Instagram Stories Made Simple: A Step-By-Step Guide



May 11, 2020

Snapchat was founded in September 2011. Since then, the social media platform has posed a serious threat to the success of Facebook’s future cash cow, Instagram. A few months after launching, Snapchat already had 100,000 users. High school students who were looking for a way to share ephemeral content started migrating to Snapchat in droves. By August 2016, Snapchat had over 150 million users and was continuing to grow at a fast clip.

In an effort to regain users that had been lost to Snapchat, Instagram launched Stories in August 2016. On launch day, Instagram published a blog post saying, “With Instagram Stories, you don’t have to worry about over posting. Instead, you can share as much as you want throughout the day—with as much creativity as you want.… The photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in feed.”

Essentially, Instagram made the decision to copy Snapchat’s key functionality in order to regain market dominance. Following the launch of Instagram’s new feature, Snapchat growth slowed by 82%, according to data posted in TechCrunch. Furthermore, more people use Instagram Stories (200 million) than use Snapchat (about 166 million).

For marketers searching for a social media platform that can provide access to a growing audience of highly engaged users, Instagram has become a market leader. Functionally, Instagram Stories works similarly to Snapchat; however, there are a few key nuances that readers should be aware of.

This article will provide marketers with a step-by-step guide to getting the most out of Instagram Stories.


It’s estimated that about 10 billion Instagram Stories will be consumed by users each day. That gives marketers the opportunity to make creative content designed to capture the attention of the hundreds of millions of people who use the feature.

When you launch Instagram Stories, you’ll notice a variety of content formats to choose from. Each format has pluses and minuses that social media managers and content creators should pay attention to when crafting a Story.


Three months after launching Instagram Stories, Instagram updated the new feature to allow users to broadcast live video as well. Users have the ability to broadcast up to one hour of live video content.

When a user goes live, followers who have not turned off live video notifications will receive a message on their smartphone alerting them that someone they follow is broadcasting live.

Depending on the settings enabled by the broadcaster, certain viewers (or all viewers) will have the ability to comment on live video. All viewers also have the option to react to live video. The mechanics are similar to the way Facebook Live functions.

Once a live video has concluded it cannot be watched again. However, as of March 2017, broadcasters now have the ability to record live video so that the content can be repurposed for future use.


For experienced Instagram users, Normal mode will be familiar. Normal mode in Instagram Stories works just as it does in the traditional Instagram photo and video creator. To take an Instagram Stories picture, just tap the center white button. To take a video, press and hold the center white button. Videos must be between 3 seconds and 60 seconds long.


Boomerang was originally launched in October, 2015 as a standalone video app. The platform allowed users to create GIF-like content by capturing a 1-second loop of video. When Instagram launched Stories, the company eliminated the standalone Boomerang app and incorporated it into Stories.


In May 2017, Instagram made an additional update to Stories by adding filters and rewind. Some say that rewind was another attempt by Instagram to copy a classic Snapchat filter.

Rewind allows users to film a video between 3 seconds and 60 seconds long and have it play in reverse. To use this feature, open Instagram Stories and slide the bottom of the screen to the right until “Rewind” is selected.


All other Instagram photo and video capture modes require users to keep their fingers on the capture button the entire time. Hands-Free changes this. This Instagram Stories mode allows a user to capture a 3-second to 60-second video without needing to hold the record button the entire time. Instead, a user can simply tap Hands-Free to begin the recording, and tap it once more to stop the recording.


Creating a great-looking photo or video for Instagram Stories is only half the battle. The other imperative for marketers hoping to maximize this exciting new social media tool requires content editing. Instagram Stories features a variety of content-editing features that can engage users and encourage them to take a specific action—a great resource for marketers. Note that content-editing tools are only available after a photo or video has been captured.


What would Instagram be without great filters? The company allows Instagram Story users to add a filter to video and photo content. To edit the filter, simply swipe right when editing the content. The available filter options are the same ones available when posting a traditional Instagram video or photo.


To launch Stickers, click the square smiley face located in the top right of the Instagram Stories screen to pull up a selection of various stickers. Once launched, the top of the stickers window features 3 pages (as indicated by the buttons at the top).

The first page lists recently used stickers. The second includes location- and time-based stickers, followed by reactions and classic emojis that will be familiar to anyone who has sent a text message recently. The third and final page features stickers, such as unique hats and glasses, that can be used to accessorize the subject of the post.


The pen at the top right of the screen launches the drawing tool. Users will be presented with a selection of pen styles. To change the size of the pen, drag the slider on the bottom left of the screen. To erase a design, tap the eraser tool at the top right of the screen. To change colors, just look for your desired color at the bottom of the screen.


Text allows users to overlay any piece of content with a medium-sized caption. To launch the tool, simply click the “Aa” icon at the top left of the screen. Then enter your message and select the desired color of the text or text background.

To switch between text color and background color, click the “A” icon located in the top middle of the screen.


Once your Instagram Story has been created, it’s time to think about how to distribute it. Instagram offers a variety of ways to edit the accessibility of a story once it is posted.


This feature allows users to hide a story from specific followers. Simply click the published Instagram Story, select Hide Story and check off the followers you do not want to show the story to. This can be an especially helpful function if competitors are following your Instagram channel.


Unfortunately, the internet isn’t always a friendly place for brands. Earlier this year, for example, tens of thousands of commenters to took Instagram and other platforms to protest Cracker Barrel after a man complained that his wife was fired from one of the company’s locations. The fervor resulted in a petition with over 25,000 signatures.

That’s why the Allow Replies feature is a great addition to Instagram Stories. Now, brands have the ability to decide who can reply to Instagram Stories content via 3 options. The first option allows the poster to turn replies completely off, the second allows for replies from followers who you follow as well and the third allows replies from anyone who follows your account. These settings can be edited once a story has been published.


Instagram Stories can be saved for future use. This allows brands to smartly recycle content so that it can be reshared via a traditional Instagram profile at a later date. Wise social media marketers should save each piece of Instagram Story content and evaluate how the post performs. If the Story does well, it may make sense to reshare the content; otherwise, it’s probably best to delete it and move on.


Since launching in August 2016, Instagram Stories has becoming incredibly popular and has helped the social media platform reclaim market share from rival Snapchat. Given this success, it’s likely that Instagram will continue to try to grow Instagram Stories. This means that social media marketers would be wise to learn the ins and outs of Instagram Stories in order to grow online reach.

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