This month in my series designed to help you get your small business on social media, even if you can’t afford a social media manager just yet, I’m talking about arguably my least favourite social media thing; Stories.

Stories are huge at the moment with brands and individuals alike but many small business owners are scared to use them. If that’s you, either because you don’t understand how or you just aren’t digging the concept (I feel you), allow me to explain why you should at least give them a go.

What are Stories?

Birthed by Snapchat, they are now a popular feature on several social platforms including Instagram and Facebook. Stories also appear at the top of the regular feeds although placement is determined by the infamous algorithm, taught by which Stories you regularly watch and interact with.

Stories are social posts which only last for 24 hours, unless it’s a highlight (we’ll get to that). These posts can be images, videos or text and can have “stickers” added to them. Stickers include things such as hashtags, events, user tags, GIFs, polls and emojis. There is a lot of space for creativity, fun and engagement in Stories posts.

Why are they popular?

I have no idea! I do know why they’re popular with businesses; increased engagement, a way to appear at the very top of the feed, useful features like polls, questions and chat, among other things.

For me, Stories aren’t my thing. I’ve never enjoyed watching them as a consumer. I don’t even watch my friends Stories (sorry…!), so I cannot tell you how or why they became so popular with the public. I can tell you that I use them for my own business and for clients and they can be incredible for marketing.

What to post

This depends on your brand but you can generally consider Stories to be a more relaxed place to post. The 24 hour only window offers an amazing opportunity to test content, offer sneak peaks and make your followers feel like they’re in on a secret.

On Stories, your brand has loosened its tie and clocked off

Your Stories posts do still need to be “on brand,” but maybe your brand has loosened its tie and clocked off. You can achieve this by, for example, overlaying fun videos with your brand colours, or maintaining your brand voice but using GIFs to add more expression.

What are Stories Highlights?

Highlights, currently only an Instagram feature, enable you to keep Stories posts live after their 24 hour expiry time. Highlights appear above your usual feed posts on your profile page so it’s wise to make use of this feature for important info, FAQs, promotions or other details which tell people a little more about you.

You can also change the cover image for highlights, enabling you to keep an overall style or theme on your profile page.

Beware: Highlights show in chronological order. You cannot rearrange posts in a Highlight so to add something to the start, you will need to post the new content, followed by all the content you wish to be in that highlight.

The Stories basics tl;dr*

Just appearing on Stories is a great start; they only stick around for 24 hours so you can test things and fail with minimal fear. Make sure you’re using stickers to add personality and encourage engagement.

If you want extra info and worksheets to get even more out of each blog post, like this month’s how-to guide to Stories stickers, plus even more useful social media tips appearing in your inbox twice a month, sign up to the Forest.

*tl;dr = too long; didn’t read. The key information from the post.