An Intro to Instagram Stories 101 (And Score 15% off OHi Bars!)

Happy Social Media Monday on a Hump Day! Are you confused yet? Because I certainly am. What began as a post for your Monday, ended up being finished on a late Tuesday, and now here we are on Wednesday. I had every intention to welcome back my Social Media Monday series on Monday, but here we are.

In all honesty, aren’t you finding these days are kind of just jiving into one big day? While I’ve deemed this time of uncertainty and lack of motivation as “Quarantine Brain,” that doesn’t mean I’m not attempting some sort of normalcy.

Somewhere I’m enjoying that sense of “normal” is within my writing and online. It’s been a minute since I’ve shared much about digital marketing tips and tricks. I’d stepped back a bit from freelancing as a social media manager and strategist to focus on some sales and brand ambassador roles with companies I believe in (Speaking of which, check out my special code for 15 percent off of OHi Bars, my favorite plant-based bar I’m enjoying constantly, at the end of the article). This includes A LOT of grass roots and outreach efforts. Often at supermarkets, conventions, anywhere with a lot of crowds.

Then last November, I was reminded how much I enjoy talking about digital marketing; its strategies, algorithms, mysteries, and ways it can help you boost your brand. I gave a “Social Media 101” workshop with one of my “partner-in-crimes,” Chris Cutler, at the 2019 IFWTWA Conference in Santa Fe. I continued to keep it in mind to maybe polish my resume and spruce up my website, in-case I want to enter that marketing world once again. Some time pasts, and now here we are.

With the quarantine, you can bet I’m not driving sales by promotions at big gatherings. In an attempt to turn some lemons into hard lemonade (Heritage Distillery Co., anyone?), I’m trying to take this “pause” to refocus on sharing about social media with you. First up, Instagram stories. Enjoy and remember, 15 percent off of OHi plant-based bars at the end of this article!

Instagram Stories 101

Are you on Instagram? If you’re not, you should be. With one billion active users, Instagram is more than just a “gallery” for your pet or what’s for dinner, but often that works, too. While you can create a stunning feed on your gallery, Instagram stories have taken off as the wave of the future and let’s just say as a travel writer and photography lover, this has been music to my ears.

A similar strategy to Snapchat, Instagram stories enables the user to create quick videos, “Boomerangs,” and pictures either directly from the Instagram camera or your own camera roll. You can upload one by one, or 10 at a time. In addition to fun tagging and hashtag “stickers,” Instagram rolls it all out with options to create questions, surveys, polls, quizzes, add GIFs, you name it. The platform has created an easy and fun asset for online creators and business owners alike to make something authentic and stand out from the crowd.

These stickers and assets can be found when you open Instagram stories, and either take a picture, video, or upload one from your camera roll. The square smiley face, second from right, will be your new BFF. My personal favorite?? Adding music.

Some of your “sticker” and assets in Instagram stories.
Add a quiz option.
How Often Should I Post? What Should I Post?

As a travel writer, I realized that my Along Comes Mary Instagram needed a tighter focus on travel, food, and wine/beverage posts. Creating your voice is key, and I’ve found that until you’re at, say, a hundred thousand followers or a crazy great number like that, you need to stay extremely relevant to your brand at all times.

That being said, I’m primarily focusing on those subjects on my page; no more “lifestyle” or “bad hair day” posts unless it connects to travel, a place or destination, food, or beverages. On my Instagram feed and stories , I’ve tested out “theming” each week for one specific region; could be Solvang, New Mexico, Pacific Northwest. This essentially helps create a “story” on my Instagram and shares with my community where I’ve been and where I think they should go, too. This is also a great chance on your stories to create a call-to-action. Post a stunning picture, yet don’t say anything about it. Create a quiz or Q&A and ask your followers, Where do YOU think I am?

When I’m actively on a trip, I aim for eight to 10 story posts twice a day. First group in the morning, then the other half split up for afternoon and evening stories. Once I’ve shared the appropriate hash tags and tag handles for my community to see and follow along, I’ll often hide those tags in other stories to not make each post look like an ad. This is easy to do by creating the tags and handles in a dark font and “camouflaging” it, so to speak, by dragging them to a darker place in the shot. You can also use your fingers to make the fonts and stickers bigger or smaller. All up to you.

At a time like this, as tempting as it is to be on Instagram all day and post stories, I don’t want to become spammy. I usually aim for 10 tops per day when I’m sharing from home and doing themed weeks.

What Happens to my Stories?

After 24 hours, your stories disappear (a la Snapchat: the original self-destroying app!). If you’re like me and want them to STAY on your page, go ahead and make ’em a Highlight. Once you’ve created in your stories, tap the dots on the bottom right of your post, and get the option to make it a highlight.

Highlights are groups of posts from your stories that stay put on your main page. This is especially handy when you’re working with a tourism counsel or CVB. You can see my array of highlights from past trips HERE (the circles at the top of my page) to get an idea of them and how it works. Otherwise, your post WILL be gone after a day.

As I said, I do highly recommend highlights if you’re working in the travel industry. While stories can vanish and your host may not see all of the effort you put in, a Highlight will continue to tell your story.

On my website and eating an OHi bar…sorta my life lately!
Who else is rather grieving that they’re not needing their 2020 planner?
Other Ways to Utilize Instagram Stories

As COVID-19 became the main news of the world, I took to Instagram stories to talk to my community. Through a series of polls like if I should keep writing, and Q&A’s like how the virus has affected us, it was nice to feel we were coming together as a group.

You could create a poll, or even a quiz for your account. They could be simple, fun, informative, thought-provoking. You create, and Instagram has the tools.

Munch on OHi Bars while you Create your Insta Content

Something on my mind during this lockdown is how easy it is to sit, play on Instagram, and EAT. This is why I’m doing my best to stay committed to three and four-mile walks! I’ll often devote my mornings to some writing or social media scheduling, and to get me off on the right foot and feel satisfied enough to not start opening the cupboards, are OHi food bars. Completely plant-based, no soy or pea protein, gluten-free, and delicious, OHi is one of the brands I’ve been working with and I miss our on-site promotions horribly. Instead of fun meetups and demos, I’m excited to offer you to try some of my favorite bars out at 15 percent off.

Use my code, AlohaMary, and receive 15 percent off of your order. My top favorites are Super Green and Almond Crunch.

I hope this return of a Social Media 101 article has proved helpful. I’m available for consultations and strategizing should you wish to keep the conversation going. If COVID-19 can bring you any good, perhaps it’s at last learning about the world of online marketing. xo

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