Remember the days when Snapchat was the go-to spot for those fun 24-hour video shares? Yeah, me neither! That’s because Instagram swooped in with their own version called Instagram stories and all but wiped Snapchat off the map.

At first, many were offended and outraged by Instagram’s blatant copying. But now that it’s been here a while, it’s safe to say that most of us have embraced stories. Combined with the image-fueled Instagram feed, Instagram stories has become an awesome feature and useful tool for those of us who use the platform for business and promotional purposes.

Integrating the feature into the already existing app is appealing because now users don’t have to leave the app to have access to that content.

So why is Instagram stories so great? Because it provides an opportunity for you, as a brand, to show your users (comprised of possible leads) the individual behind the curated feed.

Stories gives you the opportunity to connect with your followers and give them a peek into who you are beyond your more polished business ventures.

Here are some of the ways you can use your Instagram stories to share more of yourself behind the brand.

Share behind the scenes

Everyone loves getting a sneak peek behind how the magic is created. Your Instagram stories is the perfect place to provide that!

There are several opportunities for providing an enticing look behind the scenes:

  • You can show your setup for taking a particular photo you’ve shared on your timeline. This is particularly useful for still-life/flatlay photography.
  • You can share a behind the scenes of a session with your clients. You can take a photo with your clients and tag them (bonus points if they share the photo on their own stories) or you can hand the camera over to someone else and have them shoot you as you’re shooting your clients to give your users a look at you in action.
  • You can show yourself prepping for a session. People love being able to relate to others, so connect with them by sharing your process to prepare for a session. Whether it be packing your camera bag, finding a parking spot, or location scouting, almost all photographers can relate to the work that goes into a session before it even happens! Your followers can see the similarities you share as well as where your prepping process differs from theirs.

To effectively share a behind the scenes In your stories, simply post a photo on your timeline then mention in the caption that you have a behind the scenes shot in your stories for your followers to take a closer look behind the process. Your followers will appreciate getting that little sneak peek into your process.

Share extra photos not meant for your timeline

You gave your clients 30 photos they’re in love with, but you obviously can’t share all 30 of those photos on your timeline (even though you’re in LOVE with all of them). By the third photo share from that same session your followers have probably already lost interest in seeing the session on their feed.

This is where stories comes into play. You can use your stories to share some of those extra photos that might otherwise flood your timeline.

Your stories is also a great place to share photos that might not fit the aesthetic of your super curated feed. You can freely post them into your stories without worrying about them disrupting the flow of your grid.

Use stories to direct your followers off Instagram

Instagram is an awesome platform, but you should definitely avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket. Be certain to have other ways to connect with your followers outside of Instagram alone.

Why is this important? Imagine Instagram shuts down tomorrow or your account gets wiped-out (my heart starts racing just IMAGINING this!). Your whole list of followers is gone in the snap of a finger. Now what?!

How else are you reaching your followers on a regular basis? Do they know you have a blog? Do they ever visit it? Do you have an email-based newsletter you send them on a regular basis?

If your answer those questions is no, then you definitely want to consider broadening your approach. The more ways you can connect to your audience the better. Not only will you and your brand be at the forefront of their minds, but you will be equipped to continue communicating with them should Instagram no longer be effective.

Use Instagram to direct your followers OFF of Instagram and TOWARDS:

  • Your website (you didn’t do all that work in building it for nothing, so make sure they see it!)
  • Your blog (with all that helpful information you take the time out to package together into nice little tutorials for them)
  • Your newsletter (that you’re using to connect with them on a regular basis)

Related: 19 Refreshingly different photography website designs

Share your personality

This is my favorite part of using Instagram stories! This is where you can cut loose a little bit and share more of your voice beyond your structured feed.

Let people get to know more of you and your personality by talking directly to the camera. Your followers will feel drawn in as if you’re right in front of them and addressing them directly.

I know it may seem scary at first, but thankfully you can watch your video back before you post it. This means you have the opportunity to delete and re-record it if needed.

There’s really nothing to be afraid of! The more you practice, the more comfortable it becomes.

Share the things that inspire you

A great way to inspire others is by sharing with them the things that spark your own creativity. This is also another great way to share things that might not otherwise fit into the look of you feed.

Some sources of inspiration you can share with your followers include:

  • Inspirational quotes that made you think. Chances are, if those quotes inspire you they will also inspire your audience.
  • Funny memes that made you laugh. Everyone welcomes a lighthearted chuckle (but also try not to offend)!
  • Songs you’re currently listening to. This is another way to connect with likeminded followers and we are all looking for new music to add to our playlists.
  • What book you’re currently reading or a good book you’ve read in the past. Give your audience a chance to connect with you over a great read!
  • TV shows you’re loving at the moment. Bond with your audience over the latest must-watch TV or share something new with them that you have been loving. Seriously, who doesn’t love discussing the drama that’s been unfolding on their favorite show?

Sharing things that inspire you is also a great way to connect with your followers and encourage engagement from them beyond your professional work. Posting about your current faves provides your followers an opportunity to comment or jump in your DMs and express their mutual love. It’s the perfect way for you to form real connections with your audience.

Are you currently maximizing your Instagram stories as a tool to connect with your followers? Be completely honest with your answer!

If the answer is no, it’s time to think about how you can up your Instagram game! Start with the suggestions above and make stories work for you and your brand.

Don’t make it stressful! Instagram stories is your place to have fun! It’s where you can share the face and voice behind your brand and let your followers have a more personal peek into your world.

Forget your worries of having a perfect feed and growing your Instagram and instead focus on connecting with your followers via your stories.

Want more ways to utilize social media to grow your brand? Check out this month’s Member Perks!