What Are Instagram Stories?
Instagram Stories allow Instagram users to share photos and videos as part of a self-contained ‘Story’. Each Story appears for just a few seconds – a maximum of 15 seconds per piece of content – and disappears from the platform after 24 hours.
Stories are separate to the tiled gallery and are accessed via the circular profile picture. When a user opens the Instagram app, the Stories section is the first thing they see – offering an excellent opportunity to showcase your brand. Get an overview of popular social media video formats, from Instagram Stories to Facebook carousel in our Video Marketing Guide.
Why Are Instagram Stories Popular?
Launched in August 2016, the popularity of the image-driven social media platform has exploded in recent months. As of January 2019, the app has 500 million daily active Stories users worldwide, which is up from 400 million daily active users in June 2018.
Enjoying a more spontaneous and less curated version of the main Instagram feed, users are flocking to Stories to document their dinner and broadcast their best dance moves.
Brands are also busy becoming storytellers in a bid to stand out in a competitive online space. One third of the most viewed Stories are generated by businesses, and one in five Stories shared by a brand receives a direct message from its viewers. This interactive element is priceless – it gives companies the opportunity to present a more ‘human’ side, find out about their audience and connect with followers.
With the power to boost awareness and engagement, generate leads and increase sales, the platform has quickly become an important part of any successful social media strategy. Think of millennial-focused beauty brand Glossier, which uses Instagram Stories to share advice and tutorials, and GoPro’s videos of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
And just as the platform and third-party templates enable brands to customize the photos and Instagram videos they publish, there are no limits when it comes to what they share through Stories – for example, product demonstrations, exclusive offer codes, behind-the-scenes footage and user-generated content.
Instagram Stories Tips & Tricks
Put simply, your Instagram Stories should look like you. Stories are a great place to let loose with text, stickers, drawings and special effects, but it’s important to ensure that the photos and videos you publish look consistent and align with your brand identity.
One way to ensure that you are instantly recognizable is to use your brand’s color palette in every post. Instagram Story hacks to help with this include the in-app color wheel, which can be activated by holding down a shade that’s similar to the one you want, and the eyedropper tool that applies color from the image to your paintbrush or text. Access more tips and tricks in our Instagram video.
When thinking about how to make an Instagram Story, it’s important to ask another question: what does your audience want to see? Posts should grab and hold their attention, so look at what other brands are doing well and come up with content ideas that will entertain, excite or inform your followers. In addition to visuals, remember that 60% of Stories are viewed with the sound on, so consider what you want your audience to hear, too.
Think mobile. Stories cannot be viewed via Instagram’s desktop site, so the content you publish needs to look good on a handheld device and be easily consumed on the move. The good news is there are plenty of in-app features, such as the new Instagram Create Mode, as well helpful tools and templates to help make your Instagram Stories shine.
How to Make an Instagram Story
An Instagram Story should do just that – tell a story. So whether your Story is a standalone post or a series of posts, you can start exploring the platform’s creative tools in the camera screen, accessed via the camera icon in the top left-hand corner of the main Instagram feed.
Tap the white button to take a photo or hold it down to record a video. Experiment with the video settings by sliding the text along the bottom of the screen: Boomerang (creates a three-second looping GIF); Superzoom (zooms in on your subject and includes a range of visual and audio effects); and Rewind (films a video in reverse).
Once you’re happy with your photo or video, it’s time to customize it by tapping on the letters icon to add text in a range of colors and styles, or the pen icon to add drawings. The smiley face icon leads to Instagram’s selection of stickers. These can be purely decorative, but you should also consider using the hashtag sticker to make your Story easier to find in a search, the location sticker to tell followers where you’re based, and the poll sticker to encourage interaction by posing a question.
Talking of interacting, the ‘Reply’ function allows brands to enter into a two-way conversation with followers. This is great as Instagram’s algorithms increasingly favor posts with high engagement levels. Prompt engagement by adding a question to your Story and keep track of the photos or videos that provoke a response.
If you’re looking for creative inspiration, you can start with a social media template. You don’t need to have design or video skills to make the most of Placeit’s range of smart templates. Simply purchase one, make your edits online and download it when you’re happy.
Alternatively, access hundreds of easy-to-use templates via Envato Market. Purchasing templates from this community of authors is a great way to save time – meaning you can turn your attention to other business priorities. Get a head start on making your selection by discovering the Best Instagram Stories Templates for your brand.
Planning to create a number of custom-made posts? Individuals, agencies and in-house marketers alike benefit from Envato Elements, where a monthly or annual subscription grants unlimited access to templates, including more than 7,400 video templates that can be customized in design applications such as After Effects and Premiere Pro.
How to Save an Instagram Story
When you have finished creating a Story in the app and are ready to publish it, tap the ‘Your Story’ button. Alternatively, to share a photo or video you have previously captured, or a template you have created, tap your profile picture or swipe right from anywhere in the main Instagram feed. Next, swipe up to access the gallery and select a post before tapping the ‘Your Story’ button to share it.
Talking of sharing: turn followers into brand advocates by allowing them to share your Stories as messages. In the camera screen, tap the settings icon in the top left-hand corner and ensure the ‘Allow Sharing’ function is enabled.
Establishing a rapport with followers is a marketer’s dream, and business profiles can take advantage of the ‘Swipe Up’ function to drive traffic to a website, blog post or product landing page by adding a link to Instagram Stories. The idea is to encourage users to swipe up when they see a product they want to buy or a preview of something they want to find out more about. You decide what you link to, but it’s important to point people in the right direction by adding text or arrows to the Story, for example ‘swipe up to shop’.
Instagram Stories might be fleeting, but you can make them last forever by adding them to a highlights reel. Look underneath the information on your profile page, tap ‘New’ to enter your Story archive, and select the published posts you want to showcase. Tap ‘Next’, then choose a cover image and name your highlight before tapping ‘Add’.
How to Measure The Success of Instagram Stories
Understanding how your Instagram Stories perform will help you create more of the content your followers love. If you have a business profile, you can start delving into your analytics by tapping the insights icon in the top right-hand corner of your profile page – it looks like a bar chart.
In the Content section you’ll be able to see how each Story performed in terms of reach (the number of unique accounts who viewed your Story) and impressions (the total number of views your Story got). If your impressions are higher than your reach, you know the Story was replayed multiple times, which will help you identify the types of photos and videos you should keep posting. You’ll also be able to see how long users engaged with your Story; whether they skipped through each post quickly or returned to view a post again.
If you don’t have a business profile, you can still see how many people viewed your Story by looking at the number in the bottom left-hand corner of your posts. And, while a Story is still live, swipe up on the screen to reveal who watched it.
As more and more brands battle it out to be noticed online, and consumers’ attention spans dwindle, it’s never been more important to embrace marketing methods that are short, simple and shareable. Instagram Stories combine all of these qualities, so start creating and publishing your photo and video posts today.
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