What are Instagram stories?

You might have posted an Instagram story before or you might not, but it's almost definite that you will have viewed one. Whether it was a boomerang, a video of a concert your friend attended, or a photo of their meal… millions of Instagram users have embraced the stories feature since it was launched in 2016.

You can spot an Instagram story by the glowing pink circle around a user’s display image, as well as flicking through the circles at the top of your newsfeed. An important difference between Instagram stories and normal posts, is that stories have to be portrait sized, whereas posts are square.

All content posted on Instagram stories stays visible for 24 hours and it then disappears. However past stories can still be seen by the user in the ‘Archive’ section, and these can then be added to ‘Highlights’ which are then put into folders and are visible to followers. 

Instagram stories are a fun way to show a short, temporary snippet of your day without needing the time to create a great quality image that will stay on your profile feed. This means that they can also be extremely effective for a business profile too. They are a great way for brands to build even more awareness and encourage engagement in new ways. 

How can they help my business?

Many brands and businesses are now using Instagram stories to increase awareness, engagement, and give their viewers a deeper insight into the company. They are a way of being more 'casual' with your social activity, as you don’t have to plan a post down to the fine details. If there is something interesting going on in the office then simply take a quick snap, or a boomerang, add a short caption and post it! Give your business a personality.

With a range of engaging features available to add to your story, it can drive traffic directly to your website, as well as a link to your products if you have an Ecommerce site. These actions can also be driven by Instagram and Facebook ads that appear in between stories when users are flicking through their feed. Instagram state that 75% of users take action (e.g. making a purchase or visiting the website) after looking at an Instagram advertisement.

Many people struggle to understand when they should use an Instagram story and when they should create a post. Our view is that if you are in the moment, and you want to capture something interesting to share instantly, without the need for editing the image or creating content then you should use a story. If it is something that looks artistic, you have spent time creating, or should be seen permanently, then stick it up as a post. Instagram stories were created to be off-the-cuff, in the moment, engaging and fun. So don’t overthink them!

Creating your story

There are a few ways to add to your story, either swipe to the right when on your feed, click on the first circle in the ‘story’ feed, or click on your profile image. Then, start creating your story!

First, you will notice that there are multiple options to take the image or video:

> Normal - a normal image or hold for video.

> Boomerang - a short, looped video that plays forwards then backwards.

> Superzoom - a video that zooms in with different dramatic effects including hearts, paparazzi, comic book and bouncing.

> Focus - adds a focus onto the camera for different effects including radial blur, sharp and tilt shift.

> Rewind - which does as it says and plays a video in reverse.

> Hands-Free - for when you can’t hold the button down by yourself.

> Live - which is the same as Facebook live, where you can stream live to followers. Host a Q&A for your customers, and let them get to know your brand better.

> Music - play music throughout your story to accompany your image or video. (Also available to add after photo/video is taken.)

> Type - for when you don’t need visuals and simply want to show just text. 

> You can also use a pre-taken image or video by choosing from your camera roll.

An array of features

Once you have your image or video, you can make it even more fun by adding the different features. These features allow you to show the creative, fun and human side of your business and can therefore encourage engagement and bring attention. 


Swipe left and right for different preset filters, to lift your story quickly and easily without the need for editing yourself.

Make it fun

For even more fun, there are a range of effects that you can add to your story, that are similar to the infamous Snapchat filters (sorry, but no dog filter!). These include adding sparkles, 3D and other camera effects. 

Write it out

Unlike on an Instagram post, you don’t need to add a caption to your story - however if you want to add some text then you can! There are five different fonts, to fit different messages so… get creative!

Get arty

Use the pen option to colour in the screen, so that you can have a coloured background behind/around the images. You could also colour in the whole screen, and erase certain areas to reveal sneak peeks!

Location, location, location

Use the ‘Location’ geo stickers to show customers where you are, whether this is your office, if you are at a clients or out on an away day. Viewers can click on the sticker and it will show a page of posts that have also been shared from that location. This makes it easy for viewers to locate your office, and it again adds a personal element.

Mention other accounts

You can use the ‘Mention’ feature to tag other businesses, and profiles into your story. This will increase awareness and reach as well as engagement, as the tagged user can then share it onto their story and this will mean that more people can see it. However you should only mention accounts if it is definitely relevant, or you run the risk of being blocked or hidden by them.


Similarly with mentions, by adding a relevant hashtag to your story this can help to gain more exposure with individuals searching for that hashtag. This means that even if a user doesn’t follow you, they can still view your story. If you have your own brand hashtag, then why not include this in your story, and users can follow it through to a page of your hashtagged company posts!

Engage users

Ways for users to engage usually include likes and comments, however these aren’t possible with stories, and therefore the polls, questions and quiz features are great ways to encourage engagement. Use the polls to ask questions where you can find out about your followers, and can use the results as market research for new products, or current services. The questions feature could also be used in a similar way, by asking users for suggestions or by using it as a way to answer FAQs. The quiz feature allows you to ask a question on each story, where you provide four options with one correct answer and find out what your users know about your business, your products or your industry. 

Add a GIF sticker

One of the most fun features is definitely the ability to add GIF stickers onto your stories. Instagram uses Giphy to pull through small, animated stickers with transparent backgrounds which users can search through and add to their story. We created some of our own stickers to use on our stories, just type in ‘Ascensor’ in the stickers search bar. If you would like some stickers creating for your business to use on your stories, why not send us a message

The Final Countdown

Raise awareness of an upcoming event at your company, by adding a Countdown sticker to your story. This can create curiosity and interest in your business’ activity, as followers can subscribe to your event countdown and Instagram will send them a reminder when it approaches. 

Swipe up

As an easy way to drive users from your Instagram stories, to your website and to specific products, ‘Swipe up’ links were introduced. However, this feature is only available if your business account has over 10,000 followers. Which makes it difficult for companies with fewer than 10,000 followers to directly send users to their website. However don’t worry, as the vast array of other features provide enough opportunities to build awareness, create engagement and humanize your brand.

So why not create a story now, whether it’s your first or your 100th, and add some of the features that we’ve discussed. Engage with users, and give customers a deeper insight into your business with Instagram Stories. If you need any help with your social media activity then get in touch today, and we can help you grow.

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