Instagram Stories: The Ultimate Guide (With Examples)

The purpose of this article is to help you out get started with creating great Instagram Stories for your business, personal brand or just for marketing yourself on the platform.

Instagram was first launched back in August 2016 and quickly became one of the most famous variations of social media.

It now has nearly 1 billion daily active users, with the numbers only growing more and more each day.

Since its launch, it has also increased the average time users spend on the app – from the previous 24 minutes to now 32 minutes daily.

According to Instagram, “Stories made Instagram a place for people to share all of their moments – the highlights and everything in between”.

Instagram Stories is a fun and creative way for people to express themselves and stretch their creative legs but it’s also a great avenue for brands to grow their engagement, reach more people, build brand awareness, drive more traffic to their website and even make more sales.

So Instagram is a great video marketing channel for anyone if you ask me.

Since its launch, its helped several businesses such as Teen Vogue, Insider, and Bustle grow their brand exponentially – and it can help yours, too.

These days many businesses, from restaurants, tech corporations, news portals, clothing lines, telcos, organizations and even government agencies now utilize Instagram Stories to reach a wider audience and give them regular updates.

What is Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories are short 15-second videos or photos you share on your profile that disappear after 24 hours.

Whereas your profile is the place for curated photos and videos you want to share with your followers, Stories are more-genuine, real-time glimpses of your life which are separate from the photos or videos that you post on your profile.

Depending on your settings, your stories can be viewed by your followers or may be viewable by the public.

The biggest thing that separates Stories from regular posts is its authenticity and intimacy.

Many brands use them as a way to post teasers about a new event or product, have a business announcement, or take them behind the scenes to see how their brand operates.

This creates a special 1:1 relationship with their audience, increasing their sense of brand loyalty.

To really make your Instagram Stories pop you need to have them edited in nice way. I know most Instagram video are not edited at all, especially stories, but it really makes a difference.

Here is an article to help you pick a video editing app for Instagram.

If you need help with the editing feel free to reach out to our video editing company and we can help.

Another fun thing about Instagram Stories is the near-infinite options it gives you to get creative with your photos and videos:

  • Stickers
  • Polls
  • Writing text
  • GIFs
  • Freehand drawing/writing
  • Filters
  • Boomerang (a Boomerang is a short, soundless clip that plays forwards and backwards on a loop. It’s a cool feature to use for things like jump shots, pouring drinks, throwing confetti, etc.)
  • Live Stories
  • Hands-Free (Allows you to record without holding down on the record button)
  • Countdown (great for promotions or events)
  • Ask Me Anything
  • Quizzes
  • Sliders
  • Link to Websites

To add links on your stories:

  • Click the link icon (it looks like a chain).
  • Copy the link of the web page you to link your story to.
  • Paste the link into the link field.
  • Click done and publish your story.
  • Since Instagram Stories are only available for 24 hours, it’s best to put links to time-sensitive promotions such as sales or limited products.

Apart from the disappearing Stories, Instagram has also introduced Stories archive and highlights.

  • Archive – Your archived Stories are Stories that have expired (i.e. gone past 24 hours) and housed in a sort of camera roll. Only you can view them unless you choose to reshare it to your Story. You can also…
  • Highlights – Add it as a highlight. A highlight is a circular tab that appears on your profile and is a group of archived Stories that you’ve chosen to made public. You can customize your highlights however you want – group them into different categories (travel, friends, pets, fitness, etc.) and you can even choose your own highlight cover. Your followers can then view your highlights whenever they want.

Why You Should Use Instagram Stories

There’s no question about it: Instagram Stories is here to stay.

If you want your business to stay relevant and connected with your audience, you need to keep up with the latest in social media trends.

One-third of the most-viewed Instagram Stories are from businesses.

Millions of businesses have embraced Instagram Stories as a way of reaching out to their audience and it has proved to be widely successful for them.

50% of businesses create at least Instagram Story a day to maintain engagement, visibility, conversion and overall brand awareness.

Use Instagram Stories wisely so that you can grow your audience. According to a study conducted by Buffer, posting between one to seven Stories is best for maintaining a high completion rate (over 70%).

A completion rate is determined by the number of times your Stories was watched from the first post up until the last given the 24-hour timeframe.

Since Instagram Stories only last 24 hours, you’ll want to maximize your reach by posting when your audience is online to see it.

The best time to post is when most of your audience is most active.

Use location tags to make your business more discoverable locally and globally. Don’t forget to create and include hashtags in your posts. This increases your searchability as well as your audience recall.

Don’t forget to regularly engage with your audience! Set up polls to get to know your audience more.

Ask questions or let your followers ask questions using the “Ask me anything” feature.

The more you interact with your audience, the more engagement you’ll get!

59% of Millennials and 70% of Gen Z users watch Instagram Stories.

A huge percentage of Instagram’s demographic is made up of Millennials and Gen Z-ers.

Their Instagram habits extend beyond watching friends and family’s stories, however.

According to a study by VidMob, 1 in 4 Millennials and Gen Z-ers look for Stories of the products or services they want to buy, proving that Instagram Stories does more than just increase visibility – it’s an effective promotional tool.

Instagram has incorporated to e-commerce features into their stories.

  • Shopping bag notification – This allows users to click directly on a sticker on the Story and shop the item(s) on your site. This helps create an easy and seamlessly shopping experience for users.
  • Swipe up feature – Brands can also link websites to their stories using a “swipe up” feature. This helps drive traffic to your website and boost your sales. Possible pages you can link to include product pages, landing pages and blogs.

Run Instragam Stories Ads

In March 2017, Instagram released Instagram Story ads to all its business accounts. This allows business accounts to use targeting and reach capabilities to make ads relevant to viewers.

You can run Instagram Story Ads in a number of ways including Creative Hub, Ads Manager or the API.

Instagram Stories for Business to Try


Airbnb uses stories to create fun, engaging and interactive travel-related quizzes to interact with their followers.

In some of their Stories, they use polls to let their followers guess the locations of their photos.

Image from Buffer

Promote deals and blogs

Hopper uses Instagram Stories and the “Swipe Up” feature to let their followers know about their latest offers and content.

Image from Buffer

How-To’s and Tutorials

Instagram Stories slideshow format makes it perfect for tutorials and how-to type content.

This is perfect for recipes, hair and makeup tutorials, DIY projects, and home renovation projects.

Beauty brands benefit from using this format because users can see how to use their products.

Clinique posting beauty tutorials through a series of Stories.

Countdown Stickers

Countdowns are perfect for product/service launches or events in order to build hype and excitement.

You can also use countdown stickers to make an announcement about a sale or a promotion that’s about to end, creating a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out).

Share User-Generated Content (UGC)

Sharing tagged photos from your users is a smart way to engage your customers and showcase your users.

For instance, Converse users their #FOREVERCHUCK hashtag to proudly feature their followers’ photos in their Stories.

Stories are the perfect place to display your UGC if you’re particular about your main profile (as you should be) and don’t want to spam your followers’ feeds.

Reposting UGC is also important so you can let your followers know that you’re paying attention to them and that they matter to your brand.

Interactive Templates

This is a fun way to get to know your followers and boost your visibility!

You can use it to let people know more about your brand or just for fun. Samples of templates you can make include list of favorites, bingo type quizzes, this or that.

Behind-the-Scenes Stories

Part of the appeal of Instagram Stories is its intimacy. Many brands such as Teen Vogue use Instagram Stories to take users behind-the-scenes of events and photo shoots.

This gives your followers a more direct relationship with you and makes them feel like they’re getting a cool, exclusive look at how things go on behind the curtain.

Colourpop also frequently takes their users on tours of their factory and shows them swatches of products they are currently working on.

Behind-the-scenes stories work best for events and press conferences because it allows users to be a part of the event without actually having to be there.

This also allows brand to promote their event without clogging up their feed.

Offer a Sneak Peek

Instagram Stories is the best way to tease your users with upcoming products or services.

The optimum way to do this is by combining both photos and videos in your teasers. You can even create a special hashtag to create even more buzz about your new product.

J. crew presenting their new shades

They even utilized Instagram Stories further by offering their followers early access to the first 50 pairs of their shades.

J.crew added a promo to their sneak peek.

Time-Sensitive Offers, Deals and Promos

Because Instagram Stories happen in real-time and are only around for 24 hours, they’re the perfect avenue for creating a sense of urgency and FOMO.

You can use Instagram Stories for limited-time deals or sales.

Whole Foods uses Instagram Stories to promote their “Delish Deals” specials which are items that are currently on sale at their stores and provides an end-date so their followers are better informed.


Amp up your chance to be seen by collaborating with another brand or influencer!

They could be from someone in the same industry or could be someone famous. If it’s the latter, be warned that this could be a paid advertisement/collaboration.

The exposure you get from the exposure will be well worth it however.

There are several ways you can collaborate over Instagram Stories.

Instagram Takeover

You can switch Instagram accounts and let the other user run your account for the day.

Post Photos of Each Other

This is the simplest way to collab.

Don’t forget to tag the other person!

This will organically draw interest to the other person and encourage people to check out the other person’s account.

Exclusive Giveaways

One of the most popular reasons for having a collaboration is to have a giveaway.

This could be a product bundle, a service, a membership, subscription or even a chance to meet the influencer themselves!

Reaction Sliders

Reaction sliders are a type of sticker you can use to gauge how much your followers like for instance a photo you’ve posted.

Brands use sliders to boost their engagement rate and build excitement about products.

Since you can choose the emoji to use on your slider, brands typically go for the “heart eye” emoji to show how much followers love their product.

You can also use sliders to conduct surveys on your Stories. Check out how Colourpop used sliders on their Stories.

Use sliders to ask your followers to rank their opinions about your products.

“New Post”

Instagram changed its algorithm from a chronological one to one that’s based on the specific user’s preferences (basing it on likes, following, searches, among others).

Because of this, a user may not always see the newest posts from the people they are following.

This is where Instagram Stories come in handy.

You can post a teaser about a new post on your feed, with an emoji covering your most recent post and a CTA encouraging them to head on to your profile.

Direct your followers to your new posts using Instagram Stories.


Because Instagram Stories are only up for 24 hours, they inherently have a sense of urgency attached to them, making it a great way to promote a contest or giveaway!

Post a photo of the prize and rules i.e. “reply to this story with your email address to enter.”

You can then randomly pick a winner from the data you’ve collected.

Alternatively, you could run a competition on your profile and promote it on your Stories.

As what we’ve mentioned earlier about the algorithm change, there’s a chance your followers could’ve missed your competition posts so posting it on your Stories exposes your competition to more eyeballs.

Instagram Stories create a sense of urgency perfect for contests.

Instagram Accounts We Love

The Everygirl

The Everygirl is marketed towards career-centric Millennial women. They’ve fostered a sense of community with their followers by asking them questions such as what they should a Sephora gift card on, opinions on home decor purchases, and polls.

They also use their platform to educate their followers on currents such as the government shutdown.

The Everygirl posts socially relevant content geared towards Millennial women.

National Geographic

It’s not difficult to imagine that National Geographic has a treasure trove of images and experiences to draw on for Instagram Stories content.

They post intimate behind-the-scenes photos and videos of various shoots and events they’re attending.

On top of this, they aim to educate their followers by posting informational video clips and interesting facts.

They also use Instagram’s poll feature to quiz their followers on random trivia.

National Geographic uses polls to quiz their followers.


Netflix is skilled at generating engagement using Instagram Stories.

For instance, they use the slider feature to ask their followers to rate how embarrassing a certain television moment is.

They’ll also quiz their followers on their knowledge on TV trivia.

Netflix loves posting engaging content such as polls and quizzes.


Glossier has mastered the art of Instagram Stories and is constantly connecting with their followers.

They frequently post user-generated content on their Stories in a “Top 5” highlight, ask followers for their skincare resolutions and features them, and answers their followers beauty questions.

Glossier encourages their users to answer questions through DMs.


Chipotle is all about promoting a healthy lifestyle to its followers by educating them about different types of diets such as Keto, Paleo and Whole30.

When a viewer opens their Story, they can see diet-specific options that are available at Chipotle.

Chipotle’s Stories educates its users about healthy eating. is good at mixing up their Stories but the ones we love the most are their travel tips.

They post tips about various travel-related topics including solo travels and budget traveling. posting travel tips.


Instagram Stories have become an important part of many digital marketing social media strategy and it should be a part of yours as well.

Let your imagination run wild and tell your brand’s story through Instagram Stories.

Initiate a conversation with questions, start polls, tell stories about your products or services, offer glimpses into events, share ideas with your followers.

Don’t forget to make your followers a part of the conversation as well.

Ask for their opinion on topics, post their photos or videos, and ask for their feedback.

Foster a sense of community with them through your Stories and nurture it with constant and consistent posting and engagement.

About the author:

Rebecca Van Ommen is the Executive Creative Director of Paper Boat Creative, a creative agency that specializes in high-end photo retouching, photo editing, and more. She was one of the youngest Art Directors for Getty Images in London. Her work has been published through some of the world’s largest advertising agencies including Mother, AKQA and BBDO London. Rebecca loves to exercise in her spare time. She also enjoys bringing her daughter to photoshoots for inspiration

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