Who’s ready to get aaaaaall the good details on how to use Instagram Stories for maximum effect?
*stares appreciatively into distance at the excited crowd*
So let’s get started:
Instagram Stories vs Posts
Want to use Instagram Stories at maximum capacity?
Then let’s first get super-duper clear on what the main differences between Stories and Posts are:
Instagram Stories are…
- Ephemeral, as in they only live on your profile for 24 hours. (You can have them forever by curating them into highlights, but we’ll get into all that later on.)
- Are supposed to show a more raw, in-the-moment look; a side of your life or your business which otherwise would never make its way into your regualr feed.
- Shareable in a single ratio, which is 9:16. If you upload photos or videos which come in a different ratio, Instagram will automatically “complete” the background to fill the 9:16 format with the dominant colours from your photo or video. (Similar to when you share a feed photo to Stories.)
Instagram Posts are…
- Present in your feed at all times. (Unless you choose to archive or delete them, of course.)
- Are typically more curated, more staged and edited: they’re eye-candy for your followers or for people who consider following you.
- Shareable in more possible ratios: square (the OG), 4:5, 2:3, 3:5, 3:4, 5:7, 9:16. If your photo doesn’t come in one of these ratios, make sure to pre-crop it beforehand so you’ll have no surprises when you actually post. Exception: multi-posts which only still allow images or videos to be shared in a square format – hopefully that will change soon too!
Both Stories and Posts are…
- A way to strategically to immerse your audience into your world.
- Possible to curate in such a way that they reflect your personality or brand in a unique way. The most simple and accessible way to do this is by using content themes. We have touched on that when talking about Instagram feed tips. Especially when getting started or trying to improve your Instagram Stories game, this subject of what to share can easily overwhelm (been there, done that), so relying on content themes is an easy way to push forward both on your feed and in your Stories.
- Interactive, truly a 2-way street! Constantly engage with your audience by asking questions, commenting and double tapping. Have a conversation with the people who are following you, don’t use the space in your feed and stories solely as an echo-chamber and you will see growth! Quick note: This might be easier to do when you find yourself having a larger audience, but it is definitely possible to achieve with a smaller audience, too! They key is to create, share and interact!
How To Use Instagram Stories (A Step-by-Step Guide)
First time using Instagram Stories, ever? No worries, it’s easy!
- Open the Instagram app;
- Tap the Home button (the one in the bottom left corner);
- From your homepage, swipe right and the Stories interface will pop up. When prompted, allow access to camera and microphone;
- Go to town! These are the various recording modes you’ll see at the bottom of the screen:
In-App Instagram Stories Modes
Type Mode: Enables you to make a statement in written form. Cycle through the backgrounds and fonts to create your own unique composition.
Live Mode: This one is pretty self explanatory – here you can go live on your Stories!
Normal Mode: Instagram positions this as the main recording mode from which you can scroll left or right to cycle through all the others. It’s also the place where you can swipe up from the bottom to the contents of your camera roll. From there, you can select whichever photos or videos you wish and follow the on-screen prompts to share them to your Stories.
Boomerang Mode: Boomerang records a short clip and then plays it back to you on repeat.
Superzoom Mode: Hold and swipe up to zoom in on something specific. Depending on which animation you use, you’ll also get the accompanying sound. Lots of fun to be had with this one!
Focus Mode: Take gorgeous portraits by focusing on the subject’s face and blurring everything else. Basically a Portrait photo mode you can get straight in the Instagram app.
Rewind Mode: Record a short clip which is then played back to you, but backwards. Can help you get some really cool effects!
Hands Free Mode: If you want to record multiple Instagram Stories in a single shot, choose this mode so you don’t have to keep your finger glued to the record button. Basically it creates a distraction-free space for you to focus on the content you are recording. So good!
Photo Uploads, Stickers And More!
Let’s also take a super quick look at the options you have after you have finished taking your photos or videos. For each upload, you have the option to embellish them by either adding stickers, text or straight up drawings. Here is a quick look at how each option looks:
Pro Tip – Text Mode
When in text mode, hashtags and @ names work the same way they do everywhere else on Instagram!
So you can either use the dedicated hashtag or username stickers, but you can also type them out in regular text form too!
And yes, you can add multiple hashtags to increase the visibility of your posts.
For tips on how to style them within the Story, check out the next tip.
Pro Tip – Hashtag Visibility
Now, strictly from an aesthetic POV, hashtags are not the cutest things to have on full display in your Stories. So to make sure you reap the benefits without sacrificing looks, you can simply cover them with stickers!
You can also make them smaller to get them out of the way, but with this method, there is a chance they won’t be indexed as a regular user cannot see them! If you’re feeling sneaky, leave your hashtag block or sticker the regular size and push them outside of the edge. They will still be indexed, but they’ll be out of the way.
In-App Instagram Stories Fonts
And, if you want to see how the different fonts compare to each other, here they are. Take a look at the following image to see them listed as follows:
- simple sans serif one;
- tall, all-caps font;
- a handwritten font that looks like it’s glowing from within;
- a typewriter-style font;
- and the last one is an italicized sans serif one.
Whichever one you use depends on your preference and your account’s aesthetic, so try to coming back to the same one(s) for stylistic coherence. 😃
Instagram Stories Length And Size
Currently, IG Stories have a length of 15 seconds each. But you don’t have to stop recording when you hit that time! Instead, keep going and IG will automatically cut it into pieces 15 seconds each and will upload them all at once. Same goes for longer clips you upload from your camera roll. Pretty neat, eh?
If you create your Instagram Stories using an app, here is the sizing information you need: Instagram Stories dimensions have an aspect ration of 9:16. In terms of pixels, the minimal dimensions are 1080px by 1920px. This means you can create or upload images of larger dimensions, but make sure they have a ratio of 9:16, otherwise they will be cropped on upload.
Instagram Stories Design Apps
Using design apps for your Instagram Stories is a simple way to get a curated look and personalize your stories to keep followers engaged, while also saving on your precious time. As such, there should be no wonder that there are design apps specifically designed for Instagram Stories out there and they are very popular!
So what are the absolute *coolest* ones out there, you ask?
Here you go:
Instagram Stories App: Unfold
This has been one of the most popular app for Instagram Stories in the past year and you have most likely already seen it in your favorite Instagrammers’ stories.
It offers free 25 templates and lots of premium ones, all designed in specific, cohesive styles.
Unfold also supports both photos and videos, so you can create a mesmerizing mix of both using the templates.
Instagram Stories App: Storyluxe
This is one of my personal favorite apps for stories.
It is a pretty complex app in terms of templates offered and also has some of the most unique designs I have seen!
Inside, it has plenty of free stuff to play around with, but it also has a subscription option.
For this one I particularly love the multiple export size options (4:5 or 9:16), which makes your designs usable on the feed as well on stories.
Instagram Stories App: Hypetype
If you are fan of having animated captions alongside your stories, this might just be the app for you.
Hypetype allows you to add animated texts in various colours and fonts. You can also add music to your stories and crop the image in three different formats: square, 9:16 and 16:9.
Some of the effects are free and some are premium, all fun and versatile.
Instagram Stories App: Stories Edit
Stories Edit is a Planoly offshoot app destined solely for creating Instagram Stories. Needless to say, it integrates perfectly with the main Planoly app, so it can be a fun app to play with if you already use Planoly. Personally, although Planoly is my favorite app for scheduling Instagram… anything, I feel that Stories Edit is a bit limited in terms of design editing freedom. I much rather prefer to fully be able to edit templates in some other app, then upload to Planoly to schedule them out. YMMV though, so give it a shot! The template designs are fun and more graphically-oriented than in other apps, which most rely on realistic effects. A big plus which I have to mention is the ability to add in your favorite colour via hex code, which if you’re super specific about your (brand) colors, you’ll surely appreciate.
Instagram Stories App: SCRL
This is a fun and versatile app for people who want to create their own layout-slash-puzzle from scratch, on their phone. You can arrange images across single or multiple frames and post them on your stories or on your feed.
You can arrange your images however you want them, add text and color, rotate and resize them to fit your vision. The app also has various template packs (free and premium). I would personally classify it is a more minimalist app with a nostalgic vibe, if you will, and a very specific, curated aesthetic.
Instagram Stories App: Nichi
OOOOk, where do I even begin with this one. My guilty confession is that I have only installed this app to give it a shot for this specific article, but it has ended up being the one I use most consistently! It is such a fun, collage app that allows you to play with a variety of stickers to create your own story designs. The one thing I like most and which has kept me coming back is, ironically, the limited options of colors. By that, I mean that you don’t have any color in the world available in there like in the other apps. Instead, you get a closely curated palette of colours, stickers and backgrunds that all go together and, for me, that is such a huge timesaver!! For real, though: not having to scroll through infinite color bars and never getting the same hue twice can be really exasperating. Can you tell I’m super specific about my Instagram Stories? Haha. I mainly use this one for my EHN Studio Instagram account.
Instagram Stories Video Apps
Now, are you ready to shake things up?
All of the apps listed above all offer “static” templates, which means you insert your desired photo or video into the template of your choice, export and upload to Stories. Howeveeer, there are also apps which offer you “dynamic” templates. There are a couple of them (that I know of!) that are super cool, not necessarily widely used (yet) and which can help give your Stories an edge.
Here they are:
Instagram Stories Video App: Mojo
This is a Stories app which offers you animated templates grouped into various categories (photography, fashion, cinema etc).
It has both free and premium templates, so you can take your pick. This is an app that helps you achieve a very complex, tasteful and curated look without ever leaving your phone.
I personally use it pretty sparingly, as I feel that less is more, but it is a brilliant app for targeted campaigns, ads or specific storytelling.
Instagram Stories Video App: Impresso
This app has all sorts of video templates that cater to almost any niche under the sun: beauty, fashion, design, travel, business, food etc.
Within the app you can find both free and pro templates. Heads up: If you use one of the free templates, the final video export will have the logo app. To remove it, you have to upgrade to the pro version. As a plus, this is a very complex video app which allows you to edit both the colors, texts etc in the app, along with the duration (how long it should stay on screen) for each one.
This is the type of app that can be used by independent creators, but also by small to medium businesses thanks to the complexity of its features.
Instagram Stories Video App: 500 Stories
This is another Stories app offering animated templates grouped in categories/sets depending on aesthetics.
There are minimal, watercolour, wedding collections etc. which all look great. Con: Limited options if you’re into a specific aesthetic. Pro: the ability to purchase only the categories/sets that work best for you. Also a pro: very nicely designed templates that will fit a variety of Instagram content. Very plug-and-play and ready to go.
Instagram Stories Ideas
I hear you: you have all these great tools at your fingertips, yet you’re not quite sure what content to *actually* produce and share. This is a very relatable thing that happens to literally every content creator out there, whether they admit it or not.
So, for those days when fresh ideas simply refuse to pop up, here a few pre-set ones you can’t go wrong with:
16 Days Of Instagram Stories Ideas
- A handful of images that inspire you *right now*.
- A quote that inspires you and why.
- Show your audience around your office or workspace.
- Show your audience around your house or wardrobe.
- Share five fun facts about you.
- Tell your audience about a new project/product you have coming out.
- What you’re working on right now.
- A short tutorial/guide: how you’re packing your carry on, daily make-up routine, how you plan a trip or how you put together a photoshoot etc.
- Share a tip that would make someones life better.
- Take your audience through one of your frequent inspiration sources: other creators, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, Tumblr etc.
- How you wrap up/begin your day.
- Take your audience along to your favorite coffee place.
- Share a personal story/anecdote that will inspire others.
- A behind-the-scenes look at one of your photos/products.
- Share a favorite memory (possibly even from Instagram Stories too for a meta effect) and offer context around why it’s special to you.
- Introduce your audience to some of your favorite people in your life.
Love these ideas?
Pin the graphic on Pinterest!
Granted, some of these ideas might be intimidating if you’re just starting out.
Here’s a tip to help you get over the hump and ease yourself into the Instagram Stories game: on Instagram Stories, showing is often more precious than telling.
Stories are a highly powerful medium where actions are more impactful than words or static images. This is why short video content like tutorials, guides or examples of any kind reign supreme: they are powerful, highly engaging and take the guesswork out of doing something, all while making you a go-to source. What’s not to like? Now go out there and, you know, just deeew it.
Instagram Stories Strategy
Whether you’re using apps or creating your own templates use image editing software, there’s one thing you have to keep in mind: keeping a cohesive look across story slides. For this reason, storyboarding your photos is key.
OK, But What Is Storyboarding?
First off, let’s take a look at what exactly *is* storyboarding. Put simply, storyboarding is a visual outline for a video. (In this case, a series of Instagram Stories.) A storyboard shows images in the exact sequence they are to be presented in a video in order to pre-visualise the finished result. If you’re a history nerd, you’ll love to know that “The storyboarding process, in the form it is known today, was developed at Walt Disney Productions during the early 1930s, after several years of similar processes being in use at Walt Disney and other animation studios.” Now that is something really cool, eh?
Why Storyboarding Your Instagram Stories Is A Good Idea
Knowing this, it becomes easier to see storyboarding as a way to plan your Instagram Stories content in a way that makes sense and can easily transport viewers from A to B in a way that makes sense and is engaging for them. You can do this for Stories no matter how big or small, but storyboarding will be most effective when there is a clear end, result or outcome at the end to neatly wrap it up.
Note: Storyboarding is cool and very effective, but it might be overkill to do for every single story. Save this idea for when you have a campaign coming out or from when you want to *softly* nudge your audience into purchasing/subscribing/interacting with something you offer or do.
This being said, let’s see how laying out your Stories and planning ahead not just the content, but the way you edit that content and the words that go with it can make an impact.
How To Storyboard Your Instagram Stories
Option 1: Use pen and paper
You don’t have to be a technical wiz to professionally plan your Instagram Stories. Before diving into whatever apps or templates you’re thininkg of using, take a few moments to focus on the structure of the why rather than on its representation.
Grab a pen and paper and lay out the scope of the story, its concept, its publishing date and any other tidbits that serve as a foundation for what you’re doing. (You usually won’t think specifically about this or kinda gloss over them as a given, but laying them out on paper will give you extra clarity on what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it.)
Option 2: Use an image editing software or a graphic design tool
This is the same as above, but instead of going analog, you can use your favorite image editing software (for example, Adobe Photoshop) or a graphic design tool (for example, Canva).
In Photoshop, use the Artboards option to lay out all the Stories and then drag and drop images on each of them to see what you want to go where. Feel free to add some descriptive words if they add clarity. Same goes for Canva. In Canva, create each board as a new page to which you can add your desired elements using the options available in-editor.
What Should A Storyboard For Instagram Stories Contain
Now heading to the big “what” when it comes to storyboarding… the actual story.
Think of your storyboard as a visual layout for a three-act structure: you’ll have a beginning, a midpoint and an end. It’s all rather simple and easy to follow both as a creator and as a viewer.
Now, what does this all mean?
A Simple Storyboard Structure: 1) The Beginning
Depending on the type of content you create and who you’re creating it for, the beginning is the catalyst. It might be: an event, a discovery, a new product, a launch, a call, a collab, a new collection etc. Basically this is the one thing that sparked this specific chain of Instagram Stories you’re working on. This usually takes up a single story slide. Make it short, specific and exciting. Be clear on what the viewer can expect if they keep watching and make it fun!
A Simple Storyboard Structure: 2) The Midpoint
The midpoint is where the action takes place. It might consist of one or more Instagram Story slides and is chock full of details. This is your opportunity to go deep and present all the different interesting bits about the event, product or situation. If you’re talking about an event or a shoot, introduce your collaborators, the set, the products, the music, take a tour of the room and show people the view! If you’re introducing a new product, take the opportunity to show the design in detail, share the thought behind it and announce when or where it can be shopped. This is where you can take your time and elaborate on your storyline as much as you want!
A Simple Storyboard Structure: 3) The End
All good things come to an end, and so does the storyboard. The end should consist of a single Instagram Story slide and serve to perfectly bookend the juicy middle in a way that is cohesive both in messaging and in visuals. This is your time to pitch: invite viewers to swipe up to learn more, head to your bio link or tap to purchase. Think of it as the seal-the-deal story. By this time, the viewers have to be pumped and inspired, so that the “pitch” is more of a desired initiation than a forced ask. To nail this, focus on the middle as a lead-up to the end so that here, viewers and pumped up and ready to act.
Again, this may sound like a lot, but it really shouldn’t be if you keep in mind the classic storyline structure. Remember to use storyboarding sparingly and strategically. This way, it will make an impact. Good luck!
Storyboards for Instagram Stories, Visually Explained:
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Your turn: tell me which Instagram Stories tips you found most helpful!
Is there anything else you’d like to know? Simply leave me a meesage in the comments below and I’ll answer – talk soon!
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