The complete guide to Instagram Stories for creators

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Instagram Stories are one of my favorite aspects of Instagram. I love the ability to quickly share content in a snap and interact with my followers.

But they are often overlooked when it comes to creating content for Instagram. We tend to focus so much energy on our Instagram grid that our stories become an afterthought.

However, what if I told you that using Instagram Stories is not only incredibly simple, it’s also the perfect way to build a connection with your audience, grow your brand, and make sales?

If you want to learn more, keep reading, because I’m going to break down absolutely everything you need to know to rock your Instagram Stories strategy!

Complete guide to Instagram stories

What are Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories are a fun and creative way to share photos, videos, and text throughout your day with your audience.

Each story is only available for 24 hours (so you’ll want to make it count) and it will disappear once your story has expired.

With 500 million daily users, Instagram Stories offer creators the ability to connect with their audience without having to post content to their Instagram feeds.

Where to view Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories can be viewed in a few different areas.

The main home of your Instagram Stories can be found in the top bar of your Instagram feed or by clicking a user’s profile photo within your Instagram feed:

You can find Instagram Stories to watch on your home feed.
You can find Instagram Stories to watch on your home feed.

You’ll know when someone has uploaded a new story because their profile photo will have a purple/orange gradient circling it.

You can also go directly to a person’s profile to view their stories.

View Instagram Stories from a user’s profile by tapping on their profile image. Image via ConvertKit’s Instagram.
View Instagram Stories from a user’s profile by tapping on their profile image. Image via ConvertKit’s Instagram.

The ability to view stories from so many different places helps you as a creator, because your audience won’t have to search high and low to find your content.

How to use Instagram Stories

Like I mentioned earlier, Instagram Stories are simple to use.

Because they are nice and short (fifteen seconds maximum) both you and your audience will be able to consume much more of your content in a shorter amount of time. And with dwindling attention spans, providing digestible content for your audience is incredibly important.

When going through someone’s Instagram Stories, you can tell how many stories they have uploaded based upon the segment lines located at the top.

The lines at the top of the story indicate how many segments a user’s story has. Image via ConvertKit’s Instagram Story.
The lines at the top of the story indicate how many segments a user’s story has. Image via ConvertKit’s Instagram Story.

To watch all of the stories, tap forward on the right side of your screen. If you missed something and want to rewatch a story, you can go backwards by tapping left on your screen.

 Tap left to view a previous story and tap right to view the next story. Image via Food Network’s Instagram Story.
Tap left to view a previous story and tap right to view the next story. Image via Food Network’s Instagram Story.

If you prefer to watch Instagram Stories hands-free, you can also just let them play on their own.

You also don’t need to go through all of the stories posted by a single user. If you’d like to skip past someone’s stories and go to the next person in the queue, you can easily do that by swiping left.

Swipe towards the left to view the next user’s Instagram Stories. Image via Vivian Kaye’s Instagram Story and Aveeno’s Instagram Story ad.
Swipe towards the left to view the next user’s Instagram Stories. Image via Vivian Kaye’s Instagram Story and Aveeno’s Instagram Story ad.

To stop watching stories completely, you can swipe down which will bring you back to your Instagram feed.

Swiping downwards will exit you out of the queue. Image via Vivian Kaye’s Instagram Story
Swiping downwards will exit you out of the queue. Image via Vivian Kaye’s Instagram Story

How to make Instagram Stories

Now we get to the fun part: creating and designing your Instagram Stories!

You have a few options to access your stories.

If you don’t have any active Instagram Stories, you can create one by clicking your profile photo with the “+” sign.

Click on the “+” sign to upload your first story. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram.
Click on the “+” sign to upload your first story. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram.

To add more Instagram Stories, once you’ve already uploaded one, click the camera icon in the top left hand corner, located on your home feed.

Click on the camera icon to upload a story.
Click on the camera icon to upload a story.

From there, you can either take a photo or video, or upload one by tapping the square in the bottom left hand corner.

Tap on the square in the bottom left hand corner to upload your own image or video.
Tap on the square in the bottom left hand corner to upload your own image or video.

Tap on the square in the bottom left hand corner to upload your own image or video.

If you decide to create content right within Instagram, you’ll be able to choose from seven different formats:

  1. Live
  2. Create
  3. Normal
  4. Boomerang
  5. Layout
  6. Superzoom
  7. Hands-free

Instagram Story formats

Live

If you’d like to share a message in real-time with your followers, going live is the best way to do so. When you go live on Instagram, viewers will be able to send comments and “like” your live video for the duration you are live. Live videos can be up to one-hour in length.

Create

Create gives you the ability to share posts that aren’t photos or videos. Within Instagram’s create tab, you’ll see many different options:

  1. Text
  2. Shoutouts
  3. GIFS
  4. Templates
  5. On this day
  6. Poll
  7. Plans
  8. Questions
  9. Donations
  10. Countdown
  11. Quiz
There are many different options to choose from in the “create” tab.
There are many different options to choose from in the “create” tab.

Normal

Normal is the default option when creating Instagram Stories. This tab lets you take photos and videos which you can then add text, GIFS, and other decorative elements to afterward.

Boomerang

A boomerang is an entertaining GIF that loops back and forth. You can create a boomerang within Instagram Stories by filming yourself (or something else) moving.

Layout

If you want to showcase several different photos in a collage-type layout, you can use Instagram’s layout feature.

Superzoom

Superzoom is a video effect that hyper-zooms in on your subject while adding fun music and effects.

Hands-free

If you don’t want to hold the film button for a video, you can use the hands-free feature to record yourself.

How to create on-brand Instagram Stories

While you can create Instagram Stories right in the app, you can also design ones that suit your brand by using other apps and software.

The added benefit to designing Instagram Stories on your own is the ability to create cohesive stories that perfectly reflect your brand and messaging.

And you don’t need to be a graphic designer or have any formal training to create your own engaging stories!

Canva is a desktop application that can also be downloaded to your phone to create Instagram Stories. There are lots of templates to choose from, which means you just need to upload your own imagery and change the text to suit your needs.

Canva has ready-made templates you can use to create eye-catching stories. Image via Canva.
Canva has ready-made templates you can use to create eye-catching stories. Image via Canva.

Other apps for creating Instagram Stories include:

If you choose to make your own Instagram Stories, keep in mind that the size of an Instagram Story is 1080px by 1920px, or an aspect ratio of 9:16. Using the right Instagram Story size will make it easier to upload your content directly to your stories.

Creating videos for your Instagram Stories

You might be wondering how long Instagram Stories can be as a video.

Instagram Story segments have a limit of fifteen seconds. Fortunately, it’s incredibly easy to cut and splice up longer videos, so you can add longer videos if need be.

When uploading videos that are longer than fifteen seconds, Instagram will automatically create segments so you don’t need to do any additional work.

Instagram automatically turns your videos into fifteen-second segments. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram Story.
Instagram automatically turns your videos into fifteen-second segments. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram Story.

You can easily delete segments of your video by double-tapping the rectangle along the bottom and clicking the trash can icon.

Delete segments of your video by double tapping and clicking on the trash can. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram Story.
Delete segments of your video by double tapping and clicking on the trash can. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram Story.

If you need to manually cut your videos, you can use the app CutStory to cut your videos down to specific segment-lengths.

Instagram Story features

The ability to sell, connect and engage with your audience is right at your fingertips in Instagram Stories.

Here are the current features available for businesses and creators.

Music

Through Instagram’s music library, you can add almost any song to your story by adding the “music” sticker. When you add music, you will be given the choice to crop the song so you can select which part you’d like to play for your story.

You also have the choice to play just the music, or to play the music and have the lyrics show.

The song you choose will play for the duration of your story and be shown at the top. Image via Orlando Bungalower’s’s Instagram Story.
The song you choose will play for the duration of your story and be shown at the top. Image via Orlando Bungalower’s’s Instagram Story.

Poll

Polls are a fast and simple way to get your audiences’ opinion. To use the poll, ask a question and provide two answers for your viewers to click on.

As answers start rolling in, you’ll see who voted for which answer. Polls can be useful to determine what your audience prefers so you can create products and services that cater directly to their needs and wants.

Polls show the percentage of votes for each answer. Image via Nasa’s Instagram Story.
Polls show the percentage of votes for each answer. Image via Nasa’s Instagram Story.

Questions

The “questions” sticker on Instagram gives your viewers the chance to directly ask questions without needing to email or DM you. Adding a question to your stories will give you a glimpse into the mind of your followers and understand what it is they want to know from you and your business.

If certain questions pop up frequently, you can add them to your Instagram Story Highlights as an FAQ section so future followers can get information quickly and easily.

Starbucks uses the answers from their question above to create video content showing how to order each item. Image via Starbucks’ Instagram Story.
Starbucks uses the answers from their question above to create video content showing how to order each item. Image via Starbucks’ Instagram Story.

Plan

Planning with Instagram Stories is seamless and incredibly easy, especially if you are hosting a smaller workshop.

Here’s how it works: first, you need to set up a plan by including a date and a brief description. After that, you’ll need to invite each person who you’d like to join the event.

Those who RSVP, “yes”, will be automatically added into a group DM where you can be able to connect with attendees.

Plans don’t get posted to your Instagram Story and instead get sent directly to those you invite.

You can create and organize events directly from your Instagram Stories.
You can create and organize events directly from your Instagram Stories.

Quiz

You can use the “quiz” sticker to see what gaps in knowledge your audience has by asking multiple-choice questions.

You can create your own quiz or you can click on the dice to automatically generate a question.

Clicking the dice will automatically generate a quiz question for you..
Clicking the dice will automatically generate a quiz question for you..

When your viewers cast their answer, they’ll automatically be shown whether they are correct or incorrect. You can also view the answers in real-time.

You can create your own quiz specific to your products or services. Image via Travel Alberta’s Instagram Story.
You can create your own quiz specific to your products or services. Image via Travel Alberta’s Instagram Story.

Countdown

The next time you have an important event scheduled, try adding the countdown sticker.

Using the countdown sticker helps you promote and generate interest in an upcoming event by allowing your viewers to sign up for notification reminders when your event is about to start.

Anthropologie used a countdown for their event “Aplus in Philly.” When your countdown is over, it will stay on your stories but will reflect zeros across the hours, minutes and seconds. Image via Anthropologie’s Instagram Story.
Anthropologie used a countdown for their event “Aplus in Philly.” When your countdown is over, it will stay on your stories but will reflect zeros across the hours, minutes and seconds. Image via Anthropologie’s Instagram Story.

Emoji Slider

The emoji slider captures answers on a sliding scale, which can be useful for many different situations.

Because the emoji slider isn’t just a “yes/no” deal (you can use the poll sticker for that), you can get a precise understanding of your audience through the slider.

A popular way to use the emoji slider is to ask your audience how they feel about something.

Sliders can be used to gauge your audience’s interest. Image via H&M Kids’ Instagram Story.
Sliders can be used to gauge your audience’s interest. Image via H&M Kids’ Instagram Story.

You can also get creative and use the slider for different purposes. For example, ask your audience to rate their level of understanding for a particular topic. This will help you understand what types of content to create going forward.

You can use the slider for lots of creative purposes. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram Story.
You can use the slider for lots of creative purposes. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram Story.

Location, mention and/or hashtag

Adding different tags to your stories can help you increase your reach. By tagging locations and hashtags, your story can potentially land on the explore page for those particular tags.

Instagram Stories currently allow a maximum of 10 hashtags per story.

Tagging locations, users and using hashtags can help increase your Instagram Story’s reach. Image via Tamara Soules’ Instagram Story.
Tagging locations, users and using hashtags can help increase your Instagram Story’s reach. Image via Tamara Soules’ Instagram Story.

And when you tag another person in your stories, they are notified and will be given the option to share your story to their own story, which can help you reach a wider audience.

DM me

The DM sticker will prompt your story viewers to send you a direct message.

Even though Instagram already has a place for viewers to reply to your story and land in your DMs, you might have replies turned off. If you want to encourage a one-on-one conversation with your audience, the DM sticker is the perfect way to do so.

Encourage your audience to send you a DM with the DM sticker. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram Story.
Encourage your audience to send you a DM with the DM sticker. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram Story.

Challenge

When you set up a challenge, you’ll be able to search through a variety of current Instagram challenges (or you can create your own).

From a business perspective, creating your own branded challenge hashtag is a fun way to get followers to interact with your business in order to build a relationship.

Search for different challenges and tag people to participate with you.
Search for different challenges and tag people to participate with you.

Food orders

Restaurants can increase food orders by using this sticker on their stories. To use the food orders sticker, you will need to partner with:

  • DoorDash
  • SkipTheDishes
  • Uber Eats

After partnering and signing up with one of the delivery services above, you will be able to add a food order sticker to your Instagram Story, allowing your followers to easily order delivery without needing to leave the app.

Order food directly within Instagram Stories. Image via Little Sister’s Instagram Story.
Order food directly within Instagram Stories. Image via Little Sister’s Instagram Story.

Gift cards

Sixty-five percent of gift card recipients spend roughly 38% more than the value of their gift card. Gift cards are a fantastic way to increase your profits.

Using the gift card sticker on Instagram does require some set up before it can be used, but after you’ve got it up and running, your followers will have the ability to purchase gift cards to your business via your Instagram stories.

Select “gift cards” above to get set up to sell gift cards through your Instagram Stories.
Select “gift cards” above to get set up to sell gift cards through your Instagram Stories.

Shoppable stickers

In a study conducted by Facebook, 80% of respondents say they use Instagram to make purchase-related decisions.

When clicked, shoppable stickers will direct the user directly to the product’s page where they will be able to get more information and ultimately, make a purchase. All without needing to exit out of the Instagram app.

Customers can shop directly through your Instagram Stories. Image via Fenty Beauty’s Instagram Story.
Customers can shop directly through your Instagram Stories. Image via Fenty Beauty’s Instagram Story.

Swipe up

Currently, the only place you can include a clickable link on Instagram is within your Instagram bio.

To combat this, Instagram added the swipe up feature on Instagram Stories so those with 10,000 followers or more can add links and drive traffic back to a landing page of their choice.

Users with over ten-thousand followers can use the swipe up feature to directly take viewers to a landing page of their choice. Image via Yes Supply’s Instagram Story.
Users with over ten-thousand followers can use the swipe up feature to directly take viewers to a landing page of their choice. Image via Yes Supply’s Instagram Story.

Even though the swipe up feature is only available to accounts with over 10,000 followers, there are still many more Instagram Story features you can use to increase sales, conversions and build relationships with your audience.

Sharing your Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories can be shared in three different ways:

  1. Everyone
  2. Your close friends list
  3. Directly to specific users

Everyone

If you want all of your followers to see your story, all you need to click is “Your Story” in the bottom left corner.

This method will share your story with anyone who comes across your account, including those who follow you or those who stop by your profile.

The only accounts who won’t be able to see your story will be those you have blocked or those you have restricted from seeing your stories within your privacy settings.

Your close friends

If you have stories you only wish to share with a select group of people, add them to your “close friends” list on Instagram.

To access your close friends, click on the hamburger menu and select “Close Friends” from the menu.

Click on the “+” sign to upload your first story. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram.
Click on the “+” sign to upload your first story. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram.

You can add or remove users whenever you’d like. Sharing your stories to your close friends means that nobody will see your stories other than those users. Your close friends list is private and nobody will be notified whether you add or remove them.

When you add a story for your close friends, your ring will turn green:

A green ring indicates Instagram Stories for close friends.
A green ring indicates Instagram Stories for close friends.

Directly to specific users

Sending a story directly to a specific person will land your Instagram Story in their direct messages. They can view your story a maximum of two times and you will be notified if they choose to replay your story by watching it twice.

Clicking “Send To” will send your stories to specific users without posting to your story feed.
Clicking “Send To” will send your stories to specific users without posting to your story feed.

How to create Instagram Story Highlights

Even though you can easily create Instagram Story content, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t want to keep it for longer than 24 hours.

Instagram Story Highlights give you the ability to keep selected stories for an indefinite amount of time. If you have product information, testimonials, reviews, FAQs or other pertinent information, keep them highlighted by permanently adding them to your highlights.

Adding content to your Instagram Story Highlights

On your profile, tap the circled “+”.

Click on the “+” circle to start adding new Instagram Story Highlights. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram.
Click on the “+” circle to start adding new Instagram Story Highlights. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram.

Here you’ll find all your past and present Instagram Stories to add to a highlight. Instagram also automatically generates highlights for you, but I recommend creating your own so you can be selective with which content is displayed.

You can pick any stories from your archive to add to your highlight.
You can pick any stories from your archive to add to your highlight.

At this time, you’ll need to go through your stories and select which ones you’d like to appear in your highlights.

Here are some quick tips for selecting content:

  • Choose stories that make sense to be together. For example, if you are a food blogger, you might want to group your highlights based on different types of recipes. For example, “Breakfast”, “Lunch”, and “Dinner” would be better than creating one general “Recipes” highlight.
  • Choose your best stories. Your followers aren’t going to sit and tap through hundreds of your stories, so choose ones that really highlight your brand.

After you’ve chosen your stories, click “Next”. Now it’s time to name your highlight. Your title can be fifteen characters long.

Make your highlight title concise and descriptive.
Make your highlight title concise and descriptive.

Next, you can add a cover highlight which is the image that will be displayed on your Instagram profile.

You can either use one of the stories in your highlight reel as a cover or upload your own by clicking on the image icon:

Upload a new highlight cover from your camera roll by clicking the image icon.
Upload a new highlight cover from your camera roll by clicking the image icon.

After naming and adding content to your highlight, you can click “Add” to add them to your Instagram profile.

Creating covers for your Instagram Highlights

Creating your own custom Instagram Highlight covers is simple. You can design them on any platform of your choice, including right in Instagram Stories.

I like to use Canva because you have the ability to choose from many different font choices and icons.

When creating your covers, keep in mind how small they are. If you want to use words on your cover, choose a font that is thicker and easy to read. When using icons, make them big enough to see.

Examples of highlight covers include words, photos and symbols. Images via (from left to right) @lifewithnatt_, @marinaporl and @tiereny.
Examples of highlight covers include words, photos and symbols. Images via (from left to right) @lifewithnatt_, @marinaporl and @tiereny.

How to use Instagram Story Insights

After you’ve experimented with different Instagram Story features, your last step is to use your Instagram Story Insights to understand what’s working and what you can improve.

Using your Instagram Story Insights helps you figure out the best time to post to your Instagram Stories, what content your audience likes to see more of, and what content fails to deliver results.

Instagram Story Insights can be accessed for only 14 days after you’ve posted your story, so you will want to make sure you schedule time every two weeks to analyze your results.

Your Instagram Insights can be accessed in two different ways.

First, click on the hamburger icon found on your profile.

Click on the hamburger menu to access your close friends list. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram.
Click on the hamburger menu to access your close friends list. Image via Dana Nicole Designs’ Instagram.

From there, click on “Insights” and under “Stories” click on ”See All”.

Here you’re going to find all the data for your stories over the last 14 days.

You can adjust the timeframe by tapping on “14 days” and selecting the time you’d like to view your insights for.

If you tap the dropdown menu beside “14 days” you’ll be able to choose different metrics:

There are many different metrics you can view for your Instagram Stories.
There are many different metrics you can view for your Instagram Stories.

You can also view insights for your current Instagram story by swiping up and clicking on the bar graph icon in the screen that follows.

You can view insights on individual story posts.
You can view insights on individual story posts.

There’s a ton of meaningful data within your Insights, so let’s unpack what each one means:

  • Back: the number of times a user went back to rewatch your story.
  • Texts, Emails, Get Directions and Calls: the number of people who either clicked “Call”, “Get Directions”, “Text” or “Email” on your profile as a result of your story.
  • Exited: the number of people who left Instagram Stories altogether after watching your story.
  • Followers: the number of people who followed you as a result of your Instagram Story.
  • Forward: the number of people who tapped through your stories and didn’t finish watching before moving onto the next story in your queue.
  • Impressions: the number of views your story received. Impressions are not unique, meaning if someone views your story seven times it will count as seven impressions.
  • Link clicks: the number of times someone “swiped up” on your Instagram Story link. This feature is only available to accounts with over 10,000 followers.
  • Replies: the number of times someone replied directly to your story.
  • Shares: the number of shares your story received.
  • Website Clicks: the number of clicks generated from your Instagram Stories for the link in your bio.
  • Reach: the number of people your story reached. Reach is unique. For example, if your Instagram Story has a reach of 100 but has two-hundred impressions, it could indicate your Instagram Story was interesting enough for people to go back and watch it a second time.
  • Next Story: the number of people who skipped the remainder of your Instagram Stories to view the next account in the queue.

Instagram Story tips

At this point, we’ve gone over everything you need to start a strong Instagram Stories marketing strategy.

These next two tips will help ensure the content you are creating is reaching as many people as possible.

1. Add text

Think back to when you tap through your Instagram Story feed. Do you always watch videos with the sound on or is your sound occasionally turned off?

Personally, I watch Instagram Stories with the sound off and if you do too, you aren’t alone; 30% of Instagram Stories are watched with the sound off. Additionally, users who are hearing impaired may not be able to hear the sound on your videos.

So what’s the solution?

Adding text or closed-captions to your videos will help those with the sound off as well as those who are hearing impaired so they can still receive the message from your stories.

Certain apps, such as Clipomatic will automatically add closed-captions to your videos so you can upload them to your stories without worrying about users who are unable to hear your message.

2. Monitor completion rate

The completion rate is the number of people who watch all of your Instagram Stories. According to Buffer, the average completion rate is 75%.

You can easily calculate the completion rate by dividing the number of people who watched your last Instagram Story segment with the number who watched your first Instagram Story segment multiplied by 100.

instagram-story-completion-rate

Using Instagram Stories to grow your brand

Instagram Stories might seem like a small component to your social media marketing strategy, but they deserve the same amount of strategy you put toward your regular Instagram posts.

With the above tips, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to make engaging stories that amplify your brand, increase sales, and connect deeply with your audience.

Don’t forget to add important stories to your highlights and analyze your insights to ensure you’re on the right path!

Turn your Instagram followers into loyal fans

And as your Instagram following continues to grow, it important to make sure you can continue to connect with them outside of social media. Email marketing is the best way to turn your casual Instagram followers into fans that support you and your work. With ConvertKit’s Free plan you can sign up today and to start growing your email list and connecting with your audience.

The post The complete guide to Instagram Stories for creators appeared first on ConvertKit.

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