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How to Use Instagram Stories to Connect with Followers & Grow Your Influence

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Last Updated on April 9, 2019 by epapp

Gone are the days when perfectly curated photos were enough to carry you through to Insta fame. Video is the wave of the future, my friends, and the sooner you start riding it, the sooner it will pay off.

Now I’m not saying that you need to be the latest YouTube sensation to make it on Instagram. But if you’re even just a teensy-weensy bit compelling on camera – or willing to fake it till you make it – then now’s the time to start mastering Instagram  Stories.

Think about it this way. We’re all “too busy” all the time, right? An Instagram Story is a measly fifteen seconds long. I’ve had sneezes that lasted longer than that. So if you’re not able to spare a mere fifteen seconds a day to make a big impact on your following, you may need to reevaluate how serious you are about the whole Instagram game to begin with.

I’m hitting you with the tough love speech because I love you and I want you to succeed. And I’m convinced that no matter what you’re trying to sell on Instagram – or how much you want your audience to care about what you’re doing – you’re going to make more of an impact by using Stories than not. Period.

So if you’re ready to open up the door to not only more followers, but more engaged ones, it’s time to get down and dirty with Instagram Stories.

Leverage the Mere Exposure Effect

Do you ever find that the more you see and hear someone the more you like them? Simply by spotting a familiar face and hearing a recognizable voice, you start to develop a fondness for what was once a total stranger. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself trusting that person’s advice, as though it was given to you by an old friend or family member.

That fondness and trust is a direct result of the mere exposure effect, a psychological phenomenon that explains our preference for people and things that are familiar.

Leverage the Mere Exposure Effect

Now imagine for a moment that using Instagram Stories could not only make your followers like you more, but even prefer you over other less active accounts? Sound too good to be true? Well, according to the mere exposure effect, that could very well be the case.

Each and every time you hop onto Stories to talk to your followers about your day, share what’s on your mind, and give them access to the real, raw you, you’re planting a little seed of familiarity in their minds.

The more you do this, the greater the number of chances you have to remain top of mind. So the next time they see your face bubble pop up with a new Story, they’ll think: “Hey, I know her! I wonder what she’s up to today!” Then they’ll tap the circle and enjoy the show.

Eventually, they won’t just wait for your little face bubble to pop up at the top of their screens, they’ll actively seek you out. Before you know what hit you, they’re going to be sliding into your DMs asking you for advice on everything from what to post next to how to write better captions. All because you harnessed the incredible power of those invaluable 15-second video snippets.

Give them Backstage Passes to Your Life

If you’ve ever had the chance to go backstage and meet your favorite band, then you know just how insane the rush is to be face-to-face with the incredible celebrities you’ve admired from afar. To gain VIP access into their real lives, not just the on-stage version.

If you want to grow on Instagram and foster that same excitement with your followers, you need to make use of the video capability on Stories. While this platform of one-billion monthly users isn’t quite advanced enough to teleport followers through your phone just yet, Stories are the next best way to give your audience backstage passes to your life.

Think of your gallery as your stage. Everything is beautifully orchestrated, impeccably arranged, and perfectly rehearsed. People come from afar to admire it and hopefully they come back for more. But they’re not actively thinking about your gallery day in and day out (especially not with the algorithm these days).

Enter Stories. You pop up at the very top of their screens and give your followers a raw, un-cut snapshot of your real life. Your BTS photo shoot fail. Your eccentric kid brother. The crazy homeless guy from your subway ride home. While it may seem ugly or boring or overly simplistic to you, this is the stuff that keeps people coming back for me. It’s the messy, beautiful reality of what it means to be a human on Planet Earth.

If you want people to eagerly await your Story bubbles and miss you when you’re gone, do everything possible to show them the genuine person behind those Lightroom-perfect photos. Be relatable. Be honest. Be unapologetically you.

I recommend leading with video, even if you’re camera shy. Again, it’s fifteen seconds. You could literally pan around your apartment and wave to the camera as your cat runs across the screen and the video is over. No big deal.

While it might seem painful for you, in that brief fifteen-second time frame, your audience will collect tons of new information about you – what your interior decorating style is, how neat or messy you are, what type of clothing you wear BTS, or the simple fact that you have a cat. Maybe no one knew you had a cat and it just so happens that one of your followers is an animal lover. Suddenly they feel more connected to you! It’s as simple as that.

However, if the thought of being on video for even fifteen seconds seems too overwhelming, use the text feature to type a quick update or snap the smoothie bowl you just made for breakfast. Just share a snippet of your real life.

For those of you who experience crippling anxiety in front of a camera, don’t panic. I’ll be launching my YouTube channel very soon with a video on how to be more comfortable on camera. Stay tuned!

The Nitty-Gritty Logistics of Instagram Stories

So now that you understand the value of IG stories, let’s talk about how to actually create them. If you’re already familiar with the process, feel free to skip over this section.

However, if you’re a total Stories newbie – or have just recently started using them – chances are you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the features. Fear not! I’ve broken down all of the components below.

First off, start by selecting your account bubble at the top left of your screen that says: “Your Story.” If you’ve never done a story before (or have nothing uploaded from the past 24 hours) you’ll see a little blue plus sign.

Keep in mind that once you upload a story, the plus sign will disappear for the next 24 hours until the story “expires.”

PRO TIP: If you want to save your Story after 24 hours, you can create a highlight that lives on your page. Simply tap the “New” [+] under your bio, select a Story from the archive, and add it as a highlight.

How to Create an Instagram Story Highlight

Once you select your own Story bubble, you’ll enable the camera feature and be able to scroll through and select from the following options at the bottom of your screen:

  • Type

    If you’re looking to create pure text and images (no video), select “Type.” You’ll be able to choose from four different font styles: “Modern,” “Neon,” “Typewriter,” and “Strong” that have different colored backgrounds. Tap the screen to type a message in your desired font style. Once you’re done, tap the right-pointing arrow at the bottom of the screen. This will take you to a second screen where you can add a number of different items, which we’ll get into later.
  • Live

    If you wish to start a live video, select the “Live” button and then select “Start Live Video” when you’re ready. I wouldn’t suggest starting with this until you’ve at least gotten comfortable with pre-recorded video first.
  • Normal

    The “Normal” function will allow you to take a photo with your camera right in the Stories app and then upload it. You can also select an existing photo or video from your phone’s library, which will appear at the bottom left of your screen.
  • Boomerang

    The “Boomerang” function allows you to create a video on a repeating loop. Tap the white circle which will quickly record your video and then play it back to yourself on a loop.
  • Music

    By selecting “Music,” you can choose from a list of popular songs, moods, and genres to add to your Story so that it’s more like a professional vlog.
  • Focus

    The “Focus” function will create a low aperture background effect, similar to that of a professional camera. This is especially useful for creating self-portraits.
  • Superzoom

    If you want to add a little drama to your Stories, the “Superzoom” function will create the cliché “dun dun dunnn” music as it zooms into the subject. Start by using the little white rectangle on your screen to find the subject you want to focus on. Once you’ve framed it, tap the white “Superzoom” button to create the video.
  • Rewind

    The “Rewind” feature will play your video in reverse. Simply tap the white button to record and then watch your video play back to you in reverse mode.
  • Hands-Free

    The “Hands-Free” feature allows you to conveniently record a video with a simple tap of a button. You don’t need to worry about pressing and holding the record button as you would with a standard video.

If the idea of showing your face on camera is intimidating (or if you’re simply not in the mood to put makeup on), the face filters are fun to play with as well. You’ll find them behind the smiley face on the bottom right off the screen, just above the aforementioned features.

Spend some time experimenting with the different features to see how they work. Once you’ve mastered all of these options, it’s time to have some fun with the little square face, which is where all of my personal favorite elements are.

Let’s say you’ve just uploaded a pre-recorded video from your camera and now you want to make it more engaging. You may have noticed a little square-shaped smiley face at the top right of your screen. Select that, and it will open up a box with awesome additional features. You can add a location, “@mention” someone (who will receive a notification when you post your Story), add a hashtag, add a gif, add music, take a poll, ask your audience questions, include the local temperature, add the current day sticker or select from a large list of emojis.

As you can see, the possibilities are near infinite! You certainly don’t need to include all of these features each time you post, but start to play around with them, see what you like, and, more importantly, see how your followers respond.

At the bare minimum, my personal recommendation is to include your location and a relevant hashtag as much as possible. The reason for this is that it casts a much wider net of people who will be able to find and view your Story.

When you don’t use these features, your Stories will only be seen by those who already follow you or people who just recently happened to find your account through a hashtag.

Similar to using relevant hashtags with your photos to increase reach, the more you tag your location and use hashtags in Stories, the more chances you have for people to hit that follow button.

Outside of adding location and hashtags, I’m a big fan of polling the audience. Whether you can’t decide where to travel to next, want an opinion on what editing style to pursue, or just want to learn more about your audience, the poll feature offers so much valuable information.

If you’re looking to make your Stories more engaging and fun, try adding gifs. There are literally thousands to choose from that can help showcase your personality and sense of humor while grabbing the attention of your followers.

Up Your Game on Instagram Stories

Now that you know the ins and outs of creating Instagram Stories, I’m going to tell you something that might surprise you.

Instagram is not the be all and end all for creating great Stories.

In fact, there are a number of other awesome apps that are arguably superior to Instagram’s capabilities. Each of these can help you stand out from the crowd with visually engaging designs and functionalities that your followers will want to engage with.

So, to help give you a leg up on this crowded platform and bring more attention to your Stories, I’ve compiled a one-page guide of seven awesome apps that can help you take Instagram Stories to the next level. You can download the guide here for free.

So what are you waiting for? Get the guide and start giving your followers the backstage access they’ve been waiting for. You can thank me when you’re Insta famous!

Did you find these tips useful? Don’t forget to pin this post to your boards!

How to Use Instagram Stories to Connect with Followers & Grow Your Influence
How to Use Instagram Stories
How to Use Instagram Stories

11 thoughts on “How to Use Instagram Stories to Connect with Followers & Grow Your Influence

  1. This post is fantastic! I need the tough love, so thank you for it. I was sharing more via IG stories for a while and have taken a bit of a break. I do have to get back on that horse and continue trying to get comfortable on camera. I see a major difference in engagement when I share more about myself in stories. I have some trips coming up and I’m still trying to convince myself to do more vlogging. I’m going to download your guide and take it from there. Again, amazing post. Thank you for taking the time to share your tips. Looking forward to your You Tube channel.

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Amanda! This article was intended to be for Instagram Stories, but many of the tips would apply to IGTV as well, I believe. I haven’t started utilizing IGTV myself, either. You’re exactly right about it being a bit of a challenge to keep up with all the updates on the platform!

  2. Thank you Elena. Very helpful and I am one of those camera shy but will have my husband take the spotlight lol and I will do my part with pictures in live stories. 👍🏻😀

  3. Hey, Elena,

    I love the format and style of this post. I also know that whenever I read one of your posts, it is going to be 200% quality from graphics to advice and photos.

    You are the goddess of Instagram stories, and I love that you are offering advice to others.

    You can bet I pinned this post all over the inets to help others ; )

    Hope you are having a great weekend.


    Christine, The Uncorked Librarian

    1. Hey Christine, thank you so much for the kind feedback, it means a lot coming from a boss lady like yourself! I always appreciate the unending support <3

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