Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    Stories are the cream of the social media crop – they are personal, allow consuming a maximum amount of content with minimum attention and satisfy hum...

    Stories are the cream of the social media crop – they are personal, allow consuming a maximum amount of content with minimum attention and satisfy humans’ natural inquisitiveness and slight voyeuristic inclination at the same time. Whether or not your business is using Instagram yet, it’s not too late to jump on the Stories bandwagon.

    Stories are drawing huge audiences daily, are easy to produce and consume, so let’s take a deep dive into the format and survey all aspects of the emerging giant up close.

    We’ve arranged all the sections of the post pyramid-style, so that everything you need to know to take advantage of each next section fully is laid out in the sections before it. Go from basics to advanced in 20 minutes, or skip the parts you already know to focus on bare-bone essentials:

    A. Should you use Instagram Stories for Business

    B. 5 basic content formats for Stories

    C. 12 Story types every social media manager needs to know

    D. Figuring out your Story voice

    E. Three ways to reach wider audiences with your Story

    F. Quick look at advertising in Stories

    G. Brands and profiles to watch for Story ideas and pointers

    H. Evaluating results

    A. Should you use Instagram Stories for business

    Stories sharing is set to surpass feed posts volume this year, but if you need more arguments before investing your time and resources in your company’s Story game, we’ve got you covered!

    Stories are the future

    Instagram Stories at a glance:

    • 400 million daily users
    • Built-in sense of urgency (they disappear after 24 hours)
    • Easy to produce and consume
    • Low content fatigue

    Instagram Stories have been growing in popularity ever since they first launched in August of 2016. A little over a year later – in November 2017 – Instagram Story daily users number reached astounding 300 million.

    Last year, the number of daily Story users saw a 30%+ increase, up to 400 million daily users by June of 2018.

    What makes Stories so enticing? They are set up to be unfailingly relevant by duration limits and shelf life – each Story can be up to 15 seconds long and only stays on the platform for 24 hours after posting.

    Unlike other social media formats – posts, links, and status updates, – the ephemeral nature of a Story is targeted not only at users’ FOMO (I wish I’d been there!), but creates a sense of urgency to check interesting updates asap. Stories become an event in and of themselves – check an update from a brand, celebrity or a personal account NOW, before it disappears forever (unless included in highlights, but more on that later).

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    Images from Instagram’s official Year in Review 2018 video

    Easy to produce & consume

    Relaxed, informal style of the majority of Instagram Story updates provides for easy production of content for Stories. Brands can add text or stickers to their images directly in the app interface, film short updates with their phones or include lower-quality shots or videos as long as they provide immediate value to their followers.

    This is a low-effort, high return medium as long as brands understand the needs of their target audience and don’t spam aimlessly.

    Since users can skip or tap through Stories they aren’t that interested in or only watch ones from accounts they want to stay updated on right now, Stories are easy to consume and rarely get boring – more on the latter in the section below.

    If you’re looking for professional-looking Instagram Story design templates, check out VistaCreate’s vast Instagram Story template library. All th templates there are free and fully customizable!


    One of the strongest suits of Stories is versatility. When watching their Story feed, users have rich variety of fresh, of-the-moment content to choose from at any given time. This translates into low content fatigue, even if a user is following many accounts that provide similar content.

    Think the once trendy photography accounts with all the beautiful countryside, nature and city aesthetic shots that once took your breath away but got repetitive and all blurred into one faster than you would’ve expected. You might not be able to tell feed updates of one travel photography account you follow from the next, but Stories are personal and become a signature that sets a profile apart.

    B. 5 basic content formats for Stories

    There are five main content formats users can post to Stories:

    1. video updates
    2. photos
    3. text posts
    4. link updates
    5. multi-Story stories

    Let’s look at the essential properties of each and study a few examples.


    Video updates can be up to 15 seconds long and can either be recorded through the app or pre-made and uploaded from users’ phone galleries. The aspect ratio is 9:16, and the recommended dimensions are 1080 by 1920 pixels.

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    Just like Story pioneer Snapchat, Instagram has a variety of face filters to make talking-head-type Story updates fun and goofy.

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    To post a longer video to one’s Story, Instagram users would have to do a Live cast – such streams can be up to 60 minutes long. Users have the option to keep them on their profile for 24 hours if needed.


    Photo updates to a business’ Story are often pictures of products, events, or even screenshots with text and still or animated stickers to highlight the key message.

    A single image update makes up for an around 6 second long Story. Non-vertical images will be automatically supplemented with a matching background (perfect space for adding text).

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business


    Another way to make a Story update is plain text. Since the image with the text on it is only shown to users for a few seconds, most text posts are short and to the point or broken up into several Story updates.

    For such text updates, Instagram users either add text on an image outside Instagram or share a ready image through the platform, like this Story from Wikipedia:

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    or type the text in directly through the app, like this Story from Nutella:

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business


    Instagram allows accounts with 10,000+ followers as well as verified accounts to add links to their Story updates.

    Companies are typically linking to articles or product/landing pages, which users can then go to by swiping up within the app:

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    Multi-Story stories

    Another popular way to post content in the Story format is a multi-Story update. Most often accounts simply cut a single video into several 15-second pieces, but creating several connected video or photo cards that together make up a coherent story is becoming more and more popular:

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    C. 12 Instagram Story types every social media manager needs to know

    Among all the different types of content Instagram allows its users to share — Instagram posts, Instagram Reels, Instagram carousel, etc. — a developed IG Stories strategy is the best investment for a brand to make. The reason for this is that Instagram Stories for business have low content fatigue. Not only because every brand, celebrity, influencer, or meme account tries to personalize their own Instagram Stories to stand out from the crowd but also because there are so many different routes your Insta story update can take. 

    No matter how many personal or branded Instagram Stories Instagram users have seen before yours, it’ll still have a fresh feel. A win-win situation!

    Here are the 12 key Story types any brand should have written into their Instagram marketing strategy:

    • Backstage peeks: Take Instagram marketing to the next level with Instagram Stories that show what’s happening inside your business. Show off your production line, lift the curtain into your office life, and tease your audience with short clips of your marketing campaign-making process. 
    • Announcements: Create Stories on Instagram to share important news or make announcements. Scheduling Instagram Stories of this kind in advance allows you to be sure you’re always on top of your Instagram marketing strategy and don’t miss an important publication. 
    • Giveaways: Attract new followers with a quick and easy giveaway. Either use Instagram Stories ads to promote your profile giveaway, or host a Stories-exclusive event to increase your Instagram Story engagement rate. Depending on the Instagram contest mechanic, creating branded Instagram Stories will be more or less important. 
    • Brief interviews: Provide value to your followers by creating photo- or video-based Instagram Stories with answers to popular questions. You can either answer those questions yourself or invite an expert to interview. 
    • Event teasers/glimpses: Make your audience anticipate the upcoming event even more with a sneak peek of what to expect. Designing Instagram Stories that showcase VIP guests that will be attending your event can help you sell out your event quicker! 
    • Unboxing videos: Everyone loves a good unboxing video, so it’s one of the top content ideas for your Instagram Stories for business. You can either film it yourself or hire a UGC creator to provide you with clips. Consider sharing these videos on your Instagram Stories Highlights to set certain expectations packaging-wise. 
    • Product sampling/demonstrations: Show off the exceptional quality of your products by hosting product demos right in your Instagram Stories. Then, make sure to save these publications in the Instagram Stories Highlights so that more people see how amazing your product is. 
    • Vlogging: Add some personality to your Instagram business profile and put a face to the name. The more you humanize your brand with the help of Insta Stories vlogging, the easier it will be to convert customers from Instagram.
    • Games: Add some fun to your Instagram marketing by creating entertaining micro-games in your Instagram Stories for business. For example, spot the difference, mazes, word search, etc. Not only will this put a smile on your followers’ faces, but it will also make them interact with your Instagram Stories content for longer, signaling the platform that your Instagram business profile is interesting. 
    • Polls: Instagram Polls are among the most versatile Instagram Story tools — you can use it to get to know your audience, test different variations of your product, or just entertain your followers.
    • Taking questions from users: Use the Questions Instagram Stories sticker to host Q&A sessions and build a stronger relationship with your followers. Remember, one of the goals outlined in your Instagram marketing strategy is to establish two-way communication with your targer audience. 
    • Countdowns: Cooking up something major for your audience? Warm them up using Instagram Stories with the countdown functionality. 

    D. Figuring out your Story voice

    Like the rest of your brand communications, your company Story voice needs to resonate with your audience, product/services, and company image while staying relevant to the platform vibe – Instagram, obviously – simultaneously. 

    You main goal here is to tread the line between keeping Story updates recognizable (and thus anticipated) and venturing into the territory of repetitive and dull updates. You want to avoid your subscribers wanting to skip your Story every time and inevitably mute you, if not unfollow altogether.

    Find your style

    Your Story style does not need to be as calculated as a feed ‘theme’, but you’ll benefit from defining your strongest Story-making points and leaning heavily on them. Consider the type of updates your company wants to share via Stories and the type of content you can feasibly provide, and then focus on studying the feedback.

    • Monitor your Story stats as well as Story comments and responses to single out the type of content your subscribers are fans of.
    • Selecting three to four main Story types that get the most positive response will help you create a predictable pattern your users will enjoy while not getting monotonous to the point of giving your followers a sense of deja vu.

    Success story

    One example of how a Story voice can seriously elevate an account is Hollywood actor Busy Philipps. See, multi-Story vlog-style talking head type of updates for sure are not everyone’s cup of tea, but the star made them her own. Her Instagram is full of such Stories, and the exposure she received from the popularity of her updates is massive.

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    Philipps likes to share multi-Story updates talking about daily struggles, current affairs, giving a peek into her daily routines and challenges, the life highs and, sometimes, the lows of a B-list celebrity in LA.

    Busy’s Stories aren’t just a curious depiction of her life fascinating her 1.5 million followers, her updates have actually made news (and some money for the actor – in one of her Stories, the actor confessed to earning more through Instagram than acting in 2016). The phenomenal success of Philipps’ Story updates made headlines in The Guardian, AdWeek, and The New Yorker.

    And while we all know the old joke about the artist who died of exposure, the result of Busy’s efforts is nothing short of excellent – in the fall of 2018, the actor landed her very own talk show Busy Tonight.

    E. Three ways to reach wider audiences with your Story

    If you intend to use Instagram Stories for business, your Story reach is essential to securing that coveted high ROI. In addition to the straightforward approach of improving Story views through profile growth and follower engagement, there are four additional ways to expanding your Story audience:

    • Instagram Stories Highlights
    • Hashtags
    • Location Instagram Stories stickers
    • Ads

    Instagram Story Highlights

    Every Story you post is saved to your profile’s private Archive. You can add any or all of them to Story Highlights (you can create multiples and title each individually). Highlights are displayed under profile bio, and users can watch them long after the expiration period of 24 hours has passed.

    Highlights are a sure way to give your content more exposure but keep in mind that including all of your Story updates to Highlights might devalue the sense of urgency to check out your updates before they expire.


    In 2017, Instagram launched Story search by hashtag. That helped individual Stories be discovered by a wider audience than just an account’s follower list plus lurkers. Later that year users got an option to follow hashtags along with regular profiles.

    All of the new features helped Stories expand its reach. Review your Instagram marketing strategy and improve it with a few relevant hashtags to improve your Instagram business account visibility.

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    Location stickers

    Geotagging Instagram posts have long been a reliable way to attract audiences interested in a specific location. Instagram has introduced location stickers for geotagging Stories in December of 2016, updating them with cute custom stickers for various locations in 2017.

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    A Story by Design Boom


    Finally, if you want your updates to reach even wider audiences, you’ll need to pay for Instagram Story Ads.

    Right now, Instagram Stories ads appear after every other native Instagram Story on users’ feeds (as per our own casual observations), and as long as such ads fit the interests of the viewer, they can be pretty effective for building brand awareness or attracting traffic to a page/website.

    Story ads appear with a disclaimer ‘Sponsored’ under the username of the advertiser.

    F. Quick look at advertising in Stories

    Your advertising options in Stories aren’t limited to the obvious single photo or video update. You can create a multi-Story ad – a ‘carousel.’ Unlike Facebook, the Instagram Story carousel is a chain of photos or videos that will automatically be played to the target audience, without them needing to scroll through the carousel manually. Users do have the option of tapping through the advertised content and, essentially, skipping the ad.

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    There are two types of carousel ads in Stories: unprompted and prompted ads.

    Unprompted ads allow up to 3 cards per Story ad; prompted Story ads only show one with a Keep watching tag, which opens a collection of up to 10 ad cards.

    Remember the staggering statistic that 85% of Facebook video is viewed without the sound on? Well, as much as 60% of Instagram Story ads are viewed with the sound on!

    The data is not surprising – Story ads are mixed in with the native content users actually want to see (and hear!) from the accounts they follow. Stories from friends, family, celebs, and influencers are often behind-the-scenes style updates or video selfies, where the sound is required to fully appreciate context and atmosphere (or just hear the actual spoken message for the talking head type of updates).

    G. Brands and profiles to watch for Story ideas and pointers

    Regardless of how confident you feel about doing Stories for your personal or business profiles, we recommend you continuously study popular business and brand accounts for tips, ideas, and trends. Checking out Stories by top accounts will help you learn as well as stay on top of all the countless new features Instagram unveils for this ever-evolving format (think recent additions, like poll and question stickers, shoppable Stories, or new face filters).

    Below we share some of the accounts whose Story updates we’ve been loving to get you started on your journey.

    Beauty and fashion magazine Allure likes to post product reviews, exclusive first-look updates by beauty brands and simple, seconds-long makeup, skin and hair care tutorials:

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    Coach’ Stories often feature celeb brand ambassadors like Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan and pop singer Selena Gomez, as well as many other familiar faces.

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    L’Oreal Skin shares their product collections, gives fashion week updates and holds Q&A sessions in their Stories:

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    The brand also uses Stories to tease followers about new products – a popular way to get subscribers hyped up for a product launch:

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    Another profile to take a closer look at is @ocasio2018. Youngest woman to serve in Congress in the history of the United States Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is arguably the most valuable political brand on Instagram right now.

    The democrat first attracted attention to her profile when she started posting Stories about the Congress onboarding, helping make the process transparent for the public. Her engaging Stories keep subscribers, lurkers and media updated about the 29 year old’s journey in American politics:

    Instagram Stories explained: How to ace Instagram Stories for business

    H. Evaluating results

    Using Instagram Stories for business is… useless unless you measure the results. Just like you would with Instagram posts, you need to analyze the performance of your Instagram Stories for business. 

    To get built-in analytics for your Instagram Stories (and the whole profile, of course), switch to a business profile. Just go to your account setting and select Switch to Business Profile.

    Instagram Insights allow you to view analytics for each Story and better estimate the effectiveness of your updates and the type of content your audience prefers.

    The stats you can get from Insights are:

    • the number of impressions per Story
    • four Story interaction statistics: taps forward, taps back, replies and exits

    Note that Story views are presented as Impressions and Reach. Reach is a more general number that shows the total amount of profiles that viewed any part of your Story. Impressions concern each individual card within a Story – say, you post five photos, and some users only look through the first one or two, while others tap or wait to see the rest. In this hypothetical scenario, for every user opening your Story you’ll get one point for Reach and between 1 and 5 Impressions.

    Story interaction statistics reveal these user behaviors:

    • Back: Numbers show how many times users tapped back to rewatch your Story card (indicates interest = good)
    • Forward: Tap forward helps users advance within your Story without skipping it (individual Story cards might be too long but still kept the user engaged and interested in what’s next = good for photo updates, anything else was too long or boring)
    • Next Story: Data for number of swipes forwards which stand for user skipping your whole Story altogether (users said Bye, Felicia to your update = not good)
    • Exited: User returns to home feed (could be anything, to be honest, but they didn’t watch your Story till the end, so there’s that)

    Analyzing insight information for each of your Stories will help determine the Story voice your audience prefers and lean into select types of Story content more confidently, once you observe good response rate and overall engagement.

    For more on Instagram Insights, check out our blog post here.

    Final thoughts

    Stories is a great way for businesses to give their most active followers and fans something more to engage with and consume. Entertaining and thought-out Stories can show off a brand’s light-hearted side and help connect with audiences on a more authentic and relaxed level – akin to grabbing a cup of coffee or hanging out at a fun event.

    Stories reveal the people/person behind the curtain and help subscribers relate to a brand on a more personal level. Besides, watching Stories makes users feel included in the events and lives of the accounts they are interested in.

    And remember: the key to success is focus on creating branded Instagram Stories. Otherwise, you won’t be able to leverage all the benefits of Instagram Story marketing and boost your brand awareness.

    The easiest way to stay on-brand when creating Instagram Stories for business is to use VistaCreate’s Brand Kits functionality. This feature allows VistaCreate users to upload their brand kit — the brand logo, the brand color palette, and the brand fonts — into the editor and apply them to the design project in no time!

    VistaCreate Team

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