If you’ve been on Instagram lately, you’ve no doubt seen the Story feature, which allows Instagram users to share more “in the moment” content that goes away after 24 hours. As a business owner or marketer, you’ve likely wondered whether an Instagram Story is a good marketing channel for your business. In most cases, the answer is yes, especially if you already have an Instagram profile for your business and are at least somewhat active. Let’s review some tips on how to best use an Instagram Story as a marketing strategy.

Story versus Post

First off, it helps to understand what a Story is. A traditional Instagram post is a photo or video you publish with various hashtags and edits. It lives in your profile until you delete it. A Story, on the other hand, is a collection of photos and videos that play like a slideshow. Each piece of content goes away after 24 hours. When people open Instagram, the first thing they see at the top is a row of the most recent Stories posted by people or companies they follow. Your followers can also turn on notifications and other settings to be alerted of new Stories or Story content. Instagram also features popular Stories in its Search and Explore tabs, so Stories can reach an exponential amount of people aside from your regular followers (think viral marketing).

Know the Look and Feel

As you create your Instagram Story strategy, be sure to familiarize yourself with the look and feel of the Story, especially from the audience perspective. For example, the top of the screen has a progress bar for the Story content, you profile pic, and username. Don’t clutter this area with hashtags or other added content. Similarly, the bottom of the screen has a message box and sharing options. Don’t clutter this area, as you want your audience to easily be able to share your content or message you.

Organize the Story Settings

In most cases, your goal for an Instagram Story is to get the word out about something to as many people as you can. Despite that, you may still want to block certain followers, such as competitors, from seeing your Story. Open the Story settings to block users, as well as specify settings for replying and sharing your Story content. You can also save the content to your phone for future use, since the Story shelf life is temporary in the Instagram universe. You can change the settings from Story to Story, based on your marketing goals.

Choose the Right Format

Marketers can publish Stories in a variety of formats, so take a moment to choose what’s best for you. Live is for live video streams, and is popular for product launches, announcements, or events. Viewers can comment (unless you turn that feature off), and you can pin comments that you like. You can save the live broadcast for 24 hours, or get rid of it as soon as the broadcast is complete. Normal allows to you take photos or videos in the moment to add to your Story (or tap the camera roll icon to add recent photos or videos from your camera roll on your device). Boomerang creates a five second looping (and often funny) video, while Rewind creates a backwards video up to 20 seconds long. Both of these are ideal for giving people something fun or interesting to look at, and can be very attention-grabbing. Hands-Free allows you to create a 20 second video without having to hold down the button on your phone, which is ideal in more active situations when you need both hands but also want to create content.

Edit with Links, Stickers, Text, Tags, and More

Creating the content is very important for a good Instagram Story, but equally important is how you edit it before sharing (note that this is not an option for Live broadcasts). One popular editing method is to add stickers to your Story content. For example, you can add a hashtag or a location sticker that people can tap on, and some Instagram accounts have the ability to add links to a Story that people can tap to open. Location stickers are especially helpful for marketers promoting a store or physical location. You can also draw or hand-write images or messages to further personalize your content, or add a color overlay to your photo and use the eraser to reveal a specific part of the image to pique your audience’s curiosity. Add a polling option to encourage more engagement from your audience. Lastly, you can add text, including tappable @tags.

Send It!

Similar to other digital marketing strategies, Instagram Stories allow you to send and share your content to everyone, or to targeted groups of your followers. For example, you may want to send your story to employees only, partners, or to your entire customer base.

Engage and Analyze

Once your Story is published, it’s time to switch gears and be reactive. Watch your Instagram inbox for Direct Messages and keep an eye on the comments. Pay attention to what people are saying, and whether they are taking the desired action. Also, be aware of any inappropriate comments and delete swiftly if needed. Keep an eye on your Story Analytics, where you can track real time views (with usernames), as well as impressions, reach, replies, and clicks/taps.

Instagram Stories can be a powerful, effective, and inexpensive way to reach new and existing customers, when done right. Test and adjust to determine what content, format, and messaging resonates best with your audience.

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