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To simplify, I'm a cowboy's wife, ranch-kid mama, rural living home-maker (hallelujah Amazon Prime!) and traveling photographer capturing the love & life stories of our western culture.
This is where I share my recent weddings and couples but also.... everything else. From running a business to the every-day shenanigans of ranch life.
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Let’s talk about Instagram Stories: How & Why
We laugh, we cry, we vote, we react…but we also tap/swipe past quicker than you can say “boring” a lot of days.
When stories first came out, the first few weeks were overshare mayhem as the world figured out a healthy balance. This was also 100 years ago already.
Way back then I thought, “What do I like, what makes me swipe?”
Okay. I didn’t think those exact words. My mental dialog usually doesn’t rhyme. But I did determine to only post things I know I wouldn’t swipe by personally. Which is hard, because I’ll be the first to admit I swipe past most. But I never swipe past Chloe of @boxwoodavenue…and I even hate goats. Oh and @nevadaw too. I’m so fascinated by her silverwork work, process, and run-thingy training. Oh and I never want to miss a story because she might sing something and she gives me #goosebumps
That philosophy (post unto others as you would have posted unto you), works for the most part. Although now and then I do look at a story I’ve done and think “Bleh, I’d totally swipe past this.”
Life ain’t perfect.
After a few years of “Instagram Stories” here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned for myself that seem to work. The good part is at the bottom where I share WHY it’s important.
I love everything that Donald Miller, author of “Building a Story Brand” says. I try to apply not only what he teaches to my website/brand…but to every post/story I do. I own the book and audible. Also, I’ve listened to dozens of his podcasts.
Think of it like this: You are posting sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters in a BOOK. The book is the story of what you do and who you are.
At this point I’ve been on Instagram so long mine would be more like the Lyndsy Garber Saga. LOL In Lyndsey’s book(s) she is a photographer with many travel adventures, she’s a cowboy wife living the ranch lifestyle, she remodeled a vintage popup camper, occasionally fangirls over other accounts (that her followers would enjoy), her kids love their mini-horse, she loves Amazon Prime, Walmart Pickup and her Roomba, AND she is always wearing the same stupid ballcap. Strung together, it’s the story of my life told in a way that speaks/attracts my ideal PAYING client.
Like everyone, I roll with the flow. Random is good as long as it doesn’t cause your followers to set down the book. Stay within some specific guidelines and rules that keep you from straying too far from the heart and moral of your story.
Introduce with an attention grabber.
Make the first story of that “chapter” an attention grabber. This is your “opening line” to the story you’ve written, and it’s what you need so everyone will wait for the next “scene” rather than just swipe past to the next person to see if they are more interesting.
Invite people to leave before it starts.
If your “opening line” doesn’t interest the person who landed on the start of your chapter, it allows them people determine for themselves if they want to skip/pass before they get deep into your story and feel like they are wasting their time. They will respect you for it.
I don’t always do this, but sometimes it’s good to say “If you aren’t interested in x, y & z swipe past now.”
Post chapters with a proper start, middle & finish!
Guide them through your interactive story. Bring your hook your reader at the beginning of the chapter, create a climax (make your point), and then have a conclusion, so your audience knows you are done with them for now.
Post your sentences as paragraphs/pages…not real-time.
Instagram leaves their stories up for 24 hours, and then they expire. You have an entire audience accessing your account 24 different hours of the day/night. You don’t want to post where people feel like they’ve missed a few pages and think “Wait, what’s happening.” Thanks to the the the ability to “thumb down” and access recent/old footage we can look back over a period of time and pick the best posts to curate “paragraphs” or “pages” for our stories.
I have found it really important that I post these paragraphs/pages only once every 12-24 hours. I lay it allll out together. I give my audience a chance to catch it start/finish. Then I start fresh with the next section.
If my page in this chapter was REALLY something I wanted to make sure everyone saw, then I’ll plan to post the something new in a few hours. Because then it will “bump” my story closer to the top of peoples attention. It could be the next “paragraph” or “sentence” in the overall story. But it doesn’t have to relate to the previous or upcoming story necessarily…think maybe a “commercial” break. Random behind the scene, shoutout or something funny.
I don’t post many Instagram stories because 1) busy 2) with my particular audience/algorithm, quality wins over quantity. Less quality (not as thoughtful/engaging) stories and posts are more damaging to my engagement rates than if I’d waited until I could invest some thought and time into putting up something that will actually get my audience responding.
You TRAIN your audience to know what to expect. If they expect every day to come into the middle of your story confused/bored…you’ll train them to pass you by without even giving you a chance to grab them. Or they will just mute you. Which is BAD news for your algorithm.
When/what to post is not a science, and it can greatly vary based on different audiences. The key is keeping your finger on your audience pulse and figuring out what/when works for them!
Ultimately, you are using Instagram Stories to tell the FULL story beyond. People who are interested in making sure they catch the next page/chapter will be far more likely to hang round compared to if it’s allllll just random commercials and stuff.
This is also not a science to overthink. But do you at least see what I’m trying to explain? No? Let me know. Maybe I’ll have to come up with a different analogy. Try thinking of it like seasons and episodes of a TV show.
(Obviously, this doesn’t apply to live coverage/takeovers etc.)
Realize no one is “listening.”
At least a lot of people a lot of the time are not.
Don’t put your audience in a place where they NEED sound to fully understand what is going on. NO ONE IS LISTENING. Seriously. They are sitting in class, at the doctors office, rocking the kid to sleep. Most people are NOT “listening” to stories unless you ask them too.
If sound will greatly enhance their experience, give them a reason to turn it on.
If you are just a talking head for 7 muted slides, no one but a really faithful few are going to pay attention. I do think to show up in your story and talking face-to-face with your audience is essential. But set the stage. Reel them in. Make them want to know what you are saying if it’s important. But, ESPECIALLY if it’s important…spell out what you are saying.
So pretend your audience is deaf (who knows, maybe some of them are, they will love you for this). If you are talking, or there is sound, summarize into a caption what is going on. That way if someone is watching from the doctor’s office they will still follow along/engage with your story.
If you really want them to hear…give them a teaser to make them WANT to be rude enough to turn their sound on in the Dr Office.
Change it up.
Intro photo describing what’s coming. Next. Video with a caption. Next. Text with a poll about what you just showed previously. Next. A picture with a gif. A video of you talking on the subject, with a caption. Next. Flip the camera around while talking, with a caption. Next. Picture of the topic/subject with an invite to swipe up to view. Next. Conclude (maybe tease with what’s next…)
While there is a time and place for 15 “face to face” talking head videos. Keep them minimal. And if you must, at least keep them interesting. No one likes monotone or what you cooked for dinner (again, except mom.)
This also applies to overall. Your audience might want to see your dogs or hear about your workout or see what you ate for dinner every single day. Or they might not. Pay attention to how they are responding (more on that below). Maybe your cat only needs to make an appearance once a week. Because you might end up only taking to the people who are vibing with your workout but who aren’t actually potential paying customers…the ones you ACTUALLY need to be talking to to get the bills paid.
In the context of the book/story analogy. Do you ever read a book or watch a TV show that describes or shows what the characters are eating every day? Shows their workout? You might know the character hates Thia food and is RIPPED, but seeing that every single paragraph/episode takes away from the plot/story.
Don’t overdo it.
Donald Miller, in the book I mentioned above, talks about brain calories and attention spans. So if you’ve posted so much the story “lines” at the top have turned into little “dots”…it’s time to put the phone done and back away slowly. LOL No one’s got the brain calores or attention span for it.
When I mentor photographers or small businesses who heavily rely on social media to reach their ideal clients, occasionally I’ll get someone who sighs and says “Does it really matter? It’s sooooo much work! I don’t have time to come up with stories LIKE THAT! I just want to slap something up here or there.”
Ohhhhhhkay. Let’s talk algorithms and engagement rates. If you are whining and complaining about your lack of reach, engagement rates or growth…realize maybe it isn’t the algorithm, it’s you.
Why would I dare say that? Because I have a lot of experience with not JUST my own account and algorithm, But because I’ve either managed or helped grow many different Instagram accounts across many different genres.
I’m not saying the algorithm doesn’t suck sometimes. I’m just also saying there are methods to leveraging its madness.
And we all know more engagement = more reach = more followers = more potential clients. (Blog post coming soon on growing an audience.)
Slapping up “Meh” stories hurts you.
Do you have a significant “fall off” rate in your stories? (Fall off is the number of viewers leaving from the time of the first story to the most recent or last.)
Yah? Instagram is watching. They go, “Hmmmm, must be meh content, we aren’t going to push the reach.” With consistent negative results, your analytics will drop further and further into the gutter because you are training your audience to not listen to you…which trains Instagram to think that you aren’t worth sharing much.
Because the more folks drop off a story, the less and less they will see you because the algorithm is striving to show them only more of what they are actually sticking around for!
I think I just made the same point twice in a row…just in a little different way.
But it’s important to realize.
But it can be oh so good!
Don’t be discouraged. This also works in reverse. The better you get at consentingly telling stories and engaging your audience through Instagram Stories…the more you will train your audience to get excited and watch for you. And they’ll train YOU on what you need to post for them…just watch and see what they love!
Then you’ll see your algorithm start to work MAGIC.
And that, folks, is why it’s IMPORTANT to be intentional and strategic with your stories.
Instagram Stories: How & Why / Copyright Lyndsey Garber
*Disclosure: Keeping it real around here. Sometimes (not always) the links in my posts are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase a few cents get added to my coffee fund. You will never get charged extra through affiliate links…and sometimes you’ll even get a discount! BUT you can always trust that I link these products or companies only because I BOUGHT them with real money and USE them in real life…and not because of any commission I may or may not receive from your purchases. Whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.