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Supporting image for How to Build an Audience with Instagram Stories – @suebzimmerman
How to Build an Audience with Instagram Stories – @suebzimmerman
The Agents of Change

Instagram Stories is the new kid on the block, a great new tool that individuals and businesses alike can use to engage in a more personal and authentic way with their audience. And here’s the thing…it disappears after 24 hours.

If you’re a business looking for a creative outlet to connect with your audience, Instagram Stories gives you the ability to do things like show your product in action, tease for an upcoming conference or podcast, give a glimpse “behind the scenes”, and so much more.

Sue B. Zimmerman – the “Insta Expert” – is here to teach us all the ninja tips and tricks to help us harness the full power and potential of all that Instagram has to offer us.

Rich: So I’m here with Sue B. Zimmerman and I want to say that Sue is my first “hat trick”. In other words, this is the first time that I’ve had somebody back on the show for 3 separate occasions. And that’s because Sue is an expert when it comes to Instagram – and many other things – but certainly Instagram.

We just finished an event that I put on with my friend Amber Small up in Maine, called Streamline Marketing Workshops Spring Conference, and Sue was there talking about Instagram Stories and focusing on our audience, which were wedding professionals. And as always Sue just had so much great content, and after her presentation she ended up sitting down with a bunch of people and really helping them out. Sue is a born teacher and that’s one of the things I love about her, so that’s why I asked her back on the show for a third time. Sue, welcome back to the Agents of Change Podcast.                                                                                                                               

Sue: It’s great to be here and I know about a hat trick because my dad used to take me to the Bruins games.

Rich: There you go.

Sue: Back in the day when Bobby Orr played.

Rich: Back in the day when they probably allowed smoking in the Bostin Garden.

Sue: I don’t know about that.

Rich: I used to go to the Celtics games with my dad – and this was back in the 80’s when the Celtics were amazing – and I remember there were big “no smoking” signs that you couldn’t really see because of all the smoke in the auditorium.

Sue: Oh my goodness. All I remember is going to the hockey games with my dad and it was fun. Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Derek Sanderson, that’s when I went.

Rich: The classics. For me it was Larry Bird, Kevin McHale.

Sue: Oooh, even better.

Rich: Alright, so anyways, nobody cares about our Boston sports except all of our Boston fans. So today I really want to talk about Instagram Stories. It’s something you talked about during the presentation, something I started playing around with, but I definitely want to get better at it. So let’s start with the basics, what exactly is Instagram Stories?

Sue: So Instagram Stories was a new feature that Instagram launched back in August. A lot of people thought they stole the whole Snapchat interface but I think it’s very different in a lot of ways, which we can talk about if you want. But basically you can share a story in Instagram as a different feature outside of your feed, and the story can be photos – which last 4 seconds – or videos which can last up to 15 seconds.

So the idea is that you can share a story. A story is a beginning, middle and end, and you can really take people behind the scenes and intimately have them connect with you. And that’s why I love it so much, it just has become my “go to” place to share in a real authentic way pretty much every day, to be honest.

Rich: And this is something you had mentioned in your presentation about seeing levels of engagement stats. And when I went in to my account (therichbrooks), I couldn’t find any of that. And I had asked you via email why was that, and is this because mine is not a business account?

Sue: No, anyone can look at their stats in their clips. All you need to do is press on the bottom of your clip and you will see how many people have actually viewed it, So if you open up Instagram Stories and you tap on the image or the video that you did, at the bottom you will be able to see the clip and you will be able to see the numbers from that clip. That should show regardless as to whether or not you have a personal or a business Instagram account.

Rich: I don’t have a story going on right now, so I’ll have to start a new story and then go in and check. Now you also talked about stories having a beginning, middle, and an end. And when I was doing my first story – and of course we always stink at things when we first do them – I created a story of Amber and I getting ready for the big day, and I probably had about 17 elements to my story – phots and videos and all this stuff going on – and I got the impression from you that maybe I overdid it in the amount of content that I put in my story. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Sue: Yeah. So the thing you have to remember about your Instagram story is that somebody might be coming in it at the middle, they might not have gotten that beginning. And the reason I say it should have a beginning, middle, and an end, is because if you’re going to string together a story it should be cohesive, and what you’re sharing at the beginning should be tied up in the end. But if someone entered your story midstream, that one particular clip should be entertaining, engaging, intriguing, or add value in some way outside the story.

Just like Instagram. With Instagram, every single post in my opinion is visual content, it should be cohesive and tied together with your whole feed. I always like to say that Instagram is like your digital magazine, so Stories should be strung together in a way that creates a story if someone does tap through, but also in a way that if someone comes midstream or after 24 hours the clip is no longer visible.

So Stories last 24 hours and the first part of your story might be gone and they might just be watching the second. So there has to be some context, I think, to that clip in some way that in some ways makes it a little more challenging for some marketers to do it strategically for business. And that’s what I’m all about, teaching Instagram Stories for business.

So 17 clips, yeah, that’s a little bit too much. You probably did a little bit too much sharing, unless – because I know Amber and she got a lot of great people being sponsors at this event – if you were giving shout outs to the caterers, there was all kinds of elements that were going on at your conference behind the scenes that could be intriguing; a) to someone who is interested in doing a conference, b) to someone specifically in the wedding industry, c) to someone that might want to be more connected with you or Amber. So there’s all these elements that go into what makes for a good Instagram Story, who is it that you want to be actively viewing it and say, “Oh my goodness, that was so entertaining, I can’t wait to see the rainbow ring around Rich’s avatar that I can get the next clip.” That’s the goal.

Rich: So I put up about 17 Stories, and it was basically us getting ready for the event. I figured if people were excited about it – and we knew that a few people were very excited about it because there hadn’t been something for this industry just like what we were doing – I just thought it would be fun for them to see behind the scenes. And I also wanted some practice.

But I guess part of it is, are you suggesting that maybe the day before that I thought of about 3-5 clips or photos that might have told a story behind the scenes better. I guess I’m trying to find the balance between is this a “behind the scenes” like that movie with Madonna, or is it more crafting a story about the behind the scenes? I guess you day it’s the most authentic version, and yet I’m still feeling like there’s some crafting and creation going on. Is it something that’s just a personal choice?

Sue: Ok, so here are a couple suggestions for you and all the listeners. I don’t think that you need to overthink it because you are very entertaining and funny naturally. You have a great sense of humor.

Rich: And ladies and gentleman, this is why Sue keeps coming back on the show.

Sue: People love that, people like to be entertained and they absolutely love to laugh. So you do that really well. Now for those of you listening that are saying you’re right there with Rich and you feel like you need to craft this Instagram Story thing and it’s giving you a headache, know that using Post-It notes can make it a little bit easy for you to at least map out what your goal and strategy is, what’s your endgame, what are you trying to do by crafting a story. Because this is not Snapchat, this is Instagram Stories which can ultimately drive traffic to your bio, your Instagram feed, that one link in your bio. Unless you’re verified, if you’re verified on Instagram you can swipe up in your Story and drive traffic to a link, which is amazing. I’m hoping to get that feature very soon.

Rich: But for us mere mortals, we are not going to have that.

Sue: I’m right there with you. Even though I’m the Instagram Expert, I don’t have the verification. Peggy Fitzpatrick who was at your conference is verified.

Rich: What?!

Sue: She is a rock star at social media and she is verified on Twitter and Facebook, too. But anyway, back to you. So by crafting a Story that really I think shares exclusive content that you do not share anywhere else. Not on Facebook, not on Twitter, not on Instagram. Because that’s just it, you want people to have this fear of missing out if they see that rainbow ring, you want them to tap in and see your Stories.

I know, for example, on SueBZimmerman everyone likes my dog, Cody. They also like my potty mouth, believe it or not. And they like that I live in downtown Boston so I take people with me when I start my day, when I work out, when I’m going into interesting restaurants, so that account is definitely more the life of Sue B. Zimmerman and a lot of the principles that I teach for Instagram Stories for business I don’t apply to my personal account.

My business account, TheInstagramExpert, that is where I share exclusive behind the scenes, tips, new updates, new strategies, and anything interesting about Instagram, I do shout outs to my favorite accounts. Today for example I shot 11 YouTube videos and I shot behind the scenes of the videos I was producing about what they were. And let me tell you something, it takes a whole day to do it well. You’ve got to do hair and makeup and you’ve got to get 12 outfits ready and the videographer, and you’ve got to rearrange your whole space for the lighting and that’s interesting to people. The behind the scenes is always interesting.

Rich: Alright, so I think I’m getting a good sense of what may be story-worthy versus what is host-worthy, in terms of what I want to share with different people and that sort of thing. Once I’ve decided whether to go with a free-flowing, behind the scenes look, or a little bit more of a curated story… Actually before I get to that, you had mentioned that if you’re doing really well on a Story, you may not want to start your next Story for fear of cannibalizing that. Can you talk a little about that, because I wasn’t clear on how that could hurt you?

Sue: Sure. So if you’ve got a good story going remember, it is live for 24 hours. So you want to let people have time all over the globe to click in and watch your story. I have done Instagram Stories Takeovers for Buffer, for LATER.Media, for Adobe, for Social Media Examiner, a lot of these businesses are in different countries and so we were getting engagement for that whole 24 hours where I wanted to have a beginning, middle, and end, and not start another Story. Sometimes it’s too much information, and sometimes too much information is like, can I just process what you just showed me. Don’t show me the next thing until I can consume this thing.

So I think you’ve got to look and take note how many people are clicking through and watching your whole story, or if they’re dropping off, where are they dropping off, what clip are they dropping off on. Because all of those are good data points to just at least analyze that and figure out what your audience enjoys the most.

Rich: It does. And Sue, if I’m looking at a Story that has multiple parts and I see there’s one slide that I’m just losing everybody on, can I go in and get rid of that slide in the middle?

Sue: Absolutely, great question. So like anything else on Instagram you can delete an Instagram post in your Story. There’s 3 little buttons on the bottom right, you can tap it, you can save that video or photo to your camera roll, or you can delete it in its entirety.

So because I manage so many Instagram accounts, I’ll upload a clip to the wrong account. So I download it to my camera roll, delete it from the Story, and then I add it to the correct account. So you can delete any clip in your Story.

Rich: Now you mentioned something also about metrics and engagement. Once my 24 hours for any clip is over and is disappears, do I lose access to the engagement for that clip?

Sue: Yeah. So you can view your engagement on your clip anytime. So I’m looking at my engagement, I have two…

Rich: But only during the 24 hours it exists?

Sue: Yeah, exactly. Now the other thing the listeners should be aware of is that you can upload a clip from your Story to your Instagram feed. You can do that, you can tap in and see how many people have viewed it and there is also an arrow which is pointing up and you can just upload it to your Instagram and then post it if you want.

Rich: Now I follow a lot of people who are marketers that love to tell Instagram Stories. Is the order that I’m looking at just in the order that people are posting it, or is there a way for me as a marketer to get sneakily to the front of the line? 

Sue: No. When you start watching someone’s Instagram Story it starts at the beginning of the Story that’s still out there for 24 hours. After you’ve watched that Story, their avatar will not have a rainbow circle around it. If they upload a new clip or photo there will be a rainbow avatar, which means it’s a signal to you to say they just added a new clip.

Rich: Right. I get the rainbow piece, but as I’m looking at my Instagram homepage right now I see MaineWeddingChick – which is Amber – I see you, I see Pat Flynn, Vincenzo Landino, and a whole bunch of other people who I follow. Is the order that those appear in because of who posted most recently or is it because of my affection towards someone?

Sue: A great question, and there is 2 answers to that. It’s who you engage with the most and which Instagram Stories you enjoy seeing the most, and they show up in that order. These are all people that you follow that have Instagram Stories. Now if you scroll all the way to the end you can see everyone who’s active Instagram Story.

Here a little ninja tip, if you love their Instagram feed but you can’t stand their personality and their Stories, all you have to do is hold down on that account and you can mute their Story, which means you will not see them at the top.

Rich: Interesting. So we’ve talked a lot about creating these videos, obviously as marketers and business people and entrepreneurs, we also create an audience. How do I get more people to watch my Stories if maybe they’re not used to watching Stories – or maybe if they are – how do I get in front of them, how do I get them engaged?

Sue: So a couple things, I tweet that I have an active Instagram Story with a graphic. I have a sign that says “#SueBStories”, and I have that graphic and I say, “#InstagramTip, My Instagram Story will teach you X, Y and Z” and I put the link to my Instagram account. So I literally tell people on Twitter what I’m talking about in my Instagram Story in some creative way. So I drive traffic to that Story form Twitter. I also let my group know on Facebook to go check out my Instagram Story I’m teaching a ninja trick that you can only get on Instagram.

Rich: That’s awesome.

Sue: Yeah. If I want to drive traffic to my Story I basically amplify, promote, and broadcast it on my other social channels.

Rich: And what is the link that you’re sending them to, is it just your bio on Instagram and then they see your icon, or is there a different URL you can lead people directly to your Story?

Sue: So that’s another great question.

Rich: I have a lot of great questions.

Sue: You’re an “Insta Smarty”. So we have custom UTM links for everything that I do on social, so we can track our success on every social platform. So in my Stories its #SueBZimmerman.com/IGStories, and occasionally I’ll put that link in my Stories and tell people to go there to grab my Instagram Strategy Guide, which is my 20-page guide that I give away all the time. (You guys will get it soon, keep listening because I’ve got a special link for you for here.)

But we are able to track my success driving traffic from social to our UTM by each platform. So we know that I get 250 new leads from Instagram alone every week. Pretty amazing, right?

Rich: Right. And for those of you that don’t know what UTM is, basically whenever you see those long links that you click on maybe in a newsletter, that is a special code that if you then look at your analytics you get more information where people click, did they find you on Facebook or Twitter, what tweet, what account, which campaign. So there’s a lot of additional information, for those of you that haven’t used it, you can check it out by Googling, “Campaign URL Builder”. And that will help you get better information in your Google Analytics.

But I guess what I’m asking, Sue, is when you are sending people somewhere – forgetting the UTM for a second – are you sending them to your Instagram, are you just telling them to go find you on Instagram and then they see there’s a circle and they click on it, or is there a specific URL that you send them to where all of a sudden your Story starts?

Sue: Oh, so you cannot send somebody to a clip in your Instagram Story. They need to see the rainbow and start tapping. There’s no hyperlink to a clip in a Story.

Rich: Ok. I love engagement, I know you love engagement. Give me one or two ninja tips that I can use in my Story to get people to engage with me.

Sue: I love that you’re asking that because everything in my mind is about real, authentic engagement. So you need to ask some questions and you need to literally talk to people to tell them exactly what you want them to do like, “If you just learned something new from this tip, please send me an Instagram Direct Message at this link”. So there’s a reply in every clip on a Story that you can reply to. And let me just tell you something, I get more Instagram DM’s from Stories, so I get major one on one conversations from Instagram Stories.

And here’s the thing, this is the most intimate place that you can connect with someone that you’re trying to reach, through Instagram Direct Stories DM in my opinion. Let’s face it, who wants to open up their inbox every day and go through every single email. But when you get a notification on Instagram, you get a notification that you’ve got an Instagram direct message, so when you tap your home button on the bottom left and you see a red circle on the top right, you have an Instagram direct message and messages where people are able to connect with me one to one.

Now once you’re back here in the Instagram direct messages, let me just tell you about amazing things that you can do, and this is all part of Instagram Stories. So you can create a direct message with up to 15 people. So let’s say that at your conference there were 15 speakers and you created an Instagram direct message and you wanted to let the speakers know where we’re going to meet for lobster dinner. So you can name the direct message group, you add all your speakers, and you can let them know to keep the conversation on Instagram.

And here’s what’s fun about it, in the Instagram message you can send either text messages, a one minute video in an Instagram message if it is live, or of you recorded a video you can upload a 15-second video. So Instagram is rewarding you for being right there in the moment doing a video. Isn’t this amazing?

So let me give you a couple of examples of what happened for me in the Instagram direct message. So I wanted to have my favorite juice on the panel at Social Media Marketing World, and I saw that a woman who was on the panel last year had one in her hand, so I asked if she knew anybody there because I was really trying to get them on my brand panel. Turns out she manages their account and I asked her if she could make that happen. I told her I had been emailing them for a month and no one has responded to me, I had been tweeting them and no one responded, I had been leaving Facebook messages and no one responded. I drink a green juice every day, I could be a brand ambassador. So they gave me 20 coupons for free drinks after they spoke on the brand panel. But the point is, you can get someone’s attention and it’s pretty instant.

Rich: Very cool. And I want to just share something for a second. So Sue gave a presentation on Instagram Stories which prompted me to ask all these questions, but there are a lot of visuals obviously in Instagram that doesn’t work so well in podcasts. So I definitely want everybody to go over to Sue’s website and she’s got courses, she’s got blog posts, she’s got all of these resources that do a better job than Sue and I do talking about where to click on which buttons. So that’s why I wanted to focus on the things that were a little less visual today.

There is a lot of insanely great information on your website, you’ve got a bunch of classes and other courses and all these different things. So Sue, if people are interested in learning more about Instagram, Instagram Stories, Instagram direct messages, everything Instagram, where would you like to send them?

Sue: I want to do a couple of delineations here. So for those of you who’s head is spinning but you really want to start using Instagram Stories, for under $20 you can grab my Instagram Stories class, it’s suebzimmerman.com/storiesclass. If you’re new to Instagram – meaning you have under 1,000 followers, you’re not making money, and you just don’t know how to use it for business – I do have a course called Ready, Set, Gram, that’s on my website at suebzimmerman.com/rsg. And more importantly Rich, for all of your listeners I would love to give them my 20-page free Instagram Strategy Guide, and that is at the link suebzimmerman.com/rich, because we all want to be rich. 

Rich: Awesome. Sue, this has been great as always. I’m definitely going to be digging into Instagram Stories. I am sure a lot of our audience is as well. So thank you Sue, I appreciate all the time and knowledge you just dropped on us.

Sue: Always a pleasure, thanks so much.

Show Notes:

Sue B. Zimmerman is a highly regarded authority on all things Instagram, and knows how to help businesses maximize its potential to grow and generate more leads. Check her out on Instagram, and follow her on Twitter.

Sue has a few classes and resources she is offering for those looking to take their “Insta Knowledge” to the next level:

Instagram Stories Class
Ready, Set, Gram course
Free 20-page Instagram Strategy Guide
Campaign URL Builder

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and he puts on a yearly conference aimed at that as well. Head on over to Twitter to connect with him, and grab a copy of his brand new book geared towards helping businesses generate more leads.