Are you making good use of Instagram Stories? The idea was apparently inspired by Snapchat, the popular disappearing social media platform on which messages, photos and videos “self-destruct” 10 seconds after they are viewed. Snapchat Stories is a feature that allows the sender to share one day’s worth of pictures that can be viewed together, repeatedly, for a longer period of twenty-four hours.

Instagram introduced the concept of Stories late in 2016. You can see the horizontal feed for Stories at the top of your main feed, accompanied by circled bubbles of the profile photos of the users you follow. As with Facebook and regular Instagram posts, there is an algorithm that determines which are your “favorite” accounts, and shows you these first. When you swipe left or right you can scroll through the stories, tapping to view a specific one. After first one, the next ones in your feed automatically play.

Unlike other posts, pictures that are part of an Instagram Story disappear 24 hours after they are posted. And there isn’t a way to like or share the contents of a Story, although you can use the paper airplane icon to send a message to the person or business who has posted it. This starts an Instagram Direct chat which others can add to if they participate in this private messaging feature.

One advantage of Instagram Stories is that it allows you to add text, and stickers, much like a Snapchat Story post, and now you can even add music. The fact that a story is at the top of the feed means that it may be more likely to get noticed as viewers flip from one story to the next instead of scrolling through posts. Since it won’t be lingering, you can use Stories more spontaneously, to casually share a moment or thought. Another advantage of this platform is that you can add photos from throughout the day that will be put together in one Story, which is great for special events or a themed post.

The drawback, of course, is that the postings are ephemeral. You can’t use a hashtag to search for a story that is past, and the photo is not visible to your Instagram followers after the time has elapsed. It is also not automatically added to your Facebook feed, if you are using that feature. There is, however, a button that will allow you to share it as a Facebook Story (a similar feature that started in 2017). There are also three dots marked “more” that allow you the option of adding the photo to your regular Instagram feed if you want.

In the short time since its inception, Instagram Stories has grown to over 400 million daily users, and a majority of the businesses on the platform are taking advantage of this feature for at least some of their posts. If you haven’t tried it, check out this article from Digital Trends for some ideas.

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder