aa icon allows you to add text. All of this extra content on your stories can be deleted by dragging it onto the garbage icon at the bottom center of the screen.


The story creation screen after clicking the camera button or uploading content

At the bottom of this screen is the option to send to your public story or only your close friends (as determined automatically at first by Instagram, so be sure to go into settings before using this). The "Send To" button lets you customize exactly to whom to send that story directly.


Highlighted stories are those circles on a users profile that are below their information but above the regular Instagram feed. When you post a story, it defaults to 24 hours before it is gone (although it may be in your archive depending on your account settings!) but if you want to keep it around longer, at the bottom of your stories there will be a small highlight button with a heart. This adds it to a collection of highlight stories and you can have multiple collections with different labels. You can also click into your collections and choose which image (or which image from your photos) will be the main image viewable as your collection image. But that's another blog post.




Stories are multiplying!


Also, keep in mind that stories are everywhere now, even Youtube has a stories feature, and surely you've seen them on Facebook. This is something that you should start making use of. They are spreading to every social media tool because they are good for marketers. But they should not be treated in the same way as your normal content. The perishable aspect to them makes them feel more personal, so use this to your advantage. Also, make sure you are sharing unique content to your stories. Give your followers a reason to click into your stories - if you have the same content in your stories as on your feed, users will choose one or the other. Instead, get them to want both and maybe have a little "FOMO" if they don't see all your stories every day. They know they can go back through the feed later, maybe next week if they want to see that content. The stories are different, so give them something time-sensitive to look forward to. The sense of urgency is a big motivator for views as well as sales!


The common marketing advice is to post multiple stories every day. I have to admit that even I do not keep up with that, but the more stories the better. I have seen some that I think overdo it, but you will start to get a feel for when your audience stops watching and where your ideal balance is by looking at your Insights for your stories. What? You don't know how to check your Insights? That is another blog post - coming soon!


10 ways artists can use stories


Using stories can fulfill these marketing principles: Know + Like + Trust = Buy. Customers need to know you (find you), like you (enjoy your content or find your item useful or just plain-out like YOU), trust you (see value in what you sell and proof that you are the one they should buy from), all before they buy from you. Stories have a unique capability to help with all of the above.


1. Share events:


Have an upcoming show? Let your followers know about it! Stories are excellent for content that is time-sensitive and not "evergreen" or permanently useful. Don't forget to use location tags when applicable! These are available through the little smiley sticker icon in the upper left of the stories screen after you load a photo or video. This will allow you to tag the exact facility where your event is happening and your followers can click through to get a map!



2. Share humor:


Let you followers know about your sense of humor. They may come back to your stories just to lift their mood! Be entertaining!



3. Share a post from your feed:


Have something you really want to bring attention to? Post it in your stories. Do not duplicate your post, but actually click the share button (hint: it looks like a triangle or paper airplane) from under your post and add it to your stories. When you share a post to your stories this way, it becomes a clickable item that can take someone directly to that post. For extra oomph, obscure it using one of Instagram's stickers (available through the little smiley sticker icon in the upper left of the stories screen after you load a photo or video - the same place to add tags!). Instagram has dedicated stickers just for this purpose. Use the search function inside the sticker section to search for click and you will see multiple options. These stickers obscure the post to create a little mystery but they still allow for the click-through to the post on your regular feed.



4. Share a post from another artist's feed:


Sharing is caring! Be a team player by occasionally sharing work from artists you admire and it will come back to you tenfold. Share their content in the same way you would share your own, via the triangular share button under a post. But also remember to to go into the stickers (not to obscure this time - you do want to share the image) to get the @MENTION tag so you can tag the artist. Tagging the artist alerts them that you shared their content, otherwise they get no indication unless they happen to be cruising through your stories.



5. Share when someone shares you in a story:


Give a little love back when someone shares your work in a story. You will know because you will get a notification in your messages. The notification will be a copy of the story where they tagged you and directly above it will be a link to add their story to your stories. Remember that you can manipulate the image and tag or add stickers or draw on it now that it is your story! You do not need to tag the user in this case though, since you will have clicked the link in the message which will notify them that you shared.



6. Share your work in progress:


Working on something that isn't ready for primetime yet? Give your followers a peek at the progress or even better, a peek at the process!




7. Test hashtags:


Not sure what hashtags to use? You can test them here. Use real content and not just a bunch of hashtags, but you can try some a/b testing to see what works best. Refer to my earlier post on hashtags for how this works, but keep in mind, niche hashtags usually perform poorly in stories, so go to the more commonly used ones to see what works best. Since the sticker hashtag only allows for one hashtag at a time, use the text function instead, which will allow for multiple hashtags.


My post illustrating this to the nth degree. I'm not really sure Instagram will give me stats for this many hashtags in one post. I think it will cut off after 3 or so, but I'll post the results in 24 hours as the next photo. If you are interested, check back!

8. Promote art for sale:


Have some pieces you want to highlight for sale? Or maybe offer a limited time discount? Put them up in your stories. It will feel like an exclusive sale to your followers. And if you sell it - post that in your stories as well!



9. Share emotional content:


Tell your followers what is going on in your life. Or share your thoughts about what is happening around the world. This can create discussion and lets people know you better.



10. Share your life/lifestyle:


Similar to the above, but more of your day-to-day life. Are you traveling? Visiting a gallery or museum? Enjoying a coffee on your patio in the early morning? Let your followers see that there is a human being behind the Instagram account - someone they can relate to and feel they are getting to know.



Last notes


It is worthwhile to put a hashtag on every story - this will get more eyes on it. So don't save them just for testing (suggestion 7 above). Instead, test, find what works and use a hashtag sticker on most stories you create.


Also, consider using image creation tools like Canva to create beautiful stories once in a while to change things up!



Updates


In the latest Instagram update (Jun 5, 2019), some of the features were taken away or moved to different spots on the app. This happens all the time and it always takes a while to adjust. Here is what I am seeing at the moment and I will try to keep this section updated as much as humanly possible.


1. The little paper plane icon does not seem to be sharing anything to stories anyore and seems to just send directly to friends. I hope this is a mistake on Instagram's part, since it is so nice to be able to click through shared posts to see the actual post. One thing that does give me hope that this is a glitch is that the "Click"GIFs and stickers are still available.


2. When you are in the sharing stories screen, the save button has been dropped to the bottom left and the "close friends" selection is gone. At the top, I forgot to mention in the post that sometimes you do see other options, like adding music.


That's what I see so far, but let me know if you see other changes!


(Aaaaaannnnnnnndddddd maybe it's fixed....!)

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