The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Stories

Table of Contents

Are you using Instagram Stories? Wondering how you can use them more effectively, both for personal and business purposes?

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about Instagram Stories, including:

  • What ARE Instagram Stories, anyway?
  • How to create your first Story
  • FAQ’s about Stories:
    • What types of content can you share via Stories?
    • How can I make my story last longer than 24 hours?
    • How can I add links to my Stories?
    • Can I see who has viewed my Stories?
  • How to use Stories for business

Here goes!

What are Instagram Stories?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already somewhat familiar with Stories. But just to briefly recap, Instagram Stories are a way to share a compilation of photos or videos that appear at the top of users’ feeds.

The beauty of Instagram Stories is that they let you piece together visuals to create…you guessed it, a story.

So, instead of simply posting individual images or videos, you can combine them to present a more visually-appealing and compelling account of a specific activity, event or even just random moments from your day.

Stories DON’T appear in the general Instagram feed or on your profile grid, and people CAN’T like or comment on them; and here’s the biggest catch – they disappear into thin air after 24 hours. In this way, they’re very similar to Snapchat Stories.

However, one of the BEST aspects of stories is that once you post them, they’ll appear in a circle at the top of your followers’ feeds…meaning maximum exposure and reach!

How to Create Your First Instagram Story

If you’re already used to posting on Instagram, creating a Story is uber easy.

Here’s how:  Click the camera icon at the top left of your screen, as usual. Now click the record/take a picture button at the bottom (tap to take a picture, press and hold to take a video).

From here, you can also choose to use a number of effects, including:

  • Type – Create a text-based image (more on this in a minute)
  • Music – Add a soundtrack to your Instagram Story
  • Live – You can share a replay of your live video in your Story
  • Normal – No bells and whistles “just normal”
  • Boomerang – Lets you take a quick burst of photos that plays forward and backward
  • Focus – Focuses on the subject's face while blurring out the background, creating a professional effect
  • Superzoom – Zoom in on an object
  • Rewind – Play a video in reverse
  • Hands-free – Lets you take a video without having to press and hold

Note: If you want to just use a photo or video that’s already on your phone, swipe up to see your photo/video gallery.

You can also add stickers, text or drawings to your images by tapping on relevant icons.

Finally, click the Add to Story icon at the bottom of your screen to post your Story!

What Types of Content Can I Share on My Story?

 As already mentioned, Stories let you share a compilation of images or videos with your followers.

However, just recently, Instagram also introduced Type Mode, which lets you share text content as your story.

When you go to create your story, you simply click on Type next to Live underneath the record button.

You can then choose from different fonts, styles, and backgrounds to create a simple text-based message – Instagram suggests a silly thought, random idea or even song lyrics.

And just like your other stories, your Type stories will appear at the top of your followers’ feeds for just 24 hours.

What if I Want to Make My Story Last Longer?

I’m glad you asked!

Until recently, once your 24 hours was up, your Stories were gone forever.

However, Instagram recently added two new features that give you a bit more flexibility – Stories Archives and Highlights.

Now, instead of your Stories vanishing into space after 24 hours, they’ll be stored in a private (viewable only by you) section of your profile called your Stories Archive.

So whenever you want, simply visit your Archive to view and choose from past Stories, and re-share them with your followers.

Another super-cool feature Instagram has just introduced are Stories Highlights.

(You may have noticed these on other users’ profiles, just underneath their bio.)

How to Create Your Own Story Highlights

To create your own Highlights, simply click the New icon below your profile pic, to the left of your friends’ Stories.

Now scroll through your Stories Archives to find some that you’d like to use. Then simply choose a cover image for your Highlight, give it a name, and you’re done!

Your Highlight will now appear on your profile for any of your followers to see (or if they’re set to Public, anyone can see them).

Highlights are a great way to showcase the moments and events that are most important to you.

And when you don’t want them featured on your profile anymore? Simply go to your Highlight, tap, hold, and click Delete.

Your Stories will remain safely in your Archives, so if you want to share them again in the future, you can do so.

How do I Add a Link to My Story?

You may have seen your favorite celebrity or brand posting a Story that says See More at the bottom.

Clicking on this link will actually take you to a page or blog post you can view within the app.

Unfortunately, this feature is currently only to those who have a business profile AND over 10,000 followers on Instagram.

However, I suspect this feature will roll out to all users in the not-too-distant future. If you meet these qualifications, then here is how to add a link to your story.

  1. Start your Instagram Story – you can add an image or a video directly from your phone as long as it is within the last 24 hours.
  2.  Add the Link URL – upper right – click on the link icon.
  3.  A new window will open where you can add your link. You can even preview the link to make sure it's going to open up correctly! Tap on the green check mark on the Android or the Done on the iOS device to save your link.How to Add Link to Instagram Story

Can I see who has viewed my Stories?

Yes, you sure can!

Simply swipe up on your Story and you can see exactly how many people have viewed it…you can even see the names of each person who has viewed each of your images or videos.

? Simply swipe up on your Story and you can see exactly how many people have viewed it…you can even see the names of each person who has viewed each of your images or videos.Click To Tweet

This is a fantastic feature for businesses who are looking to gauge the reach and impact of their stories; after all, if you’re going to be using Stories for your business, you want to know if they’re working!

How do I Use Stories for My Business?

Tons of businesses are now using Stories, for good reason: there are now 300 million people who use Stories on a daily basis.

But you might be wondering exactly HOW to use Stories to market your business or connect with your followers.

One of the main advantages of stories are that they appear at the top of your followers’ feeds – meaning people are more likely to see and click on them.

Another advantage is that because they disappear after 24 hours, they have a built-in sense of immediacy…making them perfect for sharing spontaneous or time-sensitive content.

?‍? One of the biggest advantages of Instagram Stories for businesses is that they disappear after 24 hours, which means they have a built-in sense of immediacy…making them perfect for sharing spontaneous or time-sensitive content.Click To Tweet

This section will show you 10 ways to use Stories to take advantage of these benefits and more!

1. Flash Sales or Coupons

Want to drive sales of your products or services? Offer your followers a special, time-limited (24 hour) deal or coupon code they can use to buy your products.

You might want to create a giveaway JUST for your Instagram followers, or you could promote an existing sale or coupon. Just be sure to add a unique coupon code to your Story so you know exactly where your sales are coming from!

2. Numbered Lists

Want to share a variety of images or videos that really don’t have anything to do with each other?

Do what Apartment Therapy did and create a numbered series of images. This lets you combine different images or videos that otherwise just wouldn’t make sense together! (e.g., a blog post, a promotion/deal, an announcement, etc.)

3. Announcements

Want to make a special announcement to your Instagram followers? Generate excitement by sharing this info in a Story.

Some examples:

  • Offer a sneak peek of an upcoming interview/video/blog post
  • Announce a new product or service
  • Share your new store hours or location
  • Share breaking news in your industry

4. A Silly Moment

Sometimes the best content is the random and unexpected stuff that happens to you during the day. Not only can it be REALLY entertaining, it can give your business a more personal, relatable feel.

Here’s an example that Derek Halpern of Social Triggers posted recently:

5. Giveaway or Contest

Give away a product or gift card and promote the contest via a Story. You can even try boosting sales by offering a “free product with purchase”!

For optimal impact and reach, create a branded contest hashtag entrants should use and promote this hashtag on your Story.

6. Teasers of Your Blog Content

Want to draw attention to your latest blog post? Post a series of photos highlighting what readers can expect if they click through to your blog.

Don’t forget to let viewers know exactly where they can read those posts…either by writing “visit our blog” or by actually writing out a (short) link they can type into their browser (or better yet, if you have access to clickable links, be sure to link directly to your blog posts like Cooking Light Magazine has done below!)

7. Behind-the-Scenes Shots

Looking for a quick and easy way to use Stories, that also helps build loyalty and trust? Show your followers candid, behind-the-scenes photos or videos of your business, employees or workspace.

 8. Promote a Branded Hashtag

Want to get some exposure for your brand hashtag? Use it in your Stories to generate awareness among your followers (and potential followers).

The best way to use hashtags in your Stories is how Fenty Beauty used them below…as clickable hashtag stickers!


To add a hashtag sticker to your Story, simply open up the stickers section and click on the #Hashtag button. You can then customize it with your own, branded hashtag.

9. Give a Product Demo

Want to promote your product(s) while also providing valuable content? Show your followers how to use your product via a series of explanatory images or videos.

To boost sales, be sure to let your followers know exactly where they can buy your products for themselves!

10. Live Events

Sharing footage from an in-person event can be a great way to create a sense of community among your followers.

Some live events that would be perfect for sharing include:

  • Tradeshows
  • Industry conferences (either as an attendee or speaker)
  • A community event (a fair, concert, etc.)
  • A local business group or event


Final thoughts

I hope this guide has gotten you excited about using Instagram Stories! They’re the perfect way to connect with your followers in a very real, “in the moment” kind of way.

Need some more help with your efforts on Instagram? You may find these posts helpful:

Why Instagram Contests Rule – and How to Play by the Rules

How to Grow Your Instagram Account to Your First 10,000 Followers

10 Instagram Marketing Hacks

I’d love to hear how YOU’RE using Stories…let me know in the comments below!

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5 years ago

Hi, Thanks for sharing this blog with us, I read your article, your blog contains very important information for us, I appreciate your work and effort.

Jagdish Adhikari
Jagdish Adhikari
5 years ago

I am very impressed with the way you explained the article on “The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Stories”. Your article is very helpful for me to write on Instagram. I am Keen to follow your coming articles as well. Thanks

Stephen gates
Stephen gates
3 years ago


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