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How to master Instagram Stories for your business with Mai Lyn Ngo


Hi, welcome to How to Master Instagram Stories for Your Business. I’m Mai Lyn Ngo, a small business owner who runs fitness events and a membership community in Dallas. I’m also a bit of a jack of all trades and am a content creator, social media influencer, and speaker. 

This course is brought to you by Invoice2go, a Bill.com company, an all-in-one tool to help you manage your business, customers, and payments to give you back more time to focus on building your business. Invoice2go is currently hosting this incredible program called Grow, where they’re giving away up to $200,000 to eligible minority-led small companies. Apply here today!

This mini-course is for any small business owner wanting to master video content and Instagram stories to promote their business and build a stronger community. It’s broken down into 3 sections and 3 quick tidbits.

I can’t wait to dive in and break down how to use social media to level up your business.

Day 1: Understand why Instagram Stories are essential to building your brand

Today we’ll dive into why Instagram Stories are so important for your brand. Creating content and putting yourself on camera can feel like a daunting task. 

When I first got started, I hated the sound of my voice. But with time and practice, it was a barrier I overcame because I knew these videos would benefit my business. It’s intimidating, so know you are not alone. This workshop will help you get more comfortable showing up on video and Instagram Stories.

Before we get into the how let’s talk about the why. Here are a few stats you may find surprising:

Facts about building your business with video content 

In 2021, 89% of marketers said video content gave them a great return on investment. By 2022, online videos will make more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic – 15 times higher than in 2017 (Cisco). This spans all types of content, not just short forms like Instagram Stories.

Video content is king 

Short-form content is one of the most consumed types of content. Ask yourself, when you open Instagram, what do you do first? Do you scroll the feed or do you hop into a story?

You can also see how Instagram has prioritized video content over the years and is no longer just a photo-sharing app. That tells us Instagram has noticed a behavior shift over the years. They’re adapting and we should adapt too.

Instagram Stories build trust with your brand
Peek into the BTS and personality of the business. It is a great way to show more transparency in your business and is a great storytelling tool. You can’t build a business without trust. 

When you purchase from a company, ask yourself why? Is it because you want to support a small brand, or do their values align with yours? 

Or do they also have a backstory that resonates with you? These are all questions buyers and consumers weigh in on when wielding their purchasing power. The only way to influence their buying is by sharing your story.

Instagram Stories are more engaging than photos
There’s only so much you can learn from a photo. We are having just having beautiful and aesthetic feeds. Instagram Stories allows for more creative expression and communication about your brand and it gives your audience a way to talk back to you.

Stories are a great way to put a face to the brand
It’s also crucial to put a face to the brand. Consumers connect to brands they relate to. That’s why you see national and global brands hire ambassadors or have a spokesperson. In this case, you are the face of your brand and it’s essential to put a face to it. People are more likely to trust a brand they connect with.

Day 1 quick tidbit: Instagram Story dos and don’ts

Here are 10 tips on how to level up your Instagram Stories for your business. These tips will make creating Instagram Stories much easier and more enjoyable for you as you get more comfortable and confident creating this type of content for your brand.

1. Don’t record in the app

There are two reasons I do not recommend recording in the app. First, there is a 60-second time limit 4 IG frames before it cuts off. So if you are in the middle of sharing a story or showing something, you will get cut off. Second, you’re more likely to get interrupted while recording. Whether it’s a text, phone call, or email, it can force you out of the app and potentially lose your work.

2. Do use the camera on your phone 

The quality of your camera is so much better than when you record through Instagram. This also gives you the ability to reuse your recordings for other platforms.

3. Do increase your phone’s recording quality 

I use 1080p at 60fps, which makes the video quality significantly better.

4. Do multiple takes

It’s normal to need to do a few takes. Some days I nail it on the first try, and others, I have to redo it 10 times. However, with that said…

5. Don’t obsess  

Give yourself a limit on takes. For example, take the best out of 5 or 10. That way, you aren't spending so much time and getting frustrated. You are busy business owners and you have lots to do. Pick the best one, throw it up there, and move on. Plus, stories only last for 24 hours. This is not about perfection.

6. Do mix up the type of content 

Photo, video, boomerang, time-lapses, collages – the sky is the limit. There are many ways to use Instagram Stories to tell a compelling story.

7. Do provide context

Type out captions to give context to what's happening in your Instagram Stories. Many people watch stories without the audio on. Maybe they’re at work or in a place where they can’t listen. You can also use the caption function to transcribe any speaking. Providing context can get across the message and entice someone to stop, go back, and listen.

8. Do experiment 

These stories only last for 24 hours. This is a great way to share more about your brand and get to know your audience. You can ask for feedback from your customers, do polls, quizzes. You can have people vote on certain things and you want your customers to help you select a name. This creates an opportunity to hear from your customers.

9. Don’t share in real time

No one is going to notice that you shared a morning post 6 hours later. I have to attend a lot of events and share my experience. I certainly want to be present at the event and have conversations with people without being rude or completely glued to my phone. Capture content as you go. It’s easier to capture photos and videos as you go. Then, review and share later.

10. Engage with your audience

If they are responding to you – reply! If they comment or respond to stories, message them back and have those conversations. A part of building that community is creating a two-way communication channel between you and your customers or potential customers.

Day 2: How to tell a compelling story

We’ve covered why Instagram stories are so important, now let’s get into how to do it effectively for your brand. Believe it or not, there is a strategic way to use stories for your brand that also feels authentic and not overly produced. 

While many consumers can appreciate the aesthetic, beautifully curated content you may share, they’re also looking for genuine connections to you and your brand. Ask yourself what brands do you currently support and why? Is it because they’re local, do they have a mission you like, or do their values align with yours? 

Remember, Instagram Stories are a great way to build trust with your brand and eventually work with you or purchase from you.

I’ve personally used Instagram Stories to launch my business with record 5 figure sales. I’ve used it to attract new clients and brands for content creation, and I’ve used it to sell experiences and events completely. This is all because I built that like, know, and trust we talk about. Remember, people are consuming Stories more than anything else.

Story outline: beginning, middle, and end

You have to create a compelling story to keep people engaged long enough to get to know you. You are also competing with a lot of noise on social media here.

A recent study found that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today. It is reported that goldfish have a 9-second attention span.

Bad example: Have you ever hopped onto a story and seen someone sharing from a concert? It’s usually 20 frames of them in the same position, showing the stage from a million feet away, and the performer is this big.
It was probably super exciting for them at that moment, but for the viewer, the story isn't that interesting. Here’s how I would've told the story for my audience, that's you, that would be more interesting so the audience felt like they were there with me.

The beginning

Getting ready, showing off my tickets, on the way to the concert. Photo of the outside of the venue. Maybe a cute selfie.

The middle

1-2 frames max of the stage and who is performing. Video of my friend or date and myself singing along. Boomerang of myself grabbing a drink. Swag?

The End

Walking out, on the way home, or even just a static photo with a caption, “What a great night!” I took you, the viewer, through the entire experience with me. This creates a feeling of inclusion and being part of that story or journey.

Consistency is key

Post with intention. Not randomly. Be thoughtful about what you put. It’s a great place to experiment until you find your rhythm. Remember: it’s only up for 24 hrs.

Take days off

This is important to build buffers between intense story days. You want to engage ppl as much as you can at the beginning of any new stories you have.

We’ve gone over the framework for creating engaging stories. You must be thoughtful about having a beginning, middle, and end to your content.  I hope that was helpful and offers an excellent template for you to use in the future. 

Day 2 quick tidbit: 10 great Instagram Story ideas 

Now that you have a better understanding of why Instagram stories are important and the basic dos and don'ts let’s put on our creative thinking hats and start brainstorming ideas. 

When you have a plan, you’re more likely to see it through. Because Instagram Stories has so many creative uses, the first question is, “Where do I start?” I got you. I’m sharing 10 easy story ideas you can use for your business.

  1. Highlight your morning routine or share a day in the life
  2. Share behind the scenes of your daily operations
  3. Show off an unboxing or wrapping
  4. Give a product demo or how you complete a service
  5. Teach or demo a life hack – quick how-tos are super engaging
  6. Shout out or feature other accounts
  7. Do an FAQ or ask for suggestions
  8. Highlight customers or employees
  9. Do a recap of events, parties, blog posts, items that are still for sale
  10. Provide a sneak peek into new projects or products

Are you inspired yet? I hope these 10 Instagram story ideas are super helpful in getting you started. I recommend choosing 1-2 to try out.

Day 3: How to sell using Instagram Stories

Now that you’re more comfortable using Instagram Stories let’s talk about selling and promoting them. Many brands' biggest mistake is constantly hard selling – people don’t want to get bombarded with ads.

They go on social media because they want a distraction, entertainment, or to learn something valuable. There is a golden rule for sales and marketing called the 80/20 Rule. That means that 80% of your social media content should be informative, educational, and entertaining for your audience. The other 20% can directly promote your business.

All the story ideas I shared indirectly promote your business. We talked about behind the scenes, your work routines, employee or customer appreciation posts, setting up and breaking down at events, DIY or hacks, answering frequently asked questions, implementing suggestions. These all talk about your business without directly selling, and keep your name and brand top of mind. We talked about how much noise is on social media. That means you need to be active.

And all of these different forms of content build that trust and awareness of your brand right before you sell or launch something. Here are 6 tips for selling on Instagram Stories. And again, I use stories predominantly to sell my services and market my own brand.

  1. Show your face and talk about it and why you’re excited about it. Remember: you are the face of your brand.
  1. Answer FAQs or questions you think your audience will have because they make a purchasing decision.
    1. Pricing
    2. What is the material made of or sourcing
    3. A breakdown of the services
    4. What’s the value of your product or service? 
    5. What are the benefits?
  2. Don’t be afraid to keep talking about it. It’s not annoying and as we mentioned, there’s a lot of noise on social media and you’re also battling against the short attention spans. People are going to miss the message the first time. But they may not miss the 5th or 6th you talk about it.
  1. Create different types of content - a mix of video content, combine yourself talking with content that’s more text heavy.
  2. Share testimonials and ask for feedback.
  1. Must have a call to action. Use the feature in Instagram stories such as the link to purchase, ask a question feature, polls, and have a direct call to action. Direct people to a website, link, or to DM you personally.

I hope this breakdown on how to sell on Instagram Stories is super helpful and can be a useful part of your marketing strategy on social media.

Day 3 quick tidbit: Use the Close Friends feature in Instagram Stories

Every account can add specific followers to a “close friends” or “private group.” This means any content shared is exclusively available to this private and not open to the general public.

This is a great tool to foster your online community. It’s super useful for businesses that run communities or have members or have the ability to add their VIPs.

2 ways to use Close Friends

  1. Share exclusive content or provide first access to the “close friends” group only. This creates a sense of exclusivity and being in the know. This could be you sharing about upcoming or new product launches, access to events or experiences before anyone else, special discounts, prizes.
  2. Directly talk to your people via close friends. You can share new changes, updates, or event reminders. It’s also a great way to get feedback on products or ask your community what they want.

This is one of my favorite ways to use Instagram stories because it allows me to speak directly to my main customers or members primed to listen. 

I find that I get the best engagement when they see that green circle pop up on their story timeline. I hope this is helpful and you’ll consider using this for your business.

Bonus: 10 of my favorite apps for creating content

  1. Unfold
  2. Boomerang App
  3. Splice/ Cap Cut / VideoLeap
  4. Hyperlapse / Timelapse
  5. Touch Retouch
  6. Lensbuddy
  7. Cutstory
  8. Snapseed
  9. Google Photos
  10. Canva

That wraps things up for How to master Instagram Stories for your business! Now you have everything you need to show up on Instagram stories and grow your brand.

Click here to watch all the videos and get the most out of this mini-course.

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