Instagram has found a new—some would say brilliant—way to monetize both its platform and its undeniably impressive customer reach. What is this superstar on the social media marketing field? Instagram Stories, of course.

What are Instagram Stories?

For those not familiar with the feature, Instagram Stories are the apps foray into the disappearing content arena. It lets users share videos and photos for a period of 24 hours.

Because of this vanishing act, the content won’t appear on the regular profile. So, instead of being part of a carefully curated image, it’s goal is to let the user do some raw, authentic, real-time sharing.

Plus, Stories allow users to explore their creativity with a spin on the typical filter options, with features like text, stickers, drawing, and much more.

Why You Should Use Instagram Stories for Your Business

Stories were introduced less than a year ago, but it’s already become quite popular with the social media community. In fact, it was able to attract about 150-million daily active users  in a mere six months. Snapchat did the same, but it took them six years.

Stories also have some rather amazing engagement numbers. In fact, about 20% of all Stories get direct messages and an impressive number—about 70%—are viewed with the volume on.

It’s no question that these excellent statistics are a result of Stories being part of the popular Instagram platform, but this can only help your business.

What some more stats? Instagram boasts half a billion users who share about 90-million videos and pics and well over 4-billion posts per day on average.

Right about now, you may be wondering about the cost. While the major brands such as Coca-Cola and AT&T are shelling out the big bucks to use this new feature, don’t be afraid to try it out. Instagram’s ads use auction-based pricing so that even smaller businesses can take advantage of its popularity.

The Nuts and Bolts

While relatively easy to use, there are some features of Stories that may require further explanation:

1. Filters: Just like your “normal” Instagram posts, you can use filters to jazz up your Stories.
2. Drawing: Provides you with multiple drawing options to help bring out your creative side.
3. Text: Helps you to add some personality—or maybe even some context—to your Story. As an added bonus, you can add as much text as you like. There’s no limit.
4. Stickers: One of the more fun features, it lets users add a variety of stickers to their content. These customizable stickers are impressive as they let users add context about the time, weather, and/or location.
5. Boomerangs: These are video clips, similar to GIFs, that loop both backward and forward.
6. Live Video: Their take on live-streaming. You can stream for an hour, and when finished, the story is removed from the app.
7. Mentions: Lets you acknowledge users in your Story.

Getting the Most out of Instagram Stories

Now that you’ve gotten an idea of what Instagram Stories have to offer, check out these tips to help you use the feature to your advantage:

1. Tell a story: Don’t proliferate your Story with random video clips or snapshots. Use its slideshow format to your benefit by taking individual pieces and making them part of a bigger story.
2. Be genuine: Stories are invented to provide us with a raw and unfiltered look into what you are about. So, make your content engaging and fun, but forego the super polished look.
3. Experiment with the edges of your creativity and come up with something fun.
4. Provide Value: No matter your ultimate goal, your content should keep your viewers coming back for more.
5. Let out your inner Picasso: Stories has a ton of features that you can use to add some pizazz to your content. Think of the aforementioned drawing tools and stickers. Use them in creative ways. Mix multiple elements into a single story to wow your users and keep them engaged.
6. Create your content in advance: Stories lets you post already existing content from your camera roll as long as it was shot within the past day.
7. Differentiate it from your other social media accounts: All social media channels are not created equal and as such attract different users. So, for your content to stand out, you must switch things up. Simply reposting the same thing from medium to medium is a no-no.
8.Promote your Story: During their 24 hour lifetimes, Stories appear on the tops of most feeds. While that’s great news, you can give your Story an added boost by telling your followers on your other social media accounts about it.
9. Make tutorials and how-tos: People love how-to content, so show viewers how to use your product in traditional and new ways for increased engagement.
10. Offer behind-the-scenes insight: Whether you give your viewers an inside look at an exclusive event or give them a tour around your office, they will love the opportunity to see how your operation really works.

Since being introduced to the market, Instagram Stories has proven a valuable marketing tool for many businesses. Don’t be left in the dust, give it a try and stay ahead of your competition.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Joel Contartese

Managing Partner at Media Monsters. Network Architect & Brand Strategist With A Passion For Business Development. Managed A Yearly Budget Of Over 10M Dollars In Influencer Spend, Acquired Over 50M Instagram Followers Across Multiple Brands. Played A Major Role In The Success Of Social Media Giants Shredz, Skinny Bunny Tea, And Flavor God.