Instagram Stories: Your New Favorite Way to Engage With Readers?

Instagram Stories: Your New Favorite Way to Engage With Readers?

When it comes to choosing social media platforms, writers are often drawn to Twitter. It’s one of the biggest social media platforms and is perfect for networking and growing a following.  

A less obvious, but equally powerful choice, is the photo-sharing platform, Instagram.

But what could writers possibly share? A daily computer screen and bucket of coffee photo isn’t very interesting, is it?

But the recent introduction of Instagram Stories has brought a new dimension to the platform. It’s just waiting to be leveraged by writers.

Instagram Stories

Typical Instagram users share only their best photos. They want to portray a polished version of their life. It’s all peonies, vintage bobbins and shoe selfies. It’s beautiful, but can feel a little fake.

Instagram Stories brings a far more authentic feel to the platform.

This new feature enables users to share video and photo snapshots of their day, but crucially, these snapshots don’t appear in their permanent feed. Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, much like photos or videos in your Snapchat story.

While it’s possible to apply a little polish to photos and video using basic filters, text, and doodles, the ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories makes them real, and ultimately much more interesting.

Why bother?

If Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, what’s the point?

Authenticity, engagement, and exposure.

Unpolished snapshots of someone’s day are far more interesting than a carefully crafted flat lay featuring scattered rose petals and a strategically placed — albeit irrelevant — pair of vintage scissors.

Because Stories are temporary, users can’t help but be more authentic, sharing snapshots they wouldn’t ordinarily bother with.

Stories are also great for engaging directly with your followers. While there aren’t options to publicly comment or “like” a story, you can easily respond by sending a direct video or text message.

If you already have a following on Instagram, it’s a ready-made audience for your Stories.

Unlike Snapchat, Instagram Stories are public by default. The first thing you see when you open the Instagram app are the profile photos of people you follow who have Stories to watch. That’s great visibility and exposure.

What to share?

But what could writers possibly share on Instagram Stories?

Who are your followers? They are likely to be a combination of friends, readers, and other writers. Post Stories to interest and engage them. Here are some suggestions:

  • Share your process, your workspace and your favorite writing tools.
  • Read snippets of what you are writing — perhaps ask for feedback.
  • Share your successes and failures — be real!
  • Ask a question and encourage followers to respond to you.
  • Share what you are reading or make book recommendations.

These suggestions work as photos, but are more engaging as video.

If talking to the camera sounds like your worst nightmare (hands up, introverted writers!) remember: it’s gone in 24 hours. Video is a great way to engage with your followers. Step out of your comfort zone and give it a try.

What about regular Instagram?

If you need inspiration for what to post in your regular, permanent Instagram feed, these hashtags feature some great ideas:

Hashtags are a great way to group photos and increase your exposure through a common bond.

Are you a writer using Instagram? Have you tried Instagram Stories yet? Let us know in the comments.

Filed Under: Marketing

13 comments

  • Holly says:

    Hi Martine! I think this is a great subject to cover. A lot of people are confused as to whether there’s a difference between Snapchat and Instagram Stories, but I think you’ve clearly outline the differences here.

    I’m a freelance writer and blogger and find Instagram Stories great for showing people an insight into the behind-the-scenes of my business – where I work, how I work and so on. I definitely agree that it’s a tool waiting for writers to leverage!

    • Hi Holly – thanks for commenting. The big difference between Snapchat and Instagram Stories, for me, is that I already have a following on Instagram – I don’t on Snapchat (well, unless 3 people count as a following!) My prospective customers are more likely to be on Instagram than Snapchat. The platforms definitely serve different demographics. I’m so glad to hear you are using Instagram Stories to show “behind the scenes” – I shall look you up 🙂

  • Linus D. Franca says:

    I’m still unsure how to utilize a story that is gone in 24 hours as a way to attract more readership. I understand how an authentic short “instagram” story could help maintain a connection with a current follower. Can someone explain how that scenario works when a potential follower has to find you, view your story and be so impressed they would formally follow you on instagram within a 24 hour period? #NeedleInAHaystack

    • Hi Linus, you make a good point. The presentation of your regular Instagram feed is going to be the main thing that attracts new followers. Perhaps using Instagram Stories is more about engaging with existing followers and converting them into readers/customers? What do you think? Thanks for commenting.

  • Linus D. Franca says:

    There’s no denying the disappearing post phenomena of Snapchat and now Instagram Stories but I don’t understand the concept as far as marketing is concerned. I’ve been way wrong about trends in the past and will likely be wrong about this type of marketing being a losing proposition. If I, as an author/writer/freelancer, don’t believe disappearing posts is worth my time and effort, I certainly won’t participate in those social callings. #OlderThanTheHills

    • Hi Linus, thanks for commenting. It’s great to share views.

      Social media is SO busy these days that even “permanent” messages might not be seen. Posts get lost in the noise. The physical placement of Instagram Stories in the app helps cut through the noise – also the fact that they are gone in 24 hours might make people more likely to watch/engage.

      When it comes to choosing social media platforms for marketing your product and services, you don’t have to use everything. I think it’s far better to pick just a couple of platforms based on your desire to engage with them because, chances are, they will be the ones your prospective customers engage with. You’ve got to enjoy using the platform. It’s also got to be quick and easy – I agree with you there.

      So it sounds like Instagram Stories and Snapchat aren’t for you. I’m inclined to agree with you on Snapchat (using it made me feel #OlderThanTheHills!) But Instagram Stories is an alternative that could be leveraged by many writers.

      • SarahGilbertWriter says:

        I just didn’t know about it and have be thinking about it ever since. It’s faster, same as the tweets. I can’t speak to Snap Chat cause I know nothing about them. I just am intrigued with it and am anxious to see what kind of success it has.

        • Hi Sarah, thanks for the comment – I think it is one of those things that it’s worth having a play with and seeing if you like it. I agree about the speed – I think it’s even faster than tweeting for me. Do let me know what you think 🙂

  • SarahGilbertWriter says:

    I wasn’t expecting this one. Although, with all the advances in technology, maybe I should have. I’ve been trying to figure out just how it works. Is it in a place separate from the tweets? Are you allowed just so much bandwidth to tell your story? How do you access where you want to go? As I said, this one threw me a ringer, even though I am intrigued with it.

    • Hi Sarah – when you go into your Instagram app all of the current stories are available by clicking on the circular profile pictures at the top. They are basically the first thing you see. In terms of bandwidth, I’m not sure I know what you mean. The video will only stay on Instagram’s servers for 24 hours so it’s not like they are going to be managing huge amounts of permanent video (like YouTube). Video stories are limited – you’ve got 30 seconds or so to record (I’ve not actually timed it) – but you can do that as many times as you like. Just swipe right in your app to give it a try 🙂

  • Bob says:

    I have never heard of “Instagram Stories” until reading this post. I’ve never used Snapchat, and probably never will, but it is interesting that Instagram is going to something similar.

    I can see how this would be a nice idea for those who have a following already, but without any “Ready” audience, and only a 24-hour lifetime, the time invested may not be worth it. That said, it sounds like it is not necessarily set up for long-winded speeches or videos, but for just short blurbs and a quick snapshot, and might draw
    some attention. Who knows. Someone will make it work, probably not me.
    It is always nice to have the information – thanks.

    One more thought – I wonder how long it will take for other social media outlets to follow suit and come out with this same, or similar concept.

    • Hi Bob, thanks for your comment – I agree that this probably isn’t a tool for attracting brand new followers – it’s more about adding value and engaging with your existing audience. The short-and-sweet format often works well in social media (eg Twitter) but there is so much it can be hard to cut through the noise.

      Happy to share the info and appreciate the comment 🙂

      To comment on your final thought – (quick) video social is popping up everywhere – Facebook Live, Snapchat, Instagram Stories, Periscope – it’s so easy to record video on a mobile device I think we can expect to see a lot more.

  • Ashri Mishra says:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful blog .I liked the way that you wrote and presented this information.

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