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Instagram Stories: The Complete Guide to Creating Engaging Content

Everything you should know about how to use Instagram Stories to increase your organic reach as well as engage and attract your followers.

Posted 1 year ago

Written by

Julia Cohen
Posted 1 year ago
Instagram Stories – they are one of the best ways to amp up your engagement and connect closely with your followers. Even though they don’t live ‘forever’ on the grid and and take up that valuable real estate, they can help you retain your followers by allowing them to get to know you, and your voice, more.

Instagram Stories: The Complete Guide to Creating Engaging Content

In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about creating Instagram Stories that pack a punch, drive engagement and show some creative flair. If you’re looking for something specific, you can jump to a specific point of the guide, here:

Jump to a section ✨

  1. Instagram Stories: The Complete Guide to Creating Engaging Content

Why and how should you use Instagram Stories? Let’s get to the basics

This section covers the basics – think who, why, what, when and how?

What are Instagram Stories? 📖

Stories have come a long way since they were introduced to Instagram. Before, you could only upload images, but Stories have come leaps and bounds, allowing you to post videos, collages, polls, games, question stickers, swipe up links and more. Stories only last for 24 hours and appear at the top of your Instagram feed, disappearing unless you add them to your ‘highlights’, which appear at the top of your profile.
Is there a limit in terms of how many Stories you can share? No. You can upload as many slides as you want, but they can only last a maximum of 15 seconds (whether it’s a video or a picture).

Why should you use Instagram Stories? ⏯

There are a number of reasons why you should be using Instagram Stories, so let’s go over a few!
  1. They can bring you closer to your followers, because you can directly respond to their questions, ask their opinions or more authentically jump on and speak to them.
  2. They only last 24 hours. You might not want to chronicle your everyday on the feed, because it would be overload for your followers, right? Any content you don’t want to put on your feed, you can add to your Stories, and it doesn’t have to be as aesthetically high quality as what you might put on the main grid.
  3. Speaking of content, you can repurpose or reuse content that you create and don’t use on you feed, on your Stories, so they don’t go to waste.
  4. You can be more raw. Stories are less curated than the feed, so you have the opportunity to be more open with your followers and share more of your personality, using Stories.
  5. You can drive traffic to your website or business. If you reach 10k followers, or run paid ads, you can also include Swipe Up links on your Stories, which means people can tap through to a link directly. In your Instagram captions, you can’t actually share links, so this is a huge plus.
  6. You can understand what your followers want to see. With features like question stickers and polls, you can collect information from your followers on the content they like to see, as well as their interests.

How do you add an Instagram Story? 📸

Adding an Instagram Story is easy. You can either create a live Story or upload an existing photo or video that you created before.
On your profile, just click the ‘plus’ icon in the top righthand corner. Select ‘Story’ from the list of options. From here, you can directly record a video, make a Boomerang, or take a photo, or you can swipe up to upload an existing piece of content from your camera roll.

What size are Instagram Stories? 📏

Instagram Stories should be 1080×1920 (9:16 aspect ratio).

How to add drawings and text to your Stories 🖼

Once you’ve added your content, you might want to give a little more context by adding drawings, arrows or text. To add text, click the ‘Aa’ icon, and swipe through the font and colour options until you’re happy with your choice. You can also centre your text, add backgrounds, animate it, or enlarge it, with the buttons in the text editor.
To add drawings, click on the squiggly line tool. From here, you can select colours, and draw with pens, highlighters or neon lines. There is also an arrow tool, which allows you to draw flawless arrows on your pictures and videos.
how to instagram stories
Did you know that you can use more colours for text and drawings than those displayed on Instagram? When you are in the text or drawing editor, just tap the ‘inkdropper’ button in the lower left hand corner. This allows you to select a colour from your photo or upload, and use it as the colour of your text or drawings!

How to add music to Instagram Stories 🎸

Did you know that you can pick from some of the top tracks, search for your fave song, or see what’s trending and add them to your Instagram Stories? We’ve already written an article on our best practices for adding music to Instagram Stories, so click here!

How to add stickers, polls, gifs and more to Instagram Stories 🙌

To add any cute extras to your Instagram Story, just click the ‘smiley face’ button at the top of the Story editor. From here, you’ll see a large list of options for things you can add to your Story – and there’s a lot, so don’t get overwhelmed.
What stickers can you add to your Stories? 💋
  1. Location tags – you can geotag your location, to show your followers where you’re visiting, whether its a cute food spot or a great concert.
  2. Mentions – even though you can tag people in Stories using text, you can also use stickers to mention other users.
  3. Hashtags – again, although you can use hashtags using text, you can use the Hashtag sticker (for a maximum of one hashtag) to make it stand out a little more. This is great if you’re using something branded, or you’re at an event.
  4. Questions – you can use the question sticker to ask you followers a question or have them submit their questions for you!
  5. Gifs – by clicking gifs, you can search giphy for cute gifs you might want to add to your content to help contextualize it.
  6. Music – you can add music to Stories using a sticker.
  7. Emoji sliders – you can use this to let your followers tell you how much they love something, or use it in a poll! You can also pick the emoji you want to use.
  8. Reshare – this is a new one and is only available to some users. It’s a way that you can reshare your own, or other people’s feed posts on your Story.
  9. Poll – this is a ‘yes or no’ poll that you can use to ask your followers to vote and share their opinions.
  10. Quiz – Select up to four options, and use this to create quizzes on your Stories for your followers to play.
  11. Links – if you don’t have 10k followers, you can still share links by using the ‘link’ sticker on Stories.
  12. Donations – you can highlight and ask your followers to donate to a specific cause or fundraiser with this one!
  13. Countdowns – put in a specific date and let your followers turn on notifications for the countdown.
Want to read about how to find cute stickers for your Instagram Stories? 😍 click here!

How to use filters on Instagram Stories 👋

There’s a bunch of fun filters you can use on Instagram, which track your face, or just add effects to your pictures and videos. To use them live, just scroll along the options which should appear at the bottom of the screen. If you want more, just click the magnifying glass.

How to share Stories with close friends 👯‍♀️

Have some Stories that you only want some people to see, but not others? That’s ok! You can create a list of ‘close friends’ on Instagram with select users that you can share certain Stories to. To do this, click the three lines in the top-righthand corner of your profile. From here, select close friends, and then click on the people you want to add to the list.
When you upload a Story you can select whether you add it to your Story or to your close friends list.
how to instagram stories

How to add multiple pictures to an Instagram Story ☝️

Want to add more than one picture to an Instagram Story, or create a layout? Here’s how to do it.
💡Did you know that you can also change the shape of the pictures you add to a Story? When you upload the additional image, tap on it and the frames will change to different shapes.

How to add Stories to Instagram Highlights ✨

Did you know that Instagram Stories can actually stay on your feed for longer than 24 hours? You can add highlights to your profile that are exclusively made up of Instagram Stories that you’ve posted. You can also categorize these highlights based on different things like ‘travel’ or ‘outfits’. Here’s everything you need to know on creating the best highlights.

How to share someone else’s Story 🕹

Repurposing content is never a bad idea. You can share other people’s Stories if they tag you, or if you like the content (so long as you get permission). To read our toolkit on how to repost Stories (even if you’re not tagged), click the link.

How to add closed captions to Instagram Stories 👀

Instagram has recently added the option to add auto-generated speech to text captions on Stories where you might be talking. This is a great option if you want to make your Stories more accessible to users who may not be able to listen to audio. You can click here to find out how to add closed captions to Stories, Reels and more.

How to change your background colour on Stories 🌈

Your Stories don’t always have to be an image. In fact, you can change the background colour of your Stories to pretty much anything you like. Visit this article to do it!

How to create engaging Instagram Story content 👍

So you’ve got to grips with the basics, and you’re ready to start creating? The most important thing to keep in mind is that your Stories should be creative, interesting and engaging. You want your followers to not feel compelled to press that ‘skip’ button or stop watching your Stories all-together, so here’s a few best practices to start you off!

Best practices for engaging content ✅

Diversify the type of content you post
Instagram moves fast, and our attention span on social media isn’t often as long as we’d like it to be. Because of this, you want to make sure your followers aren’t getting fatigued with your content, and that you’re not posting the same thing every single day.
The best way to make sure you do this, is by creating a content calendar or plan – not just for your feed, but for your Stories too. You can create a schedule based on different Story formats, and pick which days you want to post specific things, in advance. Sticking to a schedule not only holds you accountable and keeps your organized, but your followers will also know what to expect, and when to tune in to see their favourite series.
For example, you might decide that every Monday, you want to share and spotlight inspirational quotes for a ‘Motivation Monday’ series. On Wednesdays you might want to implement quizzes or Q&As with your audience. On Fridays you might regram some of your favourite UGC content. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just make sure you’re planning ahead, so you don’t panic post content that isn’t up to scratch.
Make use of Instagram’s features
As we know, Instagram actively wants us to use any new feature that they roll out. This goes for Stories too, and using different formats that the platform provides you with is a great way of killing two birds with one stone, since it also helps diversify your content. Make use of the in-built question stickers, polls and more.
Don’t go overboard with the sales stuff
Whilst Stories can be a great medium for selling, since they have that all-important ‘swipe up’ link (and now have included link stickers) you don’t want to overload your followers will sales-only posts. If they feel overwhelmed or feel your content is inauthentic, it could be likely that they will stop tuning in.
Take your followers’ opinions into account
Instagram Stories are such a great way of directly speaking with your followers and collecting their opinions, wants and thoughts. If you’re ever stuck for content ideas, why not jump on Stories and ask your followers what they want to see? What’s more, is that if you engage with your followers authentically via Stories, they might start sharing Stories of their own which tag your account, and spread your profile even wider. Because Stories don’t take up that same valuable real estate as posts on the feed, it’s much more likely another account will feature or mention you in their Stories.
Post consistently
As always, if you set a schedule – stick to it. Instagram rewards consistency, so try to post Stories often, whether its daily or every other day.
Don’t make it a chore
We totally get it. Having to think about a WHOLE other content format can seem intimidating or stressful, but it’s ok. Stories are important, but it doesn’t mean you have to be creating brand new content that requires a lot of resources in order excel. Think about repurposing content you already have, utilize platforms like Canva who already have pre-made templates, and make them your own. Part of what’s great about Stories is that they are super organic – you could even hop on and record a video of yourself talking, interacting and asking questions, as long as you’re engaging with your audience.

Creative and fun ideas for creating Instagram Stories 🎨

Not sure how to come up with ideas for creative and engaging Story content? We’ve written an entire article dedicated to formats you can try, here!

How many hashtags should you use on Instagram Stories? #️⃣

How to analyze Instagram Stories 📈

Like any good social media strategy, you’ll want to analyze your performance in order to improve. You should implement this with your Stories too, and thankfully, Story analytics has come along leaps and bounds.

Instagram Analytics

Grow your account with best-in-class Instagram Analytics.

Previously, you could only view limited analytics on Stories, and only for a limited time, so you’d need to be quick. Now, Instagram has extended access to its API, which means tracking Story performance is a lot easier. To view the most useful analytics for Stories and how to read them, view our dedicated blog post here.

Want to monetize your Instagram Stories? 💸

As we’ve noted, Instagram Stories can be a great social selling platform, as users can easily access links through the swipe up and sticker features. Instagram itself doesn’t allow users to attach links to IGTV videos, Reels, feed posts or captions, limiting link sharing to the profile bio. If you’re thinking about tracking the traffic or sales from your Instagram Stories, remember to use tracked links with accurate campaign names, so you can later monitor traffic in Google Analytics.
💡 Did you know, if you have an Instagram shop, you can also swipe up directly to your products, shop or product collections?
We hope you learnt everything you need to know about creating Stories that pack a punch! Want us to add more of your burning IG Stories questions to this guide? DM us on Instagram, or leave us a comment ❤️ If you want our definitive guide on Instagram Hashtags and how to increase your reach by 40%, click the banner below.


Instagram Stories: The Complete Guide to Creating Engaging Content

Why and how should you use Instagram Stories? Let’s get to the basics

How to create engaging Instagram Story content 👍

How to analyze Instagram Stories 📈

Want to monetize your Instagram Stories? 💸

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