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instagram stories guide

If your business is not on Instagram nowadays, you might be missing a sea of opportunities. 

For the past few years, Instagram has become the game-changer for any business that wants to engage with their audience and boost sales.

How did they do it?

Using Instagram stories!

Instagram has amplified its popularity among its business community by introducing the options for any Instagram business account to create stories, measure, and interact with their audience.

In this Guide to Instagram Stories for Businesses, we will outline the main functionalities, why you should include this format in your marketing strategy to drive sales and engagement and we will guide you through the whole process of creating branded stories and maximize the results from them.

Let’s dive in!

What is an Instagram story?

To properly capture you what is Instagram Story, I will just quote the founder of Buck Mason, Sasha Koehn:

A canvas to tell a short story in a creative way.

Sasha Koehn, founder of Buck Mason.

Or simply, a story is a format that combines photos, videos, text, or stickers in a creative whole. 

It lives for 24 hours and it disappears if it is not downloaded or saved in archive or Highlights.

Instagram stories appear at the top bar in the mobile app. 

They are the first glance that your Instagram followers will see once they open the Instagram app.

Additionally Instagram introduced Highlights and option that will make sure you show archived Stories right on your Instagram profile.

To get the point of Instagram stories using business lenses, think of them as a new invention in content publishing and content consumption. 

Primarily, stories were created by Snapchat, but its success tremendously multiplied when Instagram literally copied this new format into their app.

Continue reading to learn how to use this Instagram feature to get the most value for consumers and your brand as well.

Why Instagram Stories for Businesses?

If you are planning to include Instagram in your marketing strategy for 2020, it’s good to know where you stand when it comes to Instagram statistics (according to the internal Instagram data presented on the latest f8 conference):

  • 1 billion people use the Instagram app every month
  • 500 million people use Instagram Stories on a daily basis
  • Active users spent on average around 28 minutes daily on Instagram
  • 200 million people visit at least 1 business profile per day
  • 130 million Instagram users watch and engage with shopping posts every month
  • Instagram’s potential advertising reach goes up to 849.3 million users
  • Instagram influencers are paid between $100 and $2,085 per post

It is interesting that 2/3rds of the Instagram stories visits are from non-followers who want to learn more about the products and businesses on Instagram. This means that people go to Instagram to discover businesses and learn more about their products.

These statistics make it very clear WHY companies want to manage Instagram profiles, resulting in more than 25 million businesses that use Instagram for their everyday communication with their customers and engage with the potential ones.

Furthermore, the statistics show Instagram stories are definitely the fastest growing format on Instagram, with more than 500 million accounts who use Instagram Stories every day, as of January 2019.

This is one of the most rapidly growing features in the history of Facebook/Instagram, since the News Feed. It is estimated that will probably outgrow the Feed based on the number of views.

Continue reading below, to learn more details, how you can use Instagram stories for your marketing strategy:

Top 3 Instagram Stories Benefits

As you can probably see (numbers confirm it too) that Instagram is the fastest growing platform in the world.

Why not benefit from it?

You can take a look at these top 3 Instagram stories benefits that makes it clear why businesses should start using Instagram Stories ASAP:

1. Reach more Instagram users

Instagram stories are discoverable. This means that your stories can be found and viewed by people who are not your followers. You can use hashtags or tag other people or brands to expand the reach of your stories’ content and drive traffic to your website.

Furthermore, if you want to expand the reach of your Instagram stories beyond the Instagram app, you can use EmbedStories and display your Instagram stories on your website.

2. Engage more with your current users

The story format provides you with endless possibilities for you to engage with your audience and provide them with valuable information that they can interact with.

Here is what you can do:

  • Create visual ‘How to’ tutorials for your products
  • Provide free tips and tricks
  • Present the latest news about your products or news from your industry
  • Unveil ‘behind the scene’ content
  • Showcase an event or a trade show your business attended
  • Invite influencers for a profile takeover
  • Give special promotions, discount codes, last minute offers

So, now that you are aware of how Instagram stories can be beneficial to you, learn how you can use them, starting today!

3. The Instagram story as a full conversion funnel

One of the main benefits that Instagram stories provide for their users is beyond just creating brand awareness. 

Instagram stories are actually becoming a powerful solution for the lower part of the marketing funnel and provide opportunities for businesses to increase their lead generation and online conversions.

The flow is simple. 

Once businesses create an engaging story, giving value to their followers they can simply invite them for a direct chat in their Instagram messenger or just provide a link in their Instagram profile bio (if they do not have the option to add links in the story) where the potential customers can go and actually purchase their product or services.

How to Create Instagram Story?

To create an Instagram story you will just need to make a few taps and your story will be live in seconds.

There are several ways how you can do this after you open your Instagram account and make sure you are viewing the main feed screen:

  1. Tap on your Story circle in your upper left corner
  2. You can take a new photo or a video or you can use some of your old ones located in your mobile gallery. You decide.
  3. Tap the text icon to add text or the sticker icon to choose from the gallery
  4. After you finish designing your story, click the option Your Story in the lower-left corner to publish it on Instagram. 

Recently, Instagram introduced the option to share the Story with your close circle of friends/followers. To do that choose the Close friends option in the bottom-left corner.

Read more below to learn how to brand your Instagram stories and Highlights:

How to create branded Instagram stories?

When it comes to creating social media posts, it’s crucial to have a consistent brand design.

And Instagram stories are not an exception.

To have a memorable look and feel for your Instagram Stories, make sure to create your Instagram Stories Brand Kit.

So when your followers scroll through their Stories and see some of your Stories, they will immediately recognize that this graphic belongs to your company, even before they see your username.

Here is what you need to have and do to stay in line with your Instagram posts brand kit:

  • Apply your brand colours 
  • Use your brand fonts 
  • Choose an image filter and stick with it
  • Try using Instagram stories templates instead of creating a story from scratch
  • Use Stories to show your brand logo
  • Include your brand message
  • Use the ‘swipe up’ option to show the user where they can get more content
  • Use stickers and gifs

Note: If you want to really put your brand out there and make sure your Stories match your brand voice, a good idea is to look outside of the Instagram app and craft your Stories using apps like CanvaOverAdobe SparkMojoStoryluxe and many more.

How to create branded Instagram highlights?

Now that you have created your brand Story, to give them more visibility and make sure they last longer than 24 hours, you can try the Instagram highlights option.

So, once equipped with your brand kit as mentioned above, you have 2 ways on how to create an Instagram Story Highlight that will match your brand voice.

Option 1: Highlight from an active story

Create a Story, publish it and then manually save it in a Highlight

Option 2: Highlight from an archived story

To use this option, you need to have your Archive option activated (you will find this in the triple bar menu). Previously archived, your stories will be saved automatically so later, you can just choose which Story you want to be shown as a highlight.

To learn more about how you can start creating Instagram Highlights and use them to stand out from the crowd, check out our post Everything About Instagram Story Highlights.

How to get more Story views and boost engagement

Now that you are already familiar with how you can create branded Instagram stories and highlights, let’s dive into what you can do to give your stories a boost.

Use the Create mode package

If you are running out of inspiration, try Instagram’s new Create mode developed for its apps

for iOS and Android. This includes creating and sharing polls, countdowns, questions, ‘on this day’ and many more features that will increase your followers’ engagement.

Add hashtags

If you are not adding hashtags to your Instagram stories yet, now is the time to start. 

Using hashtags will help you increase your organic search on Instagram because Instagram stories get their own space when someone searches for a particular hashtag.

Having this in mind, you can add up to 10 hashtags to your Instagram stories, even 1 clickable hashtag sticker.

If you are looking to get a competitive edge with your Instagram hashtags, check out the latest Instagram hashtag updates and take a look at our Epic Guide For Your Instagram Hashtag Campaign in 2020.

Add location tags

The same goes for location tag stickers.

Adding alocation stickerin your Stories can help you improve your brand awareness. So the next time a user will search for locations, they can see the stories attached to that location. 

Everyone wants to check the location before they go there, right?

Reply to Instagram mentions

The use of Instagram mentions in UGC marketing can be a win-win situation for establishing trust between the brand and the user.

For example, when an Instagram user mentions your brand publicly, you can see how users perceive and interact with your brand. 

Make sure to reply to the user and repost their media and to show them your appreciation. 

Use Instagram nametags

Another quick and easy way for uses to find you on Instagram is to use Instagram nametags. 

The goal is to take users to your profile and allow them to follow you by scanning the nametag.

You might notice that this is very similar to Facebook Messenger codes and Snapchat’s snapcodes. 

If interested to discover how to find and customize your Instagram nametag, read the full guide on how you can Get Started With Instagram Nametags.

Go ‘Live’ on Instagram

If you want an instant engagement boost from your target audience, you can go ‘Live’ on Instagram. 

Your followers that are using the app at that time will receive notification that you have a live broadcast and can connect with you in real-time. 

Get ready for tons of comments and questions. 🙂

Note: Make sure to use this option when the majority of your followers are online. 

If interested to apply this in your Instagram marketing strategy, check out the Instagram guidelines on how to start a live video on Instagram. 

Try Instagram’s TV channel

Another way to connect with your audience by sharing video content is Instagram’s TV channel (IGTV). 

As the popularity of IGTV grows, this is a great way for companies to create engaging video content and grow their brand’s visibility.

In the following article, you will find Everything You Need to Know About Instagram IGTV.

Try Instagram’s stickers package

Instagram has been on a roll lately with a number of new features and updates. This includes many stickers that can be used to effectively grab the attention of your followers.

Here are some of the most popular:

  1. Questions sticker
  2. Poll sticker
  3. Emoji sticker
  4. Quiz sticker
  5. Chat sticker
  6. Donation sticker

If you are interested to include stickers in your marketing mix, check out the official Instagram stickers guide.

To keep you up-to-date with the latest Instagram updates, we created this complete guide about the new Instagram features in 2020 that you can include in your marketing strategy.

Bonus: Top Instagram Stories Growth Hacks

As you can see, the list of opportunities for creating impressive and highly effective Instagram stories is endless. But to make sure you distinct from the others and attract attention, check out the following growth hacks:

Create Instagram Stories AR Filter

As Instagram opened Spark AR Studio to the public, it made it easier for anyone to create and submit their own augmented reality filter to show on Instagram.

Unlike the features mentioned above, this tool requires advanced design skills, but when used regularly, it helps brands get wider exposure.

To get started, download the app and start experimenting! 

Develop your branded GIFs

Instagram Stories that include GIFs are one of the best ways to add more brand personality to your content. 

Although there is a huge selection of illustrations ready to post, why not create your own?

It’s easier than you think. 

Start by creating a Giphy brand channel, create a sticker and upload it as GIF files and wait for it to get verified.

Note: It can take a couple of weeks to get GIF verification (but it will be worth it).

Allow someone takeover your Instagram account

For an immediate boost of your Instagram stories performance, you can try Instagram stories takeover. 

The name speaks for itself – you let someone take over your Instagram account. That can be an influencer, customer or even your employee. Let them give a unique and fresh perspective to your followers.

Yeah, you need to trust them with your login credentials too.

For more tips How to Effectively and Strategically Create Instagram Stories, check out our interview with Alex Tooby, an expert in Instagram marketing and influencer.

Sell more with Instagram stories

As the Instagram story format is becoming one of the most attractive conversion funnels, here are several features that can help you boost your sales. 

Product stickers

Instagram just made it easier to drive sales from your Instagram Story to your website. The Product sticker is the new game-changer! 

It allows you to tag products in your Stories (on both images and videos) that will lead your users directly to the page where they can learn more about the product, and ultimately, make a purchase. 

To get started with this feature, check out the official Instagram’s guidelines on how  you can Add Product Stickers to Instagram Stories.

Product Launch sticker

And if you want to build excitement about a product that will be launched soon, you can try the new Product Launch sticker. 

You can use this sticker to announce your upcoming product and cluster together an audience that is interested in that product.

To keep your followers even more excited about the new product release,  use the Countdown sticker to build anticipation.

If you see the potential in selling on Instagram (as we do) and you are interested to make your Instagram stories shoppable, learn how you can create Shoppable Instagram Stories With Direct Payments.

Additionally, as shopping on Instagram is rolling globally, we created a step-by-step article on How to Set up Instagram Shoppable Feeds.

Get started with Instagram Stories ads

If you run out of options on how to drive sales organically with Instagram stories, you can always rely on Instagram Stories ads.

Unlike regular Stories that have 24 hours life span, Stories ads can run for as long as you wish. 

Yes, you might be skeptical because this is a new ad format, but many social media marketing enthusiasts are already seeing a boost in their sales process thanks to it.

To help you get started, we created The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Story Ads that will give you real knowledge of why Instagram Stories can be your biggest asset in driving results and how you can start creating your first Story ad.

Instagram Stories Analytics

Instagram Stories Analytics is less than just seeing which photo or video story performed best, but more about understanding what your audience craves for and using that to create a strategy that will work for your business.

Before you start looking into your Insights section, please make sure that you have an Instagram business account (in case you are not converted to a business profile, here is how you can do it). 

Once you are here, you can dive into the Story insights option available in your Instagram profile. 

Here are the main insights that you will encounter:

  • Reach of the post
  • Number of likes, comments, shares
  • Number of saves of the post
  • Profile visits brought by this post

To help you understand Instagram stories analytics and get the best value from them, we created a comprehensive article about Everything you need to know About Instagram Stories Statistics and Analytics.

Top Instagram Story tools for marketers

Now that you are aware of the Instagram story benefits, you need to equip yourself with great tools that will help you create stunning Instagram stories that will convert.

Here are some of the tools we recommend you to try:

  • Canva – tool for designing Instagram stories
  • Flyr –  tool for creating videos for Instagram stories
  • AdEspresso – tool for creating Instagram story ads
  • Buffer – tool for scheduling Instagram stories
  • EmbedStories – tool for displaying Instagram stories on any websites

To get the details of what these tools can do for your Instagram stories, check out this article on 5 Instagram Story Tools for Marketers.

Or if you want to display Instagram stories on your website right now and for free, try our forever free Instagram Stories Widget.

Examples of Instagram Stories

To help you understand how to use Instagram stories for marketing your business, we’ve outlined the top 3 Instagram stories campaigns that we think are valuable for each type of business. The main reason why we selected these 3 is to serve you with inspiration for your Instagram stories campaigns, think about how you can achieve more with Stories Ads and also pointed out the results that you might expect from these type of campaigns.

Story example 1: Activia

This is a very appealing Instagram story created by the brand Active Italy. It uses Instagram stories to showcase healthy rituals of eating Activia in the snack timeframes
during the day.

instagram story example 3

Story example 2: Buck Mason

This is a video story that clearly showcases the amazing feature of the product that the brand tries to promote. In a simple boomerang type of video, this story shows the flexible-wear and neutral-colored T-shirts, allowing viewers to swipe up and shop from the brand’s product catalog.

story example 2

Story example 3: DriveNow

This is an example of a story campaign created by Drive Now, a German-based car-sharing service. It is a simple shot of the DriveNow car overlayed with native story type arrow and tag of the offer.

Do more: Embed Instagram Stories on any website

Instagram stories are the new organic promotional tool. 

Unlucky, if not converted into a highlight, they will disappear after 24 hours. Would it be great if they can expand their reach on other platforms?

To solve this common issue among marketers, we developed EmbedStories, a tool for Instagram Stories that will help you save and embed your stories on any website with just a line of code.

Watch the full tutorial on how you can Embed Instagram Stories on any website.

Instagram Stories latest new features

At the 2019 F8 conference, the company announced interesting new features that will go live in the coming period. Here is a brief overview of these new updates:

  • Third-party apps integration – The Instagram platform is opening the app the Instagram stories format to third-party developers. This means that other apps can easily integrate their content with Instagram stories and allow users to share from their apps in stories. For example, Shopify users can share a song directly in an Instagram story where their followers can play it or navigate to Shopify to listen to more songs.
  • Camera effects platform for Instagram – Instagram has introduced new cool effects in the Instagram stories and is also making available for other developers to build effects that users can use in their stories.
  • Focus option – This option is already available on the Instagram App. Users can just focus on a person’s phase and capture an incredibly professional story.

FAQ for Instagram Stories

How do I add a link to my Instagram story?

The links to Instagram stories are not available for all users. These links normally appear as a ‘See more’ text with an arrow icon at the center-bottom position of the story. According to the Instagram rules, right now, only verified accounts are able to add links to their stories.

But, you can of course pay for an Instagram ad and choose to add a link to your Stories Ad.

What is the best resolution for an Instagram story?

The best Instagram story dimensions are with aspect ratio 9:16. For example, you can use:

  • Story photos size: 1080px width x 1920px height
  • Story high-definition video: 1080px width x 1920px height

How to know how many people saw my Instagram Story?

This is very important for businesses in order to understand what works and what doesn’t. The native Instagram app provides an Insights section, where businesses can view the stats for each of the stories they’ve published.

To view this information, just open your story and swipe up on the screen. In the Insights section, you will see the number of views and also the users who actually viewed your story.

How can I see who viewed an Instagram story?

Again this is related to the previous section, and as mentioned you just need to open the Instagram story and swipe up to see the list of Instagrammers who viewed the story.

How can I save or download Instagram stories?

There are few options on how to save Instagram stories and make sure you never lose your Instagram stories:

  • Save stories in Highlights
  • Archive stories in your Instagram account
  • Save stories in a web-based app
  • Save stories in your iPhones camera roll

What happens when someone mentions your Instagram account in their story?

When another person creates a story and tags your username, it will be visible in the story and their followers can click on it and view your Instagram profile page.

If someone tags you in your story, you will receive a direct message with the preview of the story. 

There is no option for you to ban people not to mention you in their stories, but you can report their story to the Instagram team for further review if they do not comply with their community standards.

If I take a screenshot of someone’s Instagram story, will they be notified?

Yes. A mobile notification will be sent to the user that you’ve done a screengrab of their story.

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Hope this guide helps you learn how you can use Instagram stories for business and make the most out of Instagram stories, and help your brand active its goals. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Instagram Stories Platform

Fetch, manage and display your Instagram stories on any website with shoppable links.

Avatar for Katerina Bojkov
Katerina Bojkov

Co-Founder of EmbedSocial and Head of Growth. A previous owner of a Facebook Partner Company and a digital marketing agency. Marketing API geek and a Call of Duty fan.