Our guide to Instagram Stories

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Since Instagram introduced its Stories feature in August 2016, the feature has rapidly risen to become one of the most used components of the app. Stories currently has over 300 million daily users, representing over half of Instagram’s total daily users. 

The content of your Instagram Story can act as the younger, more casual sister of your feed content. They are related, but your story content can be less polished than what’s on your feed because of Stories’ impermanence: they automatically disappear after 24 hours.

Since the birth of Stories, Instagram influencers have found millions of inventive and exciting ways to use the feature. Here are some of our most creative and favourite ways to use stories. 

 

1.      Question Time

In 2018, Instagram introduced ‘Questions Stickers’, which let Instagram users put a dialogue box in their Instagram Story where their followers could type in a question and it would be sent as a Direct Message. In addition, someone can post a question with a chat box attached, and their followers can send them the answer as a Direct Message. 

Those questions and answered submitted via DM can be shared on your Story while maintaining the anonymity of the person who sent it as the user can see the username of whoever sent them question but can share it without the username attached. This allows followers to shape the interaction they have with the person they’re following, as well as have their questions and answers disseminated to a wider audience. 

This feature has allowed influencers to create a direct dialogue with their followers. One example is real estate coach and speaker Josh Phegan, who hosts Quick Question Tuesday on his Instagram Story once a week, where his followers can directly ask him for advice and opinions on the real estate market and he can share his responses with all his followers. This regular feature means that people are primed to ask him questions and ready to check out the responses on his Story, letting him maintain a reliable and steady mode of engagement with his audience. 

 

2.     Swipe up for link

At present this feature is only available to those with over 10,000 Instagram followers or an Instagram verified account, but hopefully the feature will become available more widely soon! 

Instagram only supports accounts having one link in their bio and not linking to anything in the captions of feed posts, which can make it difficult to promote anything when you can only externally link to one place. However, you can link to various things – your latest blog post, a specific page of your website, whatever you like – by having someone swipe up on your Instagram Story, where they will be redirected to an external link. 

This is a great way to share more content with your audience but also to create a relationship between your feed content and Stories content. By promoting your new link in your feed posts and redirecting your followers to your Story, you can show your followers the breadth and variety of the content you’re putting out on Instagram. 

 

3.     Make it dynamic

The huge advantage of Stories is that it allows you to upload bite sized chunks of content. Each individual post on a Story is only visible for ten seconds at a time. However, if you’re only posting one kind of content on your Story, people will skip through it without registering what you’ve posted. 

The solution? Change it up! Instagram supports photos, videos and boomerangs (a short video made of a burst of images that plays forwards and backwards) on Stories, so utilise all of those features! We love posting a fun boomerang, a video to provide a more fully realised sense of place, and then still photos of particularly appealing or noteworthy things to allow the viewer more time to focus on individual elements. 

You can also upload longer video content to Stories – Instagram will automatically break the video up into 10 second chunks which will play seamlessly when watching your story all the way through. Remember there are also video filters within Instagram, so explore the options available. 

 

4.     Stickers

Speaking of features already built into Instagram – stickers are a great way to add a bit of variety to a Story. On the top right hand side of your Story post, before you’ve uploaded it, the middle button allows you to access stickers of just about anything. 

Just type in what kind of sticker you’d like, whether it’s a heart, a scooter or a dog, and Instagram will show you all of the potential stickers that match that search time. These include both still images and GIFs, which are an especially good way to give a still image another visually interesting element. 

Stickers are another example of how Stories can be less formal than your feed posts, so experiment with stickers! Put as many or as few as you like on your stories – there’s no limit to the number of stickers you can use on a Story. Plus, if you’re into graphic design, you can use services like GIPHY to create your own stickers! 

 

5.     Save Stories on your profile

We know we said Stories were impermanent, but they don’t have to be! If you’ve documented a whole day through Stories, whether it was a party, conference or just a great day at the beach, maybe you want your followers to be able to look back and see all the posts from that particular day. Easy solved – you can pin Stories to the top of your profile and give your followers access to them even after 24 hours have elapsed. 

The Story posts don’t have to have been uploaded in the same original Story for you to collate them and keep them visible on your profile. You can go through all of your previously posted Stories and organise them into particular categories on your profile. So, for example, if you want your followers to be able to see all the Story posts of your dog, you can go through and collate all the posts about your dog and make them available in one handy saved Story. 

The only necessary requirement for saving a Story to your profile is that the post has been uploaded more than 24 hours ago: that is, it isn’t currently on your Instagram Story. Otherwise, the sky’s the limit! 

Emma Bartlett