How to Use Instagram Stories for Small Business

A young couple dressed in matching red aprons in the kitchen demonstrate kitchen technique before a tripod mounted camera.

Photographer is my life. / Getty Images


The world of digital tech is a constantly moving landscape with social media marketing seeming to move even faster. And because it’s so fast moving it can be tough to figure out how each piece of the puzzle fits with your small business.

When it comes to social media, marketing your business on Instagram is a powerful way to reach people and get them to engage with your business. Of all the ways you can promote your business on Instagram, using Instagram Stories is one of the many tools in the toolbox that a small business can leverage to gain clients and customers. Here’s what you need to know.

Instagram Stories Explained

Instagram Stories were introduced in 2016 and feature content that disappears after 24 hours for non-promoted, organic stories. These stories can feature images or video in a slideshow format and can be edited with text emoticons and drawings. Businesses often use Instagram stories to highlight new features of products or to answer customer questions in real time.

Story ads will run as long as you run the ad and are different from Instagram Stories.

Instagram Stories Only Appear in Your Story Section

Anyone who follows you on Instagram will be able to see your stories and you can see the stories of anyone you follow at the bar at the top of your Instagram feed. When there is something new in a story, the person or business’ profile will have a colorful ring around it.

Another important note about Instagram stories is that this content never appears in your profile grid or feed. Instagram Stories are meant to be seen quickly and vanish quickly.

Instagram Stories Leverage Two Vital Marketing Concepts

It might feel frustrating that Instagram Stories only last for 24 hours, but this can be a huge advantage when it comes down to creating engagement with your followers. 

That’s because two of the most important marketing tools you have are novelty and scarcity—it’s part of our psychological makeup—and because of the way they expire, Instagram Stories have novelty and scarcity built in.

3 Creative Ways to Use Instagram Stories for Small Business

Not sure what to do? Here are some examples of successful Instagram Stories.

1. Highlight a Recent Project in Your Business

Bustle does this really well, combining videos and still images to let people know what’s been going on—like a “dogs in bags” photo shoot for the website. They combine behind the scenes footage with great graphics for a fun, playful, and engaging story.

2. Provide a Sneak Peak

If you are an artisan, a DIYer, a crafter, or a serviceperson this can be a great way to get more subscribers and buyers. 

LoveTheRevision does this kind of story. In a recent spare room update they showed off the brand new door they’d just installed and made sure to get their product placement of Valspar Paint in the story. They also showed how the radiator turned out—without having the entire project complete.

People love little details like this and love to see projects come together (think of the success of HGTV). It makes them feel like they have real access to you.

3. Create a Giveaway

Running online giveaways and contests can be powerful ways to grow your following and engage your prospects and customers.

For example, fenzidogsportsacademy uses different stories to highlight the registration for their dog sports academy giveaway.

This can create extra buzz around your business.

How to Set Up an Instagram Story

Setting up an Instagram Story can be done in three easy steps:

  1. Tap on the camera icon in the top left of your screen or swipe right from anywhere in your Instagram Feed.
  2. Tap the circle icon at the bottom of your Instagram feed to take a video or snap a picture. You can also choose a photo or video from the gallery by swiping up. Resize the photo by pinching.
  3. Tap the editing icons to add a sticker or text to your video or photo. “Undo” removes and “Done” saves. If you want to get rid of any editing elements just drag and drop them at the bottom of your screen.

The big thing to keep in mind when you are a small business owner using Instagram Stories is that while you should plan what you are going to put on your story, they don’t have to be super high production content. The whole point of stories is to be real and authentic. Have fun with them.