We are digging deep into Instagram Stories and how they can take your brand to the next level! We asked Cynthia Harper, Insta Stories Pro, how starting to be more active on stories can substantially grow your following and enhance your brand.
Q: You have steps you intentionally follow that you implemented last fall…was this a strategic move and will you share your secrets?
A: Yes! I sat down last fall and intentionally determined some changes I wanted to implement with my Instagram stories. I knew I needed to be fully committed to making solid changes, and with these changes I have been able to substantially increase my story views, and in return increase my page engagement.
The first thing I have changed is I now pre record my stories and scatter posting them throughout the day – in about 3 hour increments. So let’s say a project only takes me an hour or two, I will start by uploading the beginning of the project and then come back 3 hours later and share the middle of the project, and then 3 hours after share the last step. By staggering my story posting throughout the day [ instead of posting in one big chunk ], this allows my stories to never get pushed to the back of the queue. I have learned that algorithmically this ultimately helps get my stories in the eyes of more of the people who follow me.
I also started arranging story shares with others who had great engagement and a thriving community – I would share them and they would share me. That was really pivotal in gaining solid story followers. It’s one thing to pick up general followers but story watching followers tend to be highly engaged followers. And engaged followers are the best kind! Because I knew I wanted actual story watchers who engaged, it was great to get my name in other’s stories. To be shared that way was really crucial to gaining those quality story followers, rather than just hitting the general audience. In return, I shared those individuals in my stories too, so it was mutually beneficial.
Another thing I started doing was really getting more consistent. Showing up daily – by buckling down and committing to showing up every Sunday to Friday – and showing up consistently, I really noticed that helped to increase my story views. Personally I do take Saturdays off – that is my own day to unplug. I feel taking that one day off gives my following a chance to miss me, and algorithmically it allows everything to reset. Showing up in stories 5 to 6 days in a row – that consistency is necessary for organic growth, in my opinion.
Q: Your brand has grown substantially since boosting your Instagram Story Audience – what made you decide to put more energy and time into creating Instagram Stories?
A: I had a realization that Instagram wasn’t just about pretty pics anymore. That was no longer enough. People were seeking to connect on a deeper level. Followers really want to know the people behind the squares! Stories have become a great place to cultivate that closer connection than still images. And the trend in media in general has been shifting to video. I believe Instagram Stories is the future of Instagram. I even polled my audience to share whether they spend more time watching stories or scrolling in-feed posts, and it was largely in favor of stories. Any Influencer who wants to have a sustainable business must have a solid presence on stories, so that they don’t get left behind.
Q: How quickly did you see a growth in your brand and following by posting actively?
A: It was much quicker than I anticipated! I would say within the first 3 to 4 weeks I saw a positive impact with significantly increased story views. As for my seeimg an impact on post engagement, that was more like 3 to 4 months. But if this is your business, that investment isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things.
Q: Are you more of a go with the flow ‘Story Teller’ or do you plan out your content in advance?
A:Typically I have pieces of content on the broader scope that I have planned out. Like if I am building a shelf one day or installing flooring on a certain day, I will record as it’s happening, but I will go with the flow of how it’s unfolding, sharing authentically. I feel that it’s best to strike a balance in the middle between planned and spontaneous stories.
As for the real life stuff, I sprinkle it in organically as it’s happening. You want to speak to them so they feel like a friend, inviting them into your life in different areas!
Q: What do you find is the most productive / effective Call To Order to engage with your audience?
A: I find that polls are the most highly participated in call to action – people love to give their opinion! In my space, followers will jump at the opportunity to give you feedback.
Q: How do you keep a balance between sharing your life and oversharing?
A: The line between sharing and oversharing looks different for everyone. For me, I want people to know us and know our personalities and our lifestyle, but without sharing too much of the specific details. Personally I have chosen not to share my kids first names or the location where we live, although I know a lot of others do. I value that ultimate anonymity. Even though sharing your life on Instagram seems very public, I value knowing that we ultimately have privacy. But I realize the line looks different for everyone, and that’s ok.
I also keep a balance by taking Saturdays off. Sometime I literally place my phone in a drawer so that I can have a day to be fully present. As a mom, tucking my phone in a drawer and walking away is a very concrete way to intentionally unplug from my phone and plug into my family without any temptation to start working or mindlessly scrolling.
Q: What is your number one tip for someone who wants to grow their Story views? (If they do nothing else they should do this)
A: It’s hard to narrow it down to just one!
[ OK Cynthia! Gave us your top two tips! ]
I would say the top two things to do to increase your story following are staggering stories throughout the day – some in the AM, some in the midday, some in the evening, and post consistently.
And the other is story shares! Approach someone to share your name and handle in stories, and share theirs – this ensures you are each picking up those engaged story watchers. This is such a tremendous way to grow your story following by organically sharing someone you admire. How you share is also impactful on the effectiveness of that share swap: speak about them in a way that is relevant and timely. For example, “you have to see what so and so is doing today!” Incorporate it into your stories in a natural way, rather than just saying ‘go follow so & so’.
Q: How do you unplug in a world where everyone is plugged in?
A: For me, it’s making sure at the end of the day that I am not on my phone all day. Having a couple minutes of screen free time, talking to my husband – to end the day with human connection is a powerful thing. Also, taking Saturdays off has had a tremendously positive effect on my family as well as my mental and physical health. I feel recharged and excited to jump back on Sunday night or Monday morning. I was worried it would negatively impact my following but it has actually been better – there are no negatives. What we have built as Influencers will not crumble by taking one day off. In fact it helps us to thrive both personally and professionally.
We are grateful for such incredible insight, Cynthia! xx