By Rebecca Aguilar.

Instagram has 500 million daily active users. When the app announced its new feature, Instagram Stories, it took businesses and brands to a new level.

Instagram stories are a series of images and videos that appear at the top of a user feed. Photos and videos you share in Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, unless you add it to “highlights.”

Create Your Instagram Stories
1. Go to the top of your app and find “Stories.”
2. Tap where it reads “You +” or swipe right on the screen.
3. Tap to take a photo or press and hold to record a video.
4. Use arrow button to the right of record button to change camera views.
5. Experiment with the features under record button that read: Type, Live, Boomerang, Super Zoom, Focus, Rewind, and Hands-free
6. Top bar also has text or pen to add words to your video or photo.
7. Use the feature to add a sticker. There are many to choose from. Position it where you like.
8. Swipe right or left to add a filter.
9. If you’re done, add it to “Your Story” on the left of the video record button.
10. Stories Archives will keep your stories in your archive so you don’t have to save them on your phone. Only you can see them after they disappear from your story.

Be Discovered
The great benefit about Instagram Stories is that anyone on the app can discover your business and brand. They don’t need to follow you to see what you post. It’s a way for your brand to post more without cluttering people’s feeds.

Show Your Fun Side Behind the Scenes
With Instagram Stories you can show behind the scenes at your office and company. You can give them “sneak peeks” to projects you’re working on. Bring them into your home through Instagram. This makes people feel like they are more than a customer.

Hashtag It
Like on Twitter, #hashtags are your friends on Instagram Stories. If someone is searching #FridayFunHair because you have something new featured at your salon, they may end up seeing your post. If they search #SellMeThatHouse it can be you showing off the latest home you are selling as a real estate agent. Again, show your fun side.

Tag You Are It
Tagging people often gets their attention on social media. You can tag others in your Instagram Stories. This is a good way to start engaging and adding more followers.

What Else Can You Have Fun With?
Instagram Stories are also about show and tell. Show off that merchandise you may have at your company, like the cool t-shirts with your logo. How about the fun mugs with a cute quote? Who came up with the quote? Introduce us to that person.
What else is your company doing that you want the world to see? Is your team helping clean beaches or paint homes for the elderly? Show off those projects on Instagram Stories. Customers love to know that your company is about people, not profits.

Learn by Experimenting
Experiment with Instagram Stories, that is the only way you will get better. Watch what other companies or brands have published on the app. Also do a search on “Ideas for Instagram Stories” on YouTube to give you endless ideas.

Instagram is a great place to show off your brand and business, but Instagram Stories is immediate, raw and fun. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Rebecca Aguilar is a multiple award-winning journalist and social media leader. Aguilar is also the founder of the largest Latina virtual networking group “Wise Latinas Linked” on Facebook and LinkedIn. Follow her on twitter @RebeccaAguilar

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