Instagram Stories: What They Are And How To Make One Like A Pro

Social media these days is all about documentation.

Where you go, what you eat and drink, who you see and what is most memorable: These are the typical feeds for Instagram stories – seconds of glimpses into people’s lives that are shared on Instagram for only 24 hours.

Below we’ve created a guide that will tell you what Instagram Stories are, how to share them with your followers, and how to make sure those stories are exactly what your audience wants to see. In this post, we’re going to cover the following. Click a bullet point below to skip to that section of the article.

What are Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories allows Instagram users to share photos and videos with their “story” which is visible to followers of the user’s Instagram account and specific users who are followed by the sender of the story. As with Snapchat, Instagram stories are short-lived, meaning they disappear after 24 hours.

Your Instagram story will be published separately from the photos and videos that can be found in the tiled gallery of your own Instagram profile. And while you might know the basics of sharing, there are tools hidden in the app that can help you make the photos and videos you add to your story more creative and engaging.

How do Instagram stories work?

Instagram Stories can drive a lot of engagement and value – whether you’re sharing a story through a branded account or your personal profile.

Since the launch in August 2016, a total of 250 million Instagram users have started to share content that has disappeared on Instagram Stories. This contributes to the enormous leap in time that they spend in the app every day from 24 minutes to 32.

In addition, many brands have already successfully published content on this platform. Instagram Stories have fueled the growth of brands like Teen Vogue, Insider, and Bustle. Whether publishers are trying to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to videos or newsletters outside of Instagram, or share sponsored content, publishers are flocking to Instagram to post fun, disappearing content that nurtures the brand’s voice and personality without absorbing too much of the average techie’s waning attention span.

In addition, Instagram Stories is driving the massive growth of Instagram Direct – private one-on-one messaging between users within the app. Instagram Direct has become one of the most popular messaging apps in the world with a staggering 375 million users.

Even more impressive, TechCrunch reports that one in five Instagram stories shared by a brand receives a direct response. This gives brands a direct line to connect with and learn more about their audience.

How long are Instagram Stories?

Instagram stories last for 24 hours on your profile before disappearing. However, a video in your story can be up to 15 seconds long before moving on to the next piece of content. You can also use a third-party app to segment a longer video in 15-second increments and add it to your story.

Just as Instagram stories only take 24 hours to disappear, the photos and videos themselves are limited in time when users view and play them.

Typically, the individual videos you add to your Instagram story each have a maximum roll time of 15 seconds. For example, if you add a video to your Instagram story, it will play for up to 15 seconds, regardless of how long the original video was, and then it ends.

Despite the runtime limit of 15 seconds for Instagram Stories, there are ways to play longer videos in your story. Specifically, you can split a video that is longer than 15 seconds into 15 second segments and add each segment to your Instagram story to play in sequence. Here are some mobile apps that can help you with this:

How to view Instagram stories

Instagram Stories appear at the top of your screen when you are on the Instagram mobile app. Since they are often the first pieces of content that users see when they open Instagram, these stories can get a lot of engagement and help you promote your regular Instagram photo gallery to more users.

1. Open Instagram and navigate to the home screen.

To view Instagram Stories, open your Instagram mobile app and tap the home icon in the lower left corner of your screen. Instagram Stories cannot be viewed on the desktop site.

Once you’ve navigated to Instagram’s home screen, you’ll see a series of circular icons at the top, each of which represents the active stories posted by the users you follow. These symbols are highlighted in a red square in the screenshot below. As you can see, your own story is available to view (and add) to the far left of the stories you follow.

Instagram home screen with Google logo and a number of Instagram stories to display at the top

2. Tap a circular icon to view the user’s story.

Each circular icon that you see at the top of your home screen shows you a small preview of the story that the user posted. Tap it to expand the user’s story. It is either a photo or a video. The latter will play automatically as soon as you tap the story.

3. Tap to navigate between photos and videos in a story.

A single Instagram story can contain numerous individual photos and videos lined up in the order in which the user posted them. The first content you see is the newest. Tap your mobile device screen to go to the next photo or video that the user posted on their story.

4. Swipe to move from one Instagram story to the next.

If you swipe left and right while viewing an Instagram story, you can switch between stories from different users. The first time you open an Instagram story, you will see the following menu:

Black swipe menu for viewing Instagram stories on a mobile device

Use the screenshot above for reference to view the Instagram Stories of the accounts you follow.


How do I create an Instagram story?

  1. Open Instagram and tap the camera icon in the top left corner of your phone.
  2. Share a photo or video you’ve already taken by swiping up on your screen to browse your gallery.
  3. Or choose a camera lens to take a photo or video in the app.
  4. When you’re finished editing your photo or video, tap Your Story or Next to share with your story and other friends at the same time.

You can make Instagram Stories that successful too – but a few more hacks and tips are needed to make them look like the big brands and influencers of stories. (Some of my favorite Instagram stories are shared by chef Chloe Coscarelli, actress Busy Phillips, mattress brand Casper, and interior design app Hutch – and don’t forget to check out HubSpot’s Instagram stories, too.)

But first, let’s look at the basics of sharing an Instagram story:

1. Open Instagram and tap the camera icon on the top left corner of your phone.

Step 1: Use the camera icon to create a story on Instagram

2. Share a photo or video you’ve already taken by swiping up on your screen to browse your gallery.

Disclosure: Yes, I did a photoshoot with my cats. Can you still blame me

Step 2: Browsing Photos to Create a Story on Instagram.

3. Or select a camera lens to take a photo or video in the app.

Step 3: choose a camera lens to create a story on Instagram.

You have different options to choose from:

1. Live

If you switch your screen to the “Live” option, you can film and broadcast live on Instagram. As with Facebook Live, friends can join in and leave comments. When you’re done broadcasting, you can choose to disappear, save, or share Instagram stories for another 24 hours.

2. Normal

It means what it says: if you tap once, it will take a photo and if you press and hold the button it will take a video. Instagram stories can be 15 seconds long. So if you want to share a longer video, film it in 15 second stints or use CutStory to split your longer clip into 15 second increments.

3. Boomerang

Movies in boomerang mode that grind GIFs up to three seconds in length.

4. Super zoom

Superzoom is a video recording lens on the surface that zooms in on your subject. However, if you turn up the volume, you can use superzoom to create a dramatic soundtrack to accompany your video.

As my friend Marissa put it, “It’s like it’s built for cats.”

I will be in love with this Insta lens forever !!!!

– Sophia Bernazzani (@soph_bern), November 17, 2017

5. Rewind

Use the rewind lens to film video in reverse order.

6. Stop the movement

Use this lens to film cool stop motion videos: multiple different still images woven together into one seamless video. Think of it like the video version of a flip book (like this example below):

Stop-motion artist Alex Unger spends months creating incredibly detailed pieces.

– Business Insider UK (@BIUK) November 14, 2017

7. Hands-free calling

Use hands-free mode when you want to set up your camera to rotate a video for you. Make sure you prop it up in a stable place before calling Action. We’ll talk more about this feature in a moment.

4. When you’re finished editing your photo or video, tap Your Story or Next to share with your story and other friends at the same time.

You can also save your edited photo or video to your gallery by tapping “Save” in the lower left corner.

Step 4: Tap

How to Use Instagram Stories for Business

  1. Post footage of an office event.
  2. Post breaking news about your industry.
  3. Demonstrate your product.
  4. Promote a corporate event.
  5. Preview a blog post from your company.
  6. Mention other companies that follow or work with you.

Knowing how to write on your Instagram story is one thing, but knowing what to post is another … well, story. For businesses looking to tell their story on Instagram, knowing who your ideal followers are and what they want to see on Instagram is important. Remember, Instagram is a visual platform, but that doesn’t mean you can’t teach or promote anything on it.

Here are some ideas for using Instagram Stories to attract followers and build a customer base.

1. Post recordings of an office event.

Sometimes the best a business can do on Instagram is to be as human as possible. One way to do this is to post a short video of a company function. Whether it’s an office Christmas party or an award banquet, posting footage on your story is easy and timely entertainment for your followers. This content also shows people that you are a relevant and kind voice in your market.

2. Post breaking news about your industry.

Just like on your company blog, your Instagram story allows you to cover the latest happenings in your industry. With the right design work, you can turn small news breaks – that don’t deserve a full article – into a story on your Instagram account. This way, users keep coming back to you to keep up with market trends. You can even ask users what they think, as shown in HubSpot’s Instagram story below. We’ll tell you how Instagram stickers can help you with this in just a minute.

HubSpot Instagram Story Breaking news from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey with voting sticker

3. Demonstrate your product.

Your product may not be the easiest or sexiest product in the layperson’s eyes. Well, your Instagram Story is the perfect format for showing potential customers how this product is being used. Post a long video, broken into 15 second clips, showing users what your product or service is doing and how it is helping your customers.

For example, if you sell software, you could use a recording tool like Loom to record a video of your computer screen showing users how to log in, use the software’s dashboard, and navigate to the various features included in the product.

Make sure to change the dimensions of your video before uploading it to your Instagram story. Remember that Instagram Stories image dimensions are the same 1920px high and 1080px widewith an aspect ratio of 9:16.

4. Promote a corporate event.

Does your organization organize a specialist conference every year or does it take part in a large one? Use your Instagram story to promote the event and tell your followers to look for you there. Work with a graphic designer or create your own artwork to illustrate an event flyer with all the information you need to find you. You can do most of it right on Instagram. For example, use the native text options in your story to add:

  • The name of the event.
  • Where the event is located.
  • Dates that you will attend.
  • Your booth number.
  • The official hashtag of the event.

5. Preview a blog post from your company.

Your blog posts need all the exposure they can get. Even if social media isn’t your blog’s main traffic source, your Instagram story can help readers discover this blog the first time and find them later.

In the screenshot below, Google used its Instagram story to preview an article published about six extraordinary young women studying water technology. If you tap to the end of the story, Google will ask you to swipe up with your finger and then link to the full blog post.

Instagram Story by Google Preview of a list blog post about women in tech

6. Mention other companies that follow or work with you.

Eventually, as your Instagram following grows, you will find other business accounts that will want to follow you as well. Whether these accounts are your business partners or just your fans, consider posting them on your Instagram story. This is a passive, yet effective, way of cultivating your relationships with the users who are most important to the growth of your business. The tips below explain how to link to other accounts in an Instagram story.

Now that you know the basics, let’s go through tips and hacks for creating high quality, clickable Instagram stories.

11 Instagram Story Tricks and Hacks

1. Use stickers.

Once you’ve captured a great photo or video, it’s time to spice it up with fun stickers. You can access it by tapping the smiling sticker icon in the top right corner of your screen once you’ve taken a photo or video – or swiping up from the bottom of the screen.

Swipe up to use stickers on your Instagram story.

Change the size of your stickers.

You can pinch the sticker once you’ve added it to your story to make it bigger or smaller. You can also tap and drag around the frame to change its position.

Large sticker labeled

Check the stickers every day for new and unique ones.

Instagram often publishes unique story stickers – be it Monday, a holiday, or a season of the year. Check this section every day for new and updated stickers to add to your story.

Thanksgiving sticker in an Instagram story

Add location, hashtag, poll and selfie stickers.

Get more engagement on your Instagram story by opening it up to other people doing the same things that you are. Open the Stickers section and tap one of these buttons to customize your story:

Location, hashtag, and voting sticker options to add to an Instagram story

Location sticker

Start typing wherever you are and you can put a geographic sticker on it to show where you are.

Set a location for your Instagram story

When people view your story, they can tap the location sticker and see other photos and stories playing in the same place.

Instagram stories with location Boston Common

Hashtag Aufkleber

Gleiches Konzept hier: Wenn Sie diesen Aufkleber hinzufügen und einen Hashtag eingeben, wird Ihre Story bei der Suche nach diesem Hashtag angezeigt, und die Zuschauer können darauf klicken und sehen, wer ihn sonst noch verwendet. #MotivationMontag, Amirite?

Instagram-Hashtag-Aufkleber mit der Aufschrift #caturday


Sie können Ihrer Instagram-Story eine Umfrage mit zwei Optionen hinzufügen und die möglichen Antworten sogar so anpassen, dass sie eindeutiger sind als “Ja” oder “Nein”. Verwenden Sie einen Abstimmungsaufkleber, um festzustellen, ob sich die Leute wirklich mit Ihren Inhalten beschäftigen.

Umfrage-Aufkleber in einer Instagram-Story

Selfie Aufkleber

Öffnen Sie das Menü Aufkleber und tippen Sie auf das Kamerasymbol.

Wählen Sie den Selfie-Aufkleber aus, der Ihrer Instagram-Story hinzugefügt werden soll.

Machen Sie dann ein Selfie – oder machen Sie ein Foto vom Gesicht eines anderen (das funktioniert auch). Dann kannst du dieses Gesicht verwenden, um deine Instagram-Story zu dekorieren. Etwas gruselig, aber auch sehr einprägsam und lustig.

Instagram-Foto einer schwarzen Katze mit Selfie-Aufkleber

2. Nehmen Sie ein Freisprech-Instagram-Video auf.

Wenn Sie ein häufiger Videorecorder auf Instagram sind, wissen Sie, dass Sie Ihren Daumen so lange gegen die Aufnahmetaste halten müssen, wie Sie aufnehmen. Dies kann beim Versuch dynamischer und interessanter Videos, die mehr Handbeweglichkeit erfordern, mühsam werden.

Aber wussten Sie, dass Sie diese Videos aufnehmen können? “Hände frei“?

Freisprech-Videooption in einer Instagram-Story

The hands-free video feature can be found in the carousel of camera lens options beneath the record button, as shown above. Simply tap the record button once to start the video, and again to stop it after you’ve gotten the footage you want.

3. Let viewers share your Stories.

Increase engagement and views of your Instagram Story by letting viewers share them with their friends — as Direct Messages.

Go to your profile, tap the gear icon, and navigate to “Story Settings.”

Story Settings button on Instagram

Toggle on “Allow Sharing” so viewers can DM your Story to friends to increase your audience reach. Voila!

Allow Sharing option on Instagram

4. Use the pen.

Use the pen to add embellishment, symbols, or more text to your Story. If you tap the pen icon in the upper right-hand corner of your screen once you’ve captured a photo or video, you’ll open up your options.

Various color pen options in instagram

From there, you can adjust the thickness of your pen stroke or change the color you’re writing with (more on that later).

I like using the highlighter pen (the third option) to add emphasis to words — or even the highlight of my photo or video.

Instagram Story drawing that reads

5. Add a background color.

If you want to share a Story with a background color — like the images I’ve shared above — you can actually select it from the color palette.

Take a picture (it doesn’t have to be a picture of anything in particular), and then tap the pen icon to open up the color palette. (Here’s Leela again — my unwitting cat model.)

Add a background color to your Instagram Story

You can choose one of the colors from the three available menus, or if you want a specific shade of one of those colors, you can open up the full color spectrum by pressing and holding one of the colors.


Then, scribble anywhere on the screen, and hold your finger down until you get the background color you want to appear.

Orange pen added to Instagram Story of a black cat Orange color setting in Instagram

If you want to get really crazy, you could use the eraser tool (the fourth option) to create new words or shapes from the background, too.

Orange background added to Instagram Story of a black cat

6. Mention another Instagram account in your Story.

Sometimes, it’s just not enough to send an Instagram Story to a particular person — you need to give them a shoutout in the photo or video itself. In these cases, Instagram allows you to tag up to 10 specific handles directly in your Story’s photo or video.

To mention an Instagram account in your Story, shoot a photo or video and then tap the square “A” icon in the upper righthand corner of the screen. Enter the account you’d like to tag, starting with the “@” symbol and the account’s first letter. Scroll through the suggested accounts that appear below your cursor until you find the account you have in mind, and tap it. See what these options look like below.

Instagram Story mentioning another account in a photo

Once you post this Story, the person or account you’ve tagged in the photo or video will receive a notification of your shoutout, regardless of whether or not you send the Story to them.

7. Make your text funkier.

The text on Instagram Stories is pretty basic — jazz it up with these tricks.

Customize your colors.

If you’re unsatisfied with the color palette Instagram offers, create your own from one of the colors in the photo or video you’ve captured.

Open up the text icon, and tap the eyedropper icon in the lower left-hand corner of your screen.

Dropper icon to change custom color of Instagram Story text

Use the dropper to sample a color from somewhere in the image you’ve captured, and use it when typing out text or using the pen tool.

Dropper icon set to black in Instagram

Add a drop shadow to your Story’s text.

If you want to add some extra drama to your text, add highlighting or shadowing by retyping or rewriting your text in a different color. I recommend choosing black or white to add emphasis to a bright color you’ve picked. Then, move the text above or underneath the brighter text to add some drama to your words.

Instagram Story of Leela the cat Instagram Story of Leela the cat with white shaded text

Turn your text into a rainbow.

This one’s tricky, but you can actually turn your text into a gradient rainbow.

Tap the text icon, and type out your message to add to your Story. Then, highlight your text.


This is where it gets tricky: Turn your phone to the side so you can hold one finger down on the right side of your text, and with another finger, tap on a color and hold until the color wheel pops up.

Rainbow color bar in Instagram

Then, slowly drag both fingers across both the text and the color wheel from right to left to create rainbow text. Go slowly, letter by letter until you’ve created a rainbow. (This one took me several tries before I nailed it, and I succeeded using both thumbs to highlight the text and the color wheel.)

I wonder if Leela knows she is my model for when I write step-by-step instructions in blog posts

— Sophia Bernazzani (@soph_bern) November 19, 2017

Gradually add text to a Story.

Sometimes, you might want to add text or stickers to an image to build on it — perhaps to promote a content offer or event, or to encourage viewers to swipe up to read a link you’ve shared (this is only available to verified accounts).

Start editing the photo you want to share, post it, and save it to your camera roll. Then, swipe up on your screen to add the screenshot to the next installment of your Story — adding new text or stickers on top of the first photo. Keep doing this for as long as you want the Story to last — just make sure to keep taking screenshots of your latest photo so you can add to it.

gradual1.png gradual2.pngInstagram Story of Leela the cat with purple and yellow captions and design

8. See who has viewed your Instagram Story.

Snapchat users have always been able to see which of their friends have viewed their snapped Stories over the 24-hour period that the Story is visible. Well, Instagram Stories can do the same thing — in exactly the same way.

To see who has viewed your Instagram Story, navigate to the homepage of Instagram on your phone and click on the circular icon denoting your Story. See what this looks like in the screenshot below.

instagram-story-homeImage by Mari Smith

Click on “Your Story” from the Instagram home screen and swipe up from the bottom of your open Story. This will pull up a list of all the accounts that have viewed this content.

Seeing who’s viewed your Story might be an ego boost to personal Instagrammers, but business users can learn a lot about what their followers are interested in this way. By looking at which users view which Stories, you can figure out which types of photos and videos you should keep posting.

9. Center your text and stickers.

When you’re moving around text and stickers on your story, you’ll see blue lines appear vertically or horizontally in the frame. These are guiding lines you can use to make sure you’re keeping everything centered.

centered1.png centered2.png

Don’t put your text too high or too low on the screen.

That said, make sure you don’t add anything to your Story too high or too low in the frame — or it will be cut off when viewers scroll through your Story, when Instagram adds things like your name and how long ago your story was posted that could block out your carefully-crafted text.

10. Add music to a Story.

This one’s easy: Turn on music using your phone’s native streaming app, and record a video Story. Once you get ready to edit and share, make sure the sound icon isn’t muted so your viewers can jam with you.

Alternatively, if you’d rather your video be muted, tap the sound icon so an “X” appears over it.

unmuted1.png unmuted2.png

11. Upload Instagram Stories from your phone’s camera roll.

Great Instagram Stories aren’t just created through the Instagram app. You can also upload photo and video content from your mobile device’s native camera roll.

To upload a photo or video for use as an Instagram Story, open your Instagram Story’s camera lens and tap the little square icon on the bottom lefthand of the screen. See what this looks like below.


Tapping the icon shown above will call up your phone’s native media gallery, where you can select any photo or video to publish as an Instagram Story. It’s that easy.

We hope these tips help you post killer Instagram Stories your audience won’t be able to stop following. There are lots of hidden ways to take your Stories to the next level — some we may not even have covered here. Our best advice? Keep clicking around and see what you can do with the latest updates from the app. Happy ‘gramming!

Instagram Stories

Originally published Apr 1, 2021 4:00:00 PM, updated April 07 2021


Instagram Marketing

Don’t forget to share this post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *