Instagram Stories , a feature that lets you share all the moments of your day, turned a year old this week. And in less than a year usage of Stories blew by Snapchat, with 250 million daily users compared to Snapchat Stories’ 166 million users. And businesses on Instagram are really stepping up their usage of Instagram Stories to engage their audience, hoping to convert that attention into more opportunities to transact business.
Stories on Instagram and Small Business
Morgan Cornelius, Instagram’s community programs lead for SMBs, shared with me why businesses are turning to Instagram Stories, how they are using it  to engage their audiences, and how they are able to measure the impact Stories is having on their engagement efforts.
Below is an edited transcript for your review. To hear the full conversation click on the embedded player below.
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Small Business Trends: Morgan Cornelius. Morgan is the community programs lead for small and mid-sized businesses at Instagram. Tell us a little bit about Instagram Stories. What exactly is Instagram Stories? Because I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of folks who may not know exactly what it is.
Morgan C.: Instagram Stories is essentially a way for people to share their in-between moments throughout the day. It’s something that is ephemeral in nature in the sense that anything you post to Stories disappears within 24 hours. It could be a compilation of photos and videos you are capturing, and it essentially populates in a slideshow format.
One thing to just lay the foundation is, you have your Instagram profile, right? Hopefully people have actually converted over to a business profile on Instagram. If you’re looking at your profile on Instagram, the first step before we dive into Stories is to make sure you’re clicking the Settings button in the top right-hand corner of your profile and scrolling down on that settings page to where it says, “Convert to business profile.” The reason I’m starting with this piece of information is because once you convert to a business profile on Instagram, you have essentially unlocked a suite of free tools to identify business insights, how your posts and your Instagram Stories are performing with your followers and others that are coming across your profile. On the front end of a business profile, you actually have contact buttons. So you have the ability to add an email that they can directly email you, a phone number, you can map directions. That is a very good first step before you start getting interactive and utilizing the Instagram Stories feature. That would be my first step.
Now, when it comes to Instagram Stories, when you are on your home screen on Instagram and you’re seeing avatars of people’s profiles with a highlighted circle around it, that essentially means that that profile has created an Instagram Story. Anyone on Instagram can create an Instagram Story. Actually, yesterday we celebrated its first birthday, so the timeliness of this interview couldn’t be better.
The beautiful thing about this is it’s not a labor-intensive post that you’re adding to your official profile. It’s something that should be a little bit more casual in nature, and should be a little bit more raw in terms of the footage that’s captured. Do we want to stop there, or do you want me to … I can definitely go into some additional features.
Small Business Trends: How are you seeing small businesses use this?
Morgan C.: Small businesses are using it in a ton of creative ways. I think the first thing to just share is that there’s no wrong answer when it comes to Instagram Stories. When you’re first using it, test things out within Instagram Stories. It’s going to disappear within 24 hours. If you really don’t like what you’ve posted, you can delete it from the Story frames altogether. But I think the first thing to just do in terms of being a business is try and test out a few different things, and just take a look at your business insights to see how certain things are performing over others in terms of how far a consumer is going through to consume that Story.
I recently met up with a bakery here in San Francisco. I was speaking with the owner, Joanna, and she said, “You know, I’m finding that while we’re a bakery and a bistro, when I post Stories about the behind the scenes of us creating our croissants in the morning versus how we’re preparing a dish at lunch,” the overwhelmingly positive response about the Story about the croissant making outperforms the Story about the lunch bistro dish that they’re preparing.
One thing I will say, is first, don’t be afraid to play around, see what resonates. As far as specific ways that you can approach Stories, you can take followers behind the scenes. That example of getting up in the morning and preparing your croissants is a perfect way to show the process behind those beautifully posted photos that you add to your business profile in the grid format.
Another really creative way that I’ve seen people use Stories, Poketo down in Los Angeles, they just posted something today that was all about the upcoming products that they’re adding and bringing into their store. The first Story frame says something like, “Coming soon to Popetto.” Then the next Story frames are all about, “We’ve got this new product in red. We’ve got this new product in blue. We’ve got this new product in green. Come purchase your favorite colors starting next week.”
Another thing that is really cool is you can actually utilize Stories to shoot a live video, in real-time Story, and you can go live, actually in the moment, and capture whatever is happening in front of you. There are people that host workshops, and if you couldn’t make the workshop, they will go live within the store and actually allow you to follow along with whatever they’re doing, like a DIY stationery calligrapher comes in and she’s showing you how to use calligraphy pens.
The opportunities and the ideas are endless. I think those are the ones that really stand out. Be experimental first. Go behind the scenes and show your process, tease out new product offerings, and try to go live every once in a while if there’s something that you want additional followers to check out with you.
Small Business Trends: That’s some great use cases there. How does somebody measure the impact of their Stories?
Morgan C.: Once you’ve converted to that business profile I mentioned in the beginning, you’ll actually have insights that you can access on the back end of your profile. Some of those insights will allow you to understand the performance metrics of your Stories. One of the biggest and most impactful data points that we provide is Stories completion rate. That means, let’s say you have a Story that’s 10 frames that is all about a contest you’re running. You can identify if that particular contest performed well, or if people tended to swipe right because they weren’t interested in it, and go on to the next businesses or person’s Story.
That’s one really easy way to tell what’s resonating and what isn’t. One factoid I’ll share though, is that of the 250 million people that are already using Stories daily, we’re seeing in the last month over 50% of businesses on Instagram are producing a Story. Of those businesses, we’re seeing that one in five organic Stories gets a direct message. What that means is that if you’re seeing high engagement, people can message you within your Story to ask questions about a product you posted, to comment on what they like. That kind of engagement metric is also one to keep an eye out for.
Small Business Trends: Tell us what’s on the future for Instagram Stories. Is there anything that you can tell us about what may be coming next for it?
Morgan C.: Well, what I can say is that we’re constantly evolving and adding new features to Instagram Stories. In the last year that we’ve had Instagram Stories live, we’ve launched 20 features within that particular product. It’s something that we’re constantly trying to improve and make more engaging and fun and playful so people can share their Story with a little bit more of their own personality and flare to it.
If anyone wants to learn more about Instagram Stories, you actually follow @instagramforbusiness. August 14th we’re hosting an event called The School of Hustle  down in Los Angeles, and we’re going live throughout this entire day of panels and workshops. One of the things that we’ll be covering is some of the more nitty-gritty features within Instagram Stories and how to use them. If you follow that, we’re going to go live and you can actually follow along with us there.
Small Business Trends: Oh, that’s really cool. Alright. Give us where people can learn more about starting to use Instagram Stories, and then give us the Hustle thing again because that sounds really cool.
Morgan C.: The School of Hustle, I can say off the top of my head is, just follow @instagramforbusiness. If you want to learn more about Stories or even converting to a business profile or an advertising product, you can go to business.instagram.com . Also, if you follow Instagram for Business, we highlight and feature really interesting businesses from around the world who share their stories, their tips and tricks.