How to Integrate Instagram Stories Into Your Social Media Program

Eight tips on how to make your Instagram Stories stand out to prospective residents and get current ones more involved in the community.

Erica Campbell Byrum
Erica Campbell Byrum

Not so long ago, Facebook was the only game in town for property managers who wanted to engage current and prospective residents on social media. With a massive user base that includes well over 80 percent of online adults 18 to 59, and nearly 70 percent of those older than 60, it’s still a cornerstone of any social media marketing program. But newer platforms are delivering additional opportunities, and topping the list is Instagram Stories.

Weighing in at 250 million daily active users barely 18 months after introduction, Instagram Stories is a newer feature of the popular Facebook-owned photo/video sharing app that’s more creative, interactive and fun than simply posting images of your latest community event, decorating ideas or resident dogs dressed up for Halloween.

The Stories feature lets you combine multiple photos or 10-second videos into a visual narrative—either by uploading all images together so that they display sequentially like a slideshow or movie, or at intervals so that your story unfolds throughout the day.

It helps give your property a personality. It includes an algorithm that makes it easier for consumers to find content relevant to them, even if they don’t follow your Instagram account. And it can help substantially boost your Instagram analytics, including the number of impressions as well as the number of unique users who see your Instagram posts.

The sky’s the limit in terms of content. You can use Instagram Stories to showcase grand openings, community events and interesting people associated with your property. You can re-purpose posts from residents or employees. You can even host an “Instagram Takeover,” inviting a social-savvy employee or resident to take over your account for a few hours to provide storage ideas, entertaining suggestions, favorite local restaurants or apps, and other tips and tricks for making the most of local living.

Want to get started? First, create an Instagram business profile (they’re free) so that you’ll be able to access all of the Stories marketing tools as well as the analytics. Then familiarize yourself with the app’s features to take full advantage of the platform and create variety that will keep your followers coming back for more. Here are eight ways to do both:

Add text overlays, emojis and filters

The Instagram Stories app offers multiple tools for spicing up your images. You can add text, emojis and filters ranging from different tints to rainbows and animal ears. Here’s an example of how one property used these tools to turn images of its Resident Appreciation Day into a clever rhyming montage designed to keep users swiping from start to finish.

Broadcast in real time with Instagram Live

The whole point of Instagram is to capture the moment (hence the naming mashup of “instant” and ‘telegram”), and there’s no better way of conveying that immediacy than posting live videos. Whether it’s a ribbon cutting ceremony on a new property or community members showing off their masterpieces at the conclusion of a holiday cookie decorating contest, going live gives your followers a virtual ringside seat to the event. 

Get ‘loopy’ with Instagram Boomerang

If you’ve ever seen a video of someone blowing out the candles on a birthday cake and seeing them sputter back to life over and over, you know what Instagram’s Boomerang can do. It stitches together a burst of photos to create a short animation that plays forward and backward in a loop. Whether it’s a leasing agent doing his Mick Jagger impression, maintenance workers trying to maneuver an uncooperative refrigerator in and out of an elevator, or residents having a belly flop contest at a pool party, Boomerang can add a fun dimension to your storytelling.

Take surveys with poll stickers

Interactive poll stickers built into Instagram Stories let you ask survey questions within a story. Just drag and drop a poll sticker into your story, then create your question and choices. Should the next resident event be an ice cream social or a community badminton tournament? Which charity do you prefer for this year’s holiday donation—Toys for Tots or Red Cross? Would you rather have new hallway carpeting or new exercise equipment in the gym this year? Residents can vote with a tap and see the results as percentages as they roll in, and you can see vote totals as well as who voted and how by accessing the viewers list for that image or video.

Embed property-related links

If you have a business profile, you can add links to any Instagram Story to drive traffic to your website, a floor plan, a resident event invitation and more. Any story post that includes a link will display a “See More” prompt at the bottom of the screen. Users can then access the link by swiping up and open it directly within the Instagram app. 

Get found with location and hashtag stickers

Get your Instagram Stories seen by more people by including a clickable location tag and hashtags related to your property, industry, local neighborhood, story topic or other factors. Then, when people use search terms like “apartments Chicago” or #ChicagoApartments on Instagram, your story will pop up. Instagram Stories location searches will populate with a story icon, allowing users to view recent stories using that location sticker. Instagram hashtag searches will populate content that includes the corresponding hashtag in their post captions or comments.

Cross-promote with the Mentions feature

One way to get more residents to follow you on social media is to give them valuable information unrelated to your property. Instagram Stories lets you do that with a Mentions tagging feature. A story post might say, “Check out @LocalBrewery for a 20% off happy hour this Friday!” Tapping the tag will take users directly to the brewery’s Instagram account. LocalBrewery can then return the favor. It’s a way to position yourself as a local expert, turn your Instagram Stories posts into an important resource for residents, and use the Instagram platform for partnership marketing.

Choose from 24-hour or permanent Stories

Until recently, all Instagram Stories disappeared image by image 24 hours after posting a la Snapchat. That limited-time-only feature—designed to encourage users to share Stories without worrying about image quality—can be a way to increase engagement from consumers who like the feeling of being part of the “in” crowd and don’t want to miss an interesting post. As of December, however, you also have the option to pin any Story to your property’s Instagram profile page, making it permanently available to those who miss the 24-hour window as well as to prospects who may be considering your property in the future. You may want to reserve the permanent option for your most compelling Stories to avoid profile overload.

Using these features gives you more opportunities to put your property’s best foot forward and connect with residents and prospects. It’s a powerful tool for keeping your community in the spotlight, building strong resident relationships that may pay off at lease renewal time, and showing new prospects why they consider your property for their next apartment home.

As a bonus, you can repurpose Instagram Stories content on Facebook to extend your reach as well as limit the need to create different content for both platforms. It’s a great way to get more mileage out of each campaign and keep your social media pipeline filled. When visibility is the goal (and isn’t it always?), Instagram Stories can help get you there.


Erica Campbell Byrum (erica.campbell@forrent.com) is assistant vice president of Social Media for ForRent.com, which offers a full range of social media services for apartment communities, and Co-Author of Youtility for Real Estate.