The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Stories

If you’ve been thinking about using Instagram Stories for business, now is the time! Not only are Instagram Stories a fun and creative way to engage with your followers, but they can also help you grow your engagement, build brand awareness, drive traffic, and even make ecommerce sales!

In the Ultimate Guide to Instagram Stories, we cover everything from the strategy behind how to use Instagram Stories for business, to the fun tools and hacks you can use to create your own Instagram Stories:

Why Use Instagram Stories for Business?

When Instagram Stories first came out in August last year, all anyone could talk about was how Instagram had copied Snapchat. That’s how it was perceived: as a thinly veiled attempt to steal Snapchat’s market share.

While this is true to an extent, it’s also a fairly one-dimensional view of the feature. Instagram Stories isn’t a copy of Snapchat, it’s a better version of Snapchat. And not just for regular people who want to share ephemeral photos and videos of themselves with their followers, but for businesses too! Like they did with photo and video sharing, Instagram has managed to turn ephemeral messaging into an effective tool for businesses without ruining it for consumers.

Indeed, Instagram Stories is one of those special channels that’s equally attractive to both regular people and businesses. And it offers features for both! Whether you want to share fun and lighthearted content, promote a marketing campaign, or even drive ecommerce sales, you can do it all with Instagram Stories for business.

How to Use Instagram Stories for Business

True to Instagram’s easy-to-use interface, creating a story on Instagram is actually very simple. However, because Instagram has released so many new features for Instagram Stories in the past few months, it can be a bit difficult to keep track of them all. We’ll get to some of those later, but for now, here’s a refresher on how to create a story on Instagram Stories:

1. Swipe right from your home screen or tap the camera icon in the top left corner of the screen to open the Instagram camera.

2. Take a photo by tapping the record button or take a video by pressing down on the record button for up to 10 seconds. You also have the option of taking a boomerang, rewind, or hands-free video.

Other buttons:

  • Half moon: Setting that helps you take warmer photos when shooting in low-light conditions.
  • Thunderbolt: The flash button.
  • Arrows: Switch from front-facing camera to back-facing camera and vice-versa.
  • Smiley face: Instagram’s new face filters feature which are almost an exact replica of Snapchat’s Lenses.
3. You can also upload a previously taken photo or video from your camera roll by swiping up or down. The photo or video has to have been taken in the past 24 hours, but there’s a hack to get around that!
4. Tapping anywhere on the screen will bring up the text tool. You can play with text size and color, and you can also use the “@” sign to tag another account, or the “#” sign to share a hashtag.

Instagram recently launched the ability to search for Stories by location and hashtag, meaning that if you include a hashtag in your story, other users can see it even if they don’t follow you!

5. Select from one of three different pen styles to doodle on your photo. You can also erase any drawings that you add to your story with the eraser brush.

6. You can also add stickers by selecting the sticker button in the top right corner of your screen or by swiping up on your story. Some of the more important ones include a location sticker, which lets you tag the location of your story, a hashtag sticker, and a selfie sticker that lets you take a mini-selfie which becomes a sticker that you can edit and save for later use!

7. You can also swipe right or left to apply different filters.

8. When you’re done, tap the “Next” button to share!

Your story will appear at the top of your followers’ feeds, but it will also be visible on your profile page by tapping your profile picture.

9. You can find out how well your Instagram story is performing by swiping up while viewing your story. This will display the number as well as the names of people who have seen each photo or video in your story.

You can also view Instagram Insights for your Instagram Stories, but you have to opt-in to this feature first!

To see insights for your Instagram story, head to your profile and select the Insights icon in the top right corner. Next, scroll down and tap “Get Started” in the Stories section. Now when you open your Business Profile,  impressions, reach and other metrics related to your Stories will be included in your Instagram insights.

There are a ton of other hidden features on Instagram Stories that we haven’t mentioned. If you want to learn about some of the more popular ones, we wrote a blog post about them!

How to Create an Instagram Stories Strategy

With more people using Instagram Stories every day, it’s important to have a strategy in place for sharing content if you’re using Instagram Stories for business. This is especially true if your goal is to grow your Instagram engagement.  

When Instagram added the suggested Stories section to the top of the Explore page last year, they introduced a new way for people to discover content on Instagram. Like with the Instagram feed algorithm, the Instagram Stories algorithm makes it easier for people to find content that they might be interested in, even if they don’t follow the account that creates it.

In other words, if you’re able to get your story featured on the Explore page, it can mean a ton of new followers and engagement! And the great thing is that it’s possible to optimize your Stories to have a better chance of appearing on the Explore page.

How Often to Post on Instagram Stories

Unlike regular Instagram posts, which are subject to the sometimes fickle Instagram algorithm, Instagram won’t penalize you for posting too often. This likely has to do with the ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories: because a story only exists for 24 hours, there isn’t much pressure for Instagram to prioritize some posts over others on a users’ feed. This might change in the future as more accounts starting using Instagram Stories regularly, but until that day, it’s important to know that you won’t get penalized… by Instagram, that is.

A few months after releasing Stories, Instagram introduced the ability to mute other users’ stories. To mute someone’s Instagram story, all you need to do is tap and hold on their Instagram Stories avatar. This moves the story to the end of the queue and prevents it from autoplaying. You can think of the mute tool as a way for Instagram users to block annoying accounts. Because of the way people watch Stories, if you post too many Stories at once and it takes your followers 15+ taps to get to the next account’s story, there’s a good chance you might get muted.

That’s not to say that posting a ton of Instagram Stories is a bad thing. It really comes down to your content and what your followers expect from you! Some accounts can get away with posting 10+ Stories a day, while are better off posting just a few times a week.

Take @leefromamerica for example. She’s a fitness and lifestyle blogger who often posts 10+ Stories each day. And it works for her! In fact, posting multiple Stories has sort of become her brand.

While posting multiple times a day works for some accounts, it might not work for you. It can take a lot of time and planning to create a 10+ Instagram Stories, so if you think your time is best served elsewhere, it’s probably best to stick to just a few Stories per week. Plus, if you consistently post a ton of Stories, your followers are going to expect you to continue doing so.

At the end of the day, there’s really no “optimal” frequency for Stories, but it’s good to have enough throughout the week that people look forward to seeing yours without getting tired of your content!

When to Post on Instagram Stories

When it comes to regular Instagram posts, it’s very important to post when your followers are most active. But this isn’t the case with Instagram Stories. Due to their ephemeral nature, Instagram Stories can only exist for a maximum of 24 hours. That’s 24 hours of being at the top of your followers’ feeds! So even if you post a story at a time when the majority of your followers are asleep, they’ll still be able to see your story at the top of their feeds when they wake up.

In other words, don’t stress out too much about posting your Instagram Stories at optimal times. The whole point of Stories is for the content to be current! That being said, if you’re looking for immediate engagement on your Instagram Stories, posting when your followers are most active will help.

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What to Post on Instagram Stories

Like with regular posts, if you’re using Instagram Stories for business, it’s good to post a mix of fun, lighthearted content and promotional content. Instagram Stories is a pretty relaxed place in general, and the quality standards are a lot lower than they are for regular posts. So don’t be afraid of posting something goofy: a short video of your office dog or a picture of your team out for post-work drinks. The great thing about Instagram Stories is that because they’ve created so many cool tools, the world is really your oyster. You can get as creative as you like with your Stories — and there are a ton of great examples out there!

The same is true for promotional content on Instagram Stories. It’s easy to create promotional Stories that are also fun and lighthearted. And there are a ton of creative ways to use Instagram stories for business. That being said, when it comes to promotional content on Instagram Stories, there are a few things you can do to get the most bang for your buck:

Use Location and Hashtag Stickers to Increase Your Discoverability

When Instagram first introduced stickers to Instagram Stories last December, they were more fun than useful. Since that time, Instagram has added a ton of new functionalities to stickers, including the ability to see location-based Stories on the Explore page, and, most recently, the ability to search for a Stories by location and hashtag.

instagram stories for business

These features have made a huge difference. Whereas at first you could only share Instagram Stories with your own followers, Stories are now searchable by location and hashtag, meaning anyone can see your Stories now!

That’s why we recommend always using location and hashtag stickers in your Stories. If you can get enough people to engage with your story, you might even end up on the Explore page.

Use Links in Your Instagram Stories

Instagram recently rolled out the ability to add links to Instagram Stories and it’s a pretty big deal. In fact, it’s the first time ever that users can add a link to Instagram that isn’t the link in their bio!

It goes without saying that the ability to send your followers to specific landing pages from your Stories is extremely useful. Whether that’s a product page or a new blog post, you can use this feature to drive traffic to relevant landing pages!

Tag Other Accounts in Your Instagram Stories

We all know how effective Instagram contests are for driving engagement and getting new followers, and with the ability to tag other accounts in Instagram Stories, there’s yet another way to drive traffic to your contests.

Tagging other accounts in your Stories is also useful if you’re running a takeover or influencer campaign.

Instagram Stories is quickly becoming one of the best channels to drive engagement, build brand awareness, drive traffic, and even make ecommerce sales! If you haven’t started with Instagram Stories for business yet, hopefully this guide gives you some motivation and direction for creating your own Instagram Stories for business.

Ready to jump-start your Instagram engagement? Later makes it easy for you to plan, manage, and schedule your Instagram posts!

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Written By

Benjamin Chacon

Benjamin is a Content Writer at Later and recent transplant from Toronto. You can follow his day-to-day exploits on Instagram @benjaminchacs.