Instagram Stories 101 for Brands

Here’s an analogy for you: Snapchat is Dolly Parton’s “I
Will Always Love You” and Instagram Stories is Whitney
Houston’s cover of “I Will Always Love You.” Both made an
impact, but one took the original idea and brought it to an even
wider audience for social engagement.

It’s no secret that Instagram Stories was inspired by
Snapchat, offering photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours
and can be decorated with text, filters, stickers, and buttons.

What many didn’t see coming, however, is the success Instagram
Stories has driven since it launched in August 2016. In just two
years, the platform grew to a whopping
400 million daily users
– double the amount of people who use

Brands are getting in on the action, too. They’re using
Stories to publish behind-the-scenes content, live videos,
influencer takeovers, product demonstrations, and innovative ad
formats. Just look at these Stories from NASA:

NASA Instagram Stories

Still not convinced? Consider these stats: One-third of the

most-viewed Instagram Stories
are from businesses, and
39% of users
have become more interested in a brand or product
after seeing it on Instagram Stories.

That’s why we’re serving up this Instagram Stories 101
guide, including why Stories are so valuable, how brands can create
them, and how to measure their success in driving social

Let’s take a look.

Why Instagram Stories Are So Valuable

Instagram Stories essentially doubles the creative potential of
Instagram. So if brands aren’t using Stories to drive social
engagement, they’re missing out on a huge part of what this
platform has to offer.

Why? Because Stories complement the often glamorous, overly
edited photos of Instagram feeds with more personal, inspiring, and
insider content, as this Instagram

Instagram Study Results

For example, Cheerios uses Stories to give personalized
to its customers. Warby Parker created an
interactive crossword puzzle
. And J.Crew showed staffers
wearing its new
rose-colored glasses

J. Crew Pink Glasses Ads

Stories also let businesses ramp up their posting frequency on
the mobile app.

“[Before Stories,] the bar for what was ‘Instagram-worthy’
was so high that its users were starting to get intimidated,”
Kurt Wagner wrote for
. “People don’t climb mountains, eat at fancy
restaurants or take beautiful beach vacation photos every day. That
meant people weren’t posting to Instagram every day,

Now, with Stories, you can post multiple times a day, driving
social engagement with as much spontaneous, real-time content you
want without clogging your feed.

How to Create Instagram Stories

There are many elements that can go into each Instagram Story.
Brands have the freedom to mix and match graphic, interactive, and
dynamic features depending on what their content calls for and what
their audience wants.

Here’s a taste of what you can choose from.

Photo and Video

Photos and videos will likely make up the meat of your Instagram
Stories. Keep in mind that these will be full-screen,
vertical media with an image ratio
of 9:16 and 16:9 to 4:5.
Instagram also recommends leaving roughly 14% (250 pixels) of the
top and bottom of your image clear of text or logos since they’ll
overlap with your Instagram profile icon.

Airbnb, for example, posts videos and photos of its Airbnb hosts
and members, highlighting its rich community:

Airbnb Instagram Stories


Text can be added to your photos and videos in various formats,
colors, and sizes. For instance, Instagram recommends playing
around with the eyedropper tool, which can grab a color from
anywhere in your Story and use it in your text.

Instagram Story Color Picker Tool


Mentions are just text that tags someone else’s account. This
is a great tool for calling out loyal customers, influencers, and
brand partners who might be involved in your campaign. Each time
tag someone
, they will receive a Direct Message notifying them
about their mention.


Hashtags tie your Instagram Stories to larger conversations on
the app. You can create your own hashtag for a campaign or join an
existing one. In the
Explore section of the app
, Instagram even compiles select
posts with certain hashtags into a community Story, providing more
opportunities for your content to be discovered.


are some of the most versatile and diverse
paraphernalia on Instagram Stories. They’re little,
often-interactive graphics that you can pop into your Stories. For
instance, location stickers geotag your Story (and potentially tie
it to community Stories in the Explore section). There are also
clock stickers, temperature stickers, GIF stickers, emoji stickers,
and holiday-themed stickers.

Q&A sticker
polling sticker
also open doors for brands to drive social
engagement, gather feedback, and learn more about their
audience’s interests. A classic example is how the NBA and MLB
used the polling sticker to ask fans which teams they were rooting
for in big games:

Instagram Polling Stickers Example

As on Snapchat, brands can now create their own
augmented reality filters
for Instagram Stories. These are
graphic overlays that map to your face and certain movements.
Instagram has already launched its own filters like dog ears and
sunglasses, as well as filters with
brand and celebrity partners
like Kylie Jenner, Ariana Grande,
BuzzFeed, and the NBA.


Boomerangs are quick videos that rewind and repeat in quick
succession. It’s one of the most unique features on Instagram,
and it provides fun opportunities to get creative with your

Live video

Just like YouTube and Facebook,
Instagram has a livestreaming capability
, and it exists within
Instagram Stories. To start your own live video, swipe right on the
app and tap “Start Live Video.” Once you go live, your
followers will be notified that they’re streaming. And anyone can
join in to watch, comment, and like the video. You can also

replay the video on your Instagram Stories
once it’s over,
extending the lifetime and reach of your live content.

Brands might use Instagram live to host a product demonstration,
go behind the scenes at an event, or do a live Q&A with an


It’s tough to link to websites on Instagram. Regular posts
don’t support links in captions, so people resort to putting them
in their bios. But Instagram Stories are different. If you’re a
verified user with over 10,000 followers, you have the option to

include a link in your Stories
. For users, this shows up as an
invitation to “See More” and swipe up to visit a website, which
opens right in the app.

Sephora, for instance, has multiple Instagram Stories featuring
different products that users can swipe up to see on the brand’s
website. From there, they can learn more about the product or
purchase it – without even leaving Instagram.

Sephora Instagram Stories


That’s not the only opportunity for driving e-commerce in
Instagram Stories. The mobile app also has a
Shopping feature on Instagram Stories
that is now available to
all businesses approved
for shopping on Instagram
. The Shopping feature invites brands
to create product stickers, which users can tap on to visit a
product details page of images, information, similar items, and a
link to your website.

Here’s the example Instagram provided from retailer

Madewell Product Sticker on Instagram

You don’t always have to build your Instagram Stories from
scratch. You can easily repost content from your feed by clicking
the “Share” button and choosing “Add post to your
.” You can also
share someone else’s Story
with one click if they mention or
tag you.

Brands can use these capabilities to feature content from their
fans and followers. For instance, you might launch a contest and
tell people to tag you into their Instagram Story submissions, and
then repost the best entries.

How to Archive Instagram Stories

As of December 2017, Instagram users have been able to
save Stories in the “Highlights”
section of their profile,
which sits below their bio. For brands, this provides a great
opportunity to group successful or relevant Stories into Highlights
that consumers can revisit and enjoy.

, for example, has Highlights for dinner ideas, dessert
ideas, and product sneak peeks. Walmart has Highlights for
toys, monthly tips, and shopping lists from partner Ellen
DeGeneres. And IBM has
Highlights for various business verticals.

To add Stories to their Highlights, brands can click “+New”
in the Highlights section or visit their Stories Archive, which
automatically saves Stories after their 24-hour expiration period.
Just click the Archive icon (which looks like a clock) on your
profile to find your stored posts.

How to Launch Instagram Stories Ads

Get your Instagram ads in gear for the holidays

Make the most of your holiday ad campaigns with this handy

the Secrets

Stories ads
are a valuable form of social advertising.
They’re like regular Instagram Stories, but you can target them
by reach, video views, traffic, conversions, app installs, and
brand awareness. Instagram even provides this handy chart to see
which content formats, buying options, and objectives are supported
by Stories ads:

Instagram Stories Ads

With Instagram Stories ads, you can also include a call to
action at the bottom of your ad, such as Learn More, Shop Now, Sign
Up, and Contact Us.

Overstock, for example, wanted to counter the narrative that
they sold dated merchandise. So they launched Instagram Stories ads
featuring modern, new items along with copy that helped reposition
its image. Each ad also included a “Shop Now” call-to-action
button that led to the website. The campaign was
targeted to US women aged 25-54 and Instagram users who were
interested in home décor and furniture.

Overstock Instagram Stories Ads

As a result, the Instagram Stories ads delivered an 18% increase
in return on ad spend, a 20% decrease in cost per acquisition, and
a 20% decrease in cost per click.

Instagram also lets brands run carousel ads in Stories ads.
These are ads that include up to three pieces of content – such
as photos or videos – with one call to action. Gap, for instance,
ran carousel
video ads in Instagram Stories
to promote its “Logo Remix”
collection of clothes. The campaign drove a 17-point lift in ad
recall and 73% higher click-through rate than their previous
Instagram campaign.

How to Measure Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories naturally have different social engagement
metrics than regular Instagram posts. Of course, they include your
standard reach and impressions, but beyond that, Instagram Stories
analytics are as unique as the format.

They include:

  • Replies: The number of Direct Messages you received from this
  • Discovery: The number of people who saw your Story but don’t
    follow you. They may have discovered it through the Explore page or
    a share from a friend.
  • Impressions: The number of times your Story has been
  • Navigation:

Back: How many times people tapped back to see your previous

Forward: How many times people tapped forward to go to your next
Story. Although this may seem like a good interaction, too many
taps forward is not a great sign because it might indicate that
people were getting bored with your content and wanting to see what
was next.

Next: How many times people swiped to see the account’s Story
after yours.

Exited: How many people exited your Story by either going back
to their regular Instagram feed or exiting the Instagram app.

  • Completion rate: You’ll need to calculate this yourself by
    dividing the number of people who viewed your last Story by the
    number of people you viewed your first Story. So if 70 people
    viewed your last Story and 100 people viewed your first Story, your
    completion was 70%.
  • Interactions: If your Stories include extra features like
    links, stickers, or polls, you can see a breakdown of who
    interacted with these and how they did.

To access your Instagram Stories metrics, click the Insights tab
at the top of your business

Driving Social Engagement with Instagram Stories

When it comes to driving social engagement, Instagram should be
at the top of your list. It’s the
fastest-growing social network
, after all, and its
fastest-growing feature is Instagram Stories.

With Instagram Stories, brands can tap into a whole new world of
content on the mobile app – publishing real-time, authentic,
behind-the-scenes posts that users have a major appetite for. They
can also play around with fun and interactive formats like polls,
filters, locations, and links that keep audiences invested and
coming back for more.

So, if you’re ready to get dive in, this guide should provide
the tools you need to start reaching those 400 million daily
Instagram Stories users. And if that’s not enough, you can always
listen to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Love You” a couple times.
That’s sure to get anyone inspired.

Don’t stop at Instagram!

Make the..

Source: FS – Social Media Blogs 1
Instagram Stories 101 for Brands