Instagram Stories - The Complete How-To Guide

Instagram has over 250 million daily users on just their “stories” feature, compared to only 166 million for Snapchat. According to Instagram, stories have boosted the usage time of Instagram to 32 minutes per day for users under age 25 and 24 minutes a day for users over age 25.


The number of daily users on Instagram stories is one of the highest user bases of any social media, let alone “disappearing” social posts. That’s why businesses have already started optimizing on the Instagram stories trend. In fact, about 50% of businesses use Instagram stories on a consistent basis.


This increase in usage from both customers and businesses has correlated to a boost in story metrics as well. Instagram reported that 80% of users follow at least one brand, 60% have heard about a new product through the app, and 30% have purchased a product they found on Instagram. This number is continuously rising as stories become a more popular method for one-on-one brand interaction.


Are Instagram stories worth it? How can you use Instagram stories for your online brand?


What are Instagram Stories?

A “story” on Instagram is a photo or video that lasts for 15 seconds. It appears at the top of the Instagram feed or in the “Explore” tab with related searches and locations. These stories only last 24 hours before disappearing.


You can stack multiple Instagram stories at once to create a longer story, or you can have quick, brief moments on a regular basis.  


These are similar to Snapchat and Facebook stories as well.


5 people, smiling and looking at their phones, stand shoulder-to-shoulder against a wall


What are the advantages of Instagram Stories?

Unlike the typical Instagram feed, Instagram Stories are quick moments that are not meant to be lasting. This allows you to show what’s going on with your brand right now, which can create a more personal interaction with the viewer. The viewer feels like they’re at the event or behind the scenes with your brand as you’re showing it to them. Typical Instagram posts are slightly more removed, especially if they’re pre-planned and professionally photographed.


This personalized interaction, in turn, creates more engaged followers. In fact, 1 in 5 stories posted receives a direct message from a follower. They might reply with a question about your product or simply a heart to show they like it. Either way, this opens up the conversation to further engage your brand fans and push them through the sales funnel.


Instagram Stories also allow for more creativity and personality. You can post items that you might not want on your feed because it doesn’t fit the aesthetic or have the “importance” of your other posts. Stories allow you to use features like Boomerang, stickers, tags, and face filters to create more engaging and whimsical posts that may not look as professional on your actual Instagram feed.


Compared to other disappearing feeds like Facebook Stories or Snapchat, Instagram has the highest volume of users. Their users are also more consistent and interactive. Instagram users are also more open to interaction with businesses, and consumers find new products and lifestyle brands on Instagram at a higher rate than other social media platforms.


This makes Instagram stories the best option for online businesses looking for improved social media metrics.


Plus, if you are marketing to the Gen Z customer, Instagram stories are a must. This is where they spend the majority of their time on social media.


What are the disadvantages of Instagram Stories?

Despite their benefits, Instagram stories can be challenging to plan. The benefit of one-on-one interaction with consumers typically requires more involvement on the part of the brand. This can take up time and resources that not all businesses have.


You have to consistently produce content, and you need someone on-hand to post the content and interact with users. This is especially true if you’re using “Live” stories or day-to-day events.


You’ll want to plan for the frequency, consistency, and types of stories, so you aren’t winging it or falling behind on your stories. The more consistent you are with your posting, the more you’ll engage your customers.  



"The benefit of one-on-one interaction with  consumers typically requires more involvement on the part of the brand."   Click to Tweet



How do you create Instagram Stories?   Let’s go through the basics of Instagram stories and how you can use each feature to your business’s marketing advantage.


1.  How to post an Instagram Story

On the homepage of your Instagram, tap on the camera icon in the upper left corner.   From here, you’ll find the different types of media you can post to your brand’s story.

  • Normal: This is a regular photo or up to 15-seconds of video. You can edit these with polls, stickers, filters, and other creative aspects. You can take a photo directly on Instagram or choose one from your camera roll from the last 24 hours.
  • Boomerang: These are GIF-style videos that repeatedly play forward and backward. These are highly trending right now.
  • Rewind: This plays a normal video in reverse.
  • Hands-Free: This lets you create a 15-second video without needing to hold down the record button.
  • Live: You can broadcast “live” so viewers can see what’s currently going on with your brand in real-time.
  • Type: You can type words and add stickers. This is good for asking questions, sharing quotes, or telling a short story.


After you create the story, you’ll click “+ your story” to add it. You can also save it to your device so you can share it through other avenues, like individual messages, other social stories, or future marketing.   


2.  How to track story metrics

Although you want to be consistently tracking your social metrics, stories tend to have the hardest metrics to track. There isn’t a lot of software available yet to help track these “disappearing” feeds. Right now, it’s a lot of manual tracking, but we expect more tools to be available to businesses in the coming months.   If you watch your story, you can see the number of views at the bottom of the screen. You can tap on these names for a full list of everyone who’s watched your story.   Each post has its own thumbnail and metrics. Look to see how many views the first story post received versus the second and third posts. This can help you see your drop-off rate to determine the engagement and interaction of your posts.   You can also see who has shared your story.   In your messages, you can track the responses to your story as well.


A smartphone sits on a table screen-up with graphics depicting social media notifications pop out of the phone's screen


3.  How to use hashtags

You can insert hashtag stickers right on your story. We typically recommend only one hashtag per story. This highlights a single keyword or phrase that will attract the most relevant viewers. It tells your audience what your story is about and engages them with relevant words.   Hashtags also help your story appear in the Explore tab, so new consumers can find you and interact with your content based on that keyword.   The most popular hashtags are:

  • #goodmorning
  • #work
  • #goodnight
  • #mood
  • #happybirthday
  • #tbt
  • #love
  • #home
  • #relax


However, the popular hashtags are also the most competitive. You want to do hashtag research that is specific to your industry and business. There are a number of online tools to help with hashtag research, like Hashtagify.


4.  How to use the pen

You can draw on your picture using the pen. On the top, you’ll see four styles and one eraser. You can use the slider to adjust the size of the pen.   You can then swipe left to see a list of preselected colors, or you can hold your finger down to reveal an entire palette of colors to choose from.   This is a great way to add interaction and fun to your pictures. If you’re an artist, you can make a masterpiece out of it!


5.  How to add text

You can add text to your stories to create a deeper relationship with the audience. You can explain what’s going on in the picture, make a joke, or add a hashtag.   To add text, tap the “Aa” icon. Write your text. Tap out of the text box and tap back on it to change the style and alignment. You can change the colors like you would with the pen. You can also change the background.   If you want to change the color or size of the individual word in the text box, you can highlight it and change the color. You can also add new text box by tapping the “Aa” icon again.


6.  How to add stickers

Stickers add light-hearted, personal touch to your story. The most popular are the geotag location sticker, the digital time sticker, the “like” sticker, the hashtag sticker, and the weather sticker.   The geotag location sticker can show where you are, which is great for local businesses or traveling businesses. Location can also help you appear in the “Explore” tag or if users are searching for that location.   You can change the placement of the sticker on the picture by dragging it around, and you can alter its size and orientation by pinching and expanding with two fingers.   You can even pin a sticker (or text) to moving parts of a video. You place the sticker in the desired location, then tap and hold until there’s a bar at the bottom that says “pin.” You can have the sticker follow a single subject around the whole video, like putting a tiara on your head that stays on your head, even while you move.


7.  How to add filters and color

Like on Snapchat, you can tap and hold on a face to add face filters, like puppy ears or a sleep mask. This is one of the most common types of filters for influencers.   You can also use filters to change the coloring of your picture. You can make it lighter, darker, bluer, or a mixture of colors by swiping right or left after taking a picture.   You can also use color overlays on your picture. You do this by selecting a pen, picking a color, and then tapping and holding the main part of the screen. When you lift your finger, the screen will turn that color. You can then use the eraser to selectively reveal certain parts of your image or video if you choose.   


How do you make Instagram Stories successful?   We’ve gone over the basics of creating an Instagram story, but how do you make successful stories for your business?


1.  Tag and feature your followers

One of the best ways to use your story is to feature your audience members. Influencers do this all the time to grow their following and create a deeper connection with their fans. It shows that you care about your audience and that they’re an important part of your brand.   Your followers will get excited to be featured in your story. They get an adrenaline rush that they then associate with your brand. They’ll likely share your story with their friends and family, which gives you a greater social reach as well.   You can feature their faces or Instagram feed, or even show a video of them if you’re with them in person. You can then tag users with an @ and their Instagram handle. Make sure you click on their photo to tag them so they get the notification. If the tag worked, you’ll see an underline under their handle.


2 people both look at one smartphone screen sitting outdoors at a table with a laptop on it


2. Show unique footage

Your followers love to see “behind the scenes footage” with what’s really going on with your brand. This can show funny clips in the office, a manufacturing of your product, an unboxing, or behind the scenes at a video shoot.   This is a great opportunity to show the “real” side of your business without the staged lighting and props. This is your brand inside and out. Customers relate to that sort of authenticity.


3. Show preview footage

Along with “secret” footage, you can also release a preview of footage on your story. This is a shorter clip of long-form video content that hooks the viewers to keep watching. You can then allow the viewer to swipe up for the full piece.   This is a great way to enhance engagement while promoting your content.


4.  Tell a story

One of our favorite ways to use Instagram stories is by creating an ongoing, clickable “story.” You layer multiple story thumbnails together to build some sort of narrative. You can tell the founding of your brand, the making of your product, the creation of an event, the CEO’s past, or even a series of employee stories.   This creates an engaging storyline that intrigues your audience and keeps your brand top of mind throughout their day as they scroll through their Instagram feed.


5.  Host an influencer takeover

A “takeover” is when an influencer in your industry will host your brand account for a specific period of time. They’ll usually use your Instagram stories to share how they’re utilizing your brand in their own lifestyle.   This benefits both the influencer and the brand by giving both the exposure to the other’s audience. This is a great way to gain views and establish yourself as an authority in your industry.   Make sure that you pick an influencer that aligns with your brand and has a strong following. You also want to promote the takeover ahead of time so your followers (and theirs) are excited about it. (If you have a huge influencer, like Kim Kardashian, then you could do a surprise takeover.)


6.  Add a link

One of the best ways to drive traffic to your site is with links on your story. This can push people to longer form content, purchase pages, or landing pages. You add a link to the story, and then viewers can “swipe up” to see that additional page.   You can only add a link to your story if you’re a “verified” account. This means you need at least 10,000 followers. You can grow your followers naturally or purchase your followers to get up to this 10,000 in order to add links to your stories.


Conclusion   Instagram stories are not only the trendiest way to connect with your customers—they’re also showing the greatest conversion rate of all social media tools. If you want to see massive success with your online marketing campaign, it’s time to consider incorporating Instagram stories in your lineup.  

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