How to Use Instagram Stories Like a Pro to Build Your Audience

How to Use Instagram Stories

Instagram used to be simple.

But the days dominated by square images are long gone. Now, you can share images, videos, time-lapses, boomerangs, stop-motion sequences, and live-streams.

The biggest change came in 2016, with the introduction of Instagram Stories.

This form of social sharing altered the way people interact online, birthing new influencers and catapulting brands into the limelight.

However, as social media continues to evolve, it’s getting more and more difficult to cut through the noise.

Take minimalist watch brand MVMT. Relying heavily on social media, they built a business with over $80 million in sales in just five years.

But today things are different.

“It’s much more difficult without a doubt,” says MVMT’s Kassan. “It’s still possible, but it would be very difficult to scale as fast as we did. We used channels that just aren’t as efficient or easy to use anymore.”

So what can you do?

Get ahead of the competition by learning to harness the full potential of new social tools. In this article, you’ll learn how to use Instagram Stories like a pro to build your audience.

The Power of Instagram for Businesses

Instagram is a titan.

The social network now has over 1 billion monthly active users – up from 800 million in September 2017 – and is one of the most popular social networks worldwide.

Instagram Growth

Plus, 51% of Instagram users access the platform at least once per day – that’s a lot of eyeballs.

What’s more, over 80% of accounts on Instagram follow a business.

But here’s the best part: Two-thirds of profile visits to businesses come from people who aren’t following that business.

What does this mean?

Well, not only is Instagram a great place to nurture your existing audience, it’s also a great place to promote your brand.

Bottom line: Instagram is an incredible opportunity for businesses in 2018.

But what about Instagram Stories?

As of November 2017, Instagram Stories has amassed 300 million daily active users.

Instagram Stories User Growth

Plus, Instagram reported that Stories have encouraged users to use the platform longer and more frequently.

The fact that Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours means there’s an urgency that most forms of social sharing don’t have.

This presents an incredible opportunity to catch people’s attention.

However, as Gary Vaynerchuk explains, “It’s not how many followers you have, it’s how many care. It’s not width, it’s depth. It’s not how many impressions you get, it’s how much attention you get.”

And this is where Instagram Stories truly excel.

The medium is perfectly suited to transparent, authentic, real-time content – in other words, content that has power.

And the best part is, it’s free. Because let’s face it, in 2018 many marketing tools aren’t.

Sold?

What are Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories is a feature that allows users to post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. The feature is somewhat similar to Snapchat Stories, a featured introduced way back in 2013 that was a critical part of the company’s growth.

Instagram Stories

Content shared via Instagram Stories doesn’t appear in the standard profile content grid or in the Instagram feed.

Instead, Stories appear in a bar at the top of the feed:

Instagram Stories View

When users post an Instagram Story, their profile image will gain a colorful ring around it to notify other users.

To view someone’s Story, simply tap on their profile photo. Their Story will appear in full-screen, and you’ll be able to view all of the content they’ve posted within the last 24 hours.

When viewing a Story, you can skip backward or forwards by tapping the left and right side of the screens.

Finally, unlike most social media posts, Stories have no likes or public comments.

How to Make an Instagram Story

To create a new Story, tap the camera icon in the top left-hand corner of the screen, or swipe to the right.

Instagram Stories New Story

Then, Instagram will show you the Instagram Story creator:

Instagram Stories Normal Capture

Now, there are two main options when creating a new Instagram Story:

  1. Choose a photo or video from your smartphone’s camera roll.
  2. Use the app to capture new content.

Content that you upload from your device must have been created within the last 24 hours. To add content from your device, swipe up or tap the icon.

Instagram Stories Add Media

Then you’ll see the most recent content from your camera roll, and you can select the content you’d like to add to your Story.

It’s worth noting that the ideal dimensions for Instagram Stories are 1080px wide by 1920px tall, with an aspect ratio of 9:16. You can use these dimensions to create a special image or video for your Instagram Stories, such as this post from GoPro:

Instagram Stories Gopro

If you want to create your own custom graphic, check out free online design tools such as Canva.

Okay, Instagram provides a few different ways to capture content. Let’s take a look at each of them.

The Types of Instagram Stories You Can Create Within Instagram

There are ten different options to choose from when capturing new content in the Instagram Story creator.

You can see them by scrolling to the left and right at the bottom of the screen:

Instagram Stories Types

Instagram Story Type #1: Type

This setting provides a colorful background for your words to shine.

Simply change the color by tapping the icon in the bottom-left of the screen, and then select a font style by tapping the icon at the top.

Instagram Stories Type Style

Instagram Story Type #2: Music

This setting lets you record a video to a particular music track, or include music with an image. To start, search for the song you’d like to include in your Story and select it.

Instagram Stories Music

You’ll then be able to scroll to the point in the song that you’d like the music to start.

Instagram Stories Music Edit

When you’re ready, tap the musical notes icon to take a photo, or tap-and-hold to record a video to the music.

Instagram Stories Music

Instagram Story Type #3: Live

This is how you go live on Instagram. Just tap “Start Live Video,” and Instagram will notify your followers that you’re live!

Instagram Stories Live

Bear in mind that your video will disappear from the app once it’s finished unless you save it to your camera roll.

Instagram Story Type #4: Normal

This is the setting first shown when you open the Story creator.

You can use Normal to take a photo, record a video, or upload content from your camera roll, as we discussed earlier.

Instagram Story Type #5: Boomerang

The Boomerang setting takes a burst of photos which loop over and over to create an animation.

Tap the main icon once and you’ll see the screen flash as the photos are taken in quick succession. While this happens, make a small movement, such as winking to the camera or taking a step forward.

If you particularly like this feature, Instagram has a dedicated Boomerang App you can use to create Boomerang animations to share on other platforms.

Instagram Stories Boomerang

Instagram Story Type #6: Focus

This setting lets you focus on a particular feature while blurring the background.

In professional photography, this is known as having a large depth of field, and it works particularly well for faces.

Once again, take a photo by tapping the large icon once, and tap-and-hold to record a video.

Instagram Story Type #7: Superzoom

Superzoom allows you to zoom in on a particular feature accompanied by a sound effect to create a humorous or dramatic video clip.

To start, tap the small music icon in the middle of the screen to select a style. You have four options to choose from:

  • Bounce
  • Dramatic
  • Beats
  • TV Show

Next, tap the spot on your screen that you want to zoom in on and the camera will mark it with a white rectangle.

Instagram Stories Superzoom

Then, tap the record icon – and hold the camera steady!

Instagram Story Type #8: Rewind

This type lets you record a video to be played in reverse. It works particularly well with videos which feature full body movements such as running or dancing.

Instagram Story Type #9: Hands-Free

This setting enables you to record a video without having to keep your finger on the screen of your smartphone.

It’s perfect for content like makeup tutorials and exercise demonstrations.

Instagram Story Type #10: Stop-Motion

This setting lets you create short animations made from photographs, like an old flipbook.

To create a stop-motion sequence, take a sequence of photos one-by-one. When you’re finished, tap “Done” at the top of the screen to see your stop-motion animation come to life!

Okay, what else can you do?

Customize Your Instagram Story

Let’s run through a few of the key ways that you can customize your Story.

Add Face Filters to Your Story

Bored with selfies? Check out this feature!

Face filters let you easily add bunny ears, a flower crown, glasses, and more. Plus, these animations are responsive to your movements.

To use face filters, change the camera to the front-facing view, and tap the smiley face icon on the bottom right-hand side of the screen.

Then, you can scroll through the different filters available to find one you like.

In the image below, I’m using the most popular Instagram Stories face filter: puppy ears!

Instagram Stories Face Filter

Add Text to Your Instagram Story

This might seem a bit basic, but the text tool is extremely versatile and customizable, letting you choose the font, color, effect, size, and position of your text.

Instagram Stories Travel Tuesday

Simply tap the “Aa” icon at the top of the screen to open the text options.

Instagram Stories Edit Story

Change the style of the font by tapping the “Classic” button in the top-middle of the screen. You then have five options to choose from:

  • Classic
  • Modern
  • Neon
  • Typewriter
  • Strong

When it comes to adding text, don’t underestimate the importance of variety.

Using multiple fonts, sizes, and colors can help to keep things interesting and draw the viewer’s eye to the message you want to highlight.

You can also use the text tool to include hashtags and tag other accounts:

Nike Instagram Stories

Just add the “@” symbol before you write the name of the account you want to tag, or the “#” symbol to include a hashtag.

When your Story is published, users can tap the tags to reveal a small bubble with a link to the hashtag or tagged account.

Draw and Paint on Your Instagram Story

The markers in Instagram Stories are also extremely versatile. Even simple additions can be effective, as demonstrated by The Minimalists:

Instagram Stories The Minimalists

To start, tap the pencil icon at the top of the screen.

Instagram Stories Edit Story

Then select your marker style – there are five choices available:

  • Fine point
  • Angled
  • Neon
  • Chalk
  • Eraser

You can adjust the size of your paintbrush or pencil using the slider on the left-hand side of the screen.

To select a generic color, tap one of the options at the bottom of the screen. Or to select a custom color, press and hold one of the generic colors then drag your finger around the color palette that appears.

Create a Reverse Color Background Effect

Let me show you a quick way to create an eye-catching graphic that reveals certain parts of a photo or video.

Once you’ve selected your photo or video, select the marker tool and the color of your choice. Then press and hold the screen for a few seconds to make the whole screen one color.

Next, select the eraser tool at the top of the screen and use it to reveal the hidden image or video!

Swipe to Add a Filter to Your Story

Image filters have been around since the start of Instagram – and Instagram Stories use them to good effect.

To add a filter, simply swipe left or right.

Instagram Stories Filters

Add Stickers to Your Instagram Story

There are tons of great stickers available. To access stickers, just tap the square smiley face icon at the top of the screen.

Instagram Stories Stickers

Let’s take a closer look at some of the main sticker options.

Location Stickers

This is the most popular sticker used in Instagram Stories. Here’s an example from the artisan bracelet brand BreakTime:

Instagram Stories Location Sticker

Not only does it let viewers know where you are, it can also expose your Story to a larger audience.

This is because Instagram compiles the best Stories for each location into a separate location Story. Viewers can find these in the “Explore” feed or by searching a location.

Hashtag Stickers

Similarly, the hashtag sticker allows you to add additional context for viewers.

Once again, if your Story performs well it could be added to the hashtag’s Story and boost your views!

Here’s another great example from BreakTime:

Instagram Stories Break Time

Tag Stickers

Tag stickers provide a way to link to other accounts in your Stories in a visually appealing way.

What’s more, Instagram will notify these users about your Story, and they have the option to repost it, potentially exposing your brand to more people.

Instagram Stories Mention Sticker

GIF Stickers

GIFs are an easy way to add some personality and vibrancy to your Stories. Plus, Instagram has partnered with Giphy so there are plenty to choose from.

First, tap the “GIF” icon.

Then choose one of the trending GIFs that appear on the front page or search for GIFs using the bar at the top of the screen.

Instagram Stories Giphy

Poll Stickers

Polls are a popular feature on Instagram Stories.

They provide a great way to interact with your audience, and you can use them to gain valuable insights from your followers.

Instagram Stories A/B Poll

There are two types of poll stickers: A/B polls and slider polls.

A/B Polls let you ask a question and provide users with two answers to choose from. This option tends to generate the most engagement and provide you with the clearest feedback.

Write your question, and edit the two answer options.

Instagram Stories A/B Poll

Slider polls gauge viewers’ feelings by letting them slide a bar sideways to submit their answer as a percentage.

Just write your question and choose the appropriate answer emoji. To view more emojis, swipe left.

Instagram Stories Slider Poll

Publish Your Instagram Story

Once you’ve finished creating your Instagram Story, don’t forget to download your image or video if you’d like to keep it.

To do this, tap “Save.”

Instagram Stories Save to Device

When you’re ready, publish your Instagram Story by tapping “Your story.”

Instagram Stories Add to Story

Congratulations, you just shared a killer Instagram Story!

Take Advantage of Instagram Story Highlights

Although normal Stories expire after 24 hours, this features allows you to “pin” Stories to your Instagram profile indefinitely.

Savvy brands use Story highlights to promote their most important information, updates, and deals.

On the Oberlo Instagram account, we’ve highlighted Stories linking to some of our top resources to help people grow their dropshipping businesses.

Instagram Stories Oberlo

To use story highlights, first create a new story as before.

Once your story is live, open it and tap “Highlight” in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.

Then you can continue to add as many sections of your story to your highlight as you’d like. Finally, give your highlight a title and tap “Add.”

Check Who’s Seen Your Instagram Stories

After you’ve posted a story, you can find out how many people have viewed your story and which accounts have viewed it.

To do this, swipe up when viewing your own story, or tap the “Seen by” icon in the bottom left-hand side of the screen.

Instagram Stories Viewed By

Add Links to Your Story

Once you’ve grown your audience to 10,000 followers or more, Instagram lets you add links to your story.

Instagram Story Highlights

You can use this feature to promote your website, a specific product, your latest blog post, or even an affiliate offer. 

This is especially useful for Story highlights.

Just select the link icon at the top of the screen and input the link you wish to include. Then tap “Preview Link” to make sure it works before tapping “Done.”

Then, viewers will see the text, “See More” at the bottom of the Story with the arrow prompting them to swipe up to open the link.

Summary

Instagram Stories are a powerful tool when used to their full potential. Plus, the features available provide a blank canvas for endless creativity!

However you use Stories, focus on engagement and developing relationships with your audience.

Most importantly, have fun!

Which feature are you most excited to use next? Let us know in the comments below!

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