✍ The Ultimate Guide to Creating Engaging Instagram Stories

Including Create features and how to properly use stickers

If you’re nosy like yours truly, you may look over the shoulder of fellow commuters when traveling. I tend to do this a lot.

What I notice when I’m sleepy and looking for easy entertainment is that (no surprise here) most people are slouching over their phones these days. What is surprising is that a lot of these people are scrolling through Instagram — to be precise Instagram stories.

Instagram stories are loved by audiences and brands alike and for good reason

More and more businesses are seeing the value in creating short-lived video content, whether it’s fun and lighthearted or more results-focused. But it also has to do with the number of great features and capabilities that were added to Instagram Stories in the last two years.

From geo-stickers to clickable links and GIFs, Instagram invested heavily in stories and it’s really paying off.


What Is a Story Anyway?

Instagram Stories is a feature within the Instagram app where users can capture and post related images and video content in a slideshow format.

Instagram Stories appear in a bar at the top of your feed, and all Instagram accounts are able to share stories, from your best friends to your favorite popular accounts. When there’s something new to see, their profile photo will have a colorful ring around it.

To view someone’s story, you simply need to tap on their profile photo, and their story will appear full-screen, showing you all of the content they’ve posted in the last 24 hours. The content will play in chronological order from oldest to newest.

Remember a ‘story’ disappears for good after 24 hours, unless you decide to save them in your highlights.

When it comes to the stories, you have more filter options (hooray!) and there are also more options with the drawing tools — you can make your drawings look like neon lights (which does have its appeal, let’s be honest).


Top Four Instagram Stories Features

Links

Any Instagram business account with 10,000 or more followers can add links to their Instagram Stories. It’s no surprise that tons of businesses have been quick to adopt this feature.

The ability to add links to your Instagram Stories has totally changed the game for brands.

Whereas you only had one hyperlink to work with on Instagram before, with Instagram Stories you can easily drive traffic back to your website or blog.

Highlights

Credits: Author’s Instagram

This feature was only added in December 2017, but they’ve already made a big impact for brands. Unlike regular Instagram Stories that vanish after 24 hours, Instagram Stories Highlights are curated clips grouped together by you and live permanently on your profile until you delete them.

They appear directly under your bio and above your Instagram feed and will play as a stand-alone story when someone taps on it. The feature is literally front and center on your profile.

Instagram Stories Highlights are an extremely valuable addition to an Instagram business profile because they allow brands to easily curate and showcase the content they want users to see first.

Locations & hashtags

When Instagram first introduced stickers to Instagram Stories in 2017, they were more fun than useful.

Instagram has added a ton of new functionalities to location and hashtag stickers, allowing them to be a real game-changer when it comes to people discovering and interacting with your account.

Stickers and GIFS

In the past year, Instagram has added a ton of new capabilities to Instagram Stories via “stickers.” Today, you can share poll stickers and emoji sliders to your Instagram Stories, question stickers, music stickers, countdown stickers, and even shopping stickers.

Not only can stickers add a ton of personality to your Instagram Stories, but when used properly, they can also help increase the amount of engagement you get.


How Can You Make ‘Instagram Stories’ Work for You?

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 (which means it’s essential to optimize your stories).

In the last eight months, Instagram has added new functionalities to stickers, such as the ability to see location-based stories on the Explore page, and the ability to search for stories by location and hashtag.

The positive of this is that Instagram is already one of the main channels for brand awareness worldwide, so you can easily reach your followers in a more personal and ‘behind the scenes’ way.

Especially if your Snapchat count is still slowly increasing, you have another opportunity to get up-close and personal with your audience.

Here are a few ways you can grow brand awareness with your Instagram stories.

Organize a flash giveaway or discount for your followers

The 24h nature of Stories allows you to make the most of time-bound discounts and giveaways and really harness the power of Instagram stories by increasing sales.

Share a brand new announcement

This is perfect for products, blog posts, projects or launches. All you have to do is fill up your story with photos of a single product at every angle, on different people, or in different environments, and then hit your followers with a promo code or call-to-action (CTA) at the end.

Share testimonials and add a CTA at the end

Share testimonials or quotes from your audience about a specific project, product or service. Another great way to do this is to share before and after posts (results from a product or service is quite common).


Four Ways to Use the Instagram Story Create Mode

A very simple way to use Stories is to simply share pictures or videos behind the scenes. However, more and more businesses are also using the new Create mode to make the most of some interactive Instagram stories tools.

Welcome to a new look, with subtle tweaks including a full-on Createmode, which includes the best GIF feature ever, if you ask me.

Credits: Instagram Press

As you can see above, when you open Instagram and add to your story, you’ll see different options at the bottom of the screen: Live, Create, Normal, Boomerang, Superzoom, Hands-Free, and Music. This is definitely a sign that stories are here to stay.

Instagram has had Create mode for a while, but now users have more options to choose from: text, GIFs, on this day, templates (for business accounts), polls, questions, countdown, and quiz.

GIFs

Yeah, Instagram already had GIFs that you could use as stickers on your Instagram Stories but now one of the options in Create mode turns your entire story into a gif. Instead of just a sticker of Beyonce, now you can have a full screen of Beyonce. Yes, queen.

This also means you don’t need any other supporting images or videos and it’s more fun than just having a plain background.

Templates

This is another new feature for Instagram Stories, but it’s not available for personal accounts (so if you don’t have a business account, you won’t see this).

Using templates is a fun way to show some personality and encourage users to interact with you. Fill out a template with your own answers and then post a blank one and ask your audience to share their answers.

Polls

Polls are another great way to increase engagement with your Stories because all it takes is one click to vote.

Jazz it up by changing the background color, drawing on the screen and adding gifs.

If you’re looking to get some feedback from your audience about anything from content direction to product development, polls are a great way to put your audience in charge.

A simple multiple choice goes a long way and makes market research fun.

Questions

Similarly to polls, questions also encourage engagement. Questions are a great way to get your audience to share an opinion or open up the conversation for things they want to ask you.

Clicking the dice at the top will also give you some random question suggestions. So even if you don’t have something that you want to ask, you can still interact with the Insta community.

Are you planning a live Q&A or to have a heart to heart with your followers?

The question sticker is a very fun and intuitive one to use. Most influencers use them to host weekly Q&As, but can also be used to answer questions about upcoming courses or products.

When you view your own story and swipe up, you can see who responded. Tap a response from someone to share it. Keep in mind that when you share someone’s question or song, their photo and username won’t be shown.


How to Use Stickers to Revamp Your Stories

From the newly launched AR Studio to the upcoming donation sticker, there are plenty of ways for you to engage with your audience using Instagram Stories.

Announced earlier last Summer, Instagram revealed that it’s testing a new feature that will allow you to set reminders about upcoming product launches so you can buy products the moment they’re available, right on Instagram.

Credits: Instagram Press

What’s really cool about this new feature is that when the time is nearly up, people who set a reminder for the product launch will receive a notification on their device.

Aside from the content itself, which can be a mix of candid shots, graphics, and video content, stickers are a fun and powerful way to use your stories.

Here are some ideas about how to use them for yourself and make your stories fun for others (and for yourself too).

Credits: Instagram Press

Emoji stickers

These are a very fun way to show some appreciation, and more than anything allow your followers to share the love and relate to your content. Will give a heart emoji to that one.

Quiz stickers

Looking to host a giveaway? Gamify your Gram? Quizzes are a fun way to test what your audience knows about you and helps them get to know you on a more personal level.

Just like a few other features, Instagram also has suggestions for quizzes that enable companies to show more personality.

Quiz stickers are all the rage nowadays. Announce your upcoming quiz a few days ahead and offer an incentive for your followers to play.

People can respond to your quiz by tapping an option you’ve provided. Once published, your followers can vote and learn whether they got it right. When you view your story and swipe up, you can see how many votes each option received and how each person voted.

Countdown stickers

Are you hosting a webinar or event? Are you launching a new exciting product? Countdowns are fun, handy, and your followers get notified when the countdown ends.

It takes some fun and playfulness to give your stories a revamp, but using stickers can help make them fun, engaging and help you let your hair down a little.

You select the date that you’re counting down to and Instagram automatically updates the exact months, days, and seconds until that day.

Even if you don’t have a product launch or any events coming up, Instagram suggests some fun ones, like a countdown until the weekend.


“Social networks aren’t about web sites. They’re about experiences.” — Mike DiLorenzo, NHL social media marketing director

All in all, Instagram stories should combine strategy, consistency, and overall (wait for it) a whole lot of fun. Yes, giving people an idea of who’s behind the brand can truly help you create better relationships with your audience.

Whether you choose to use hashtags, locations, the Create mode, or stickers to create more engaging stories, always remember who these stories are aimed at first, your audience.