Instagram Stories: What They Are and How to Make Them

Instagram describes Instagram Stories as something that lets you “share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile”.

They are images, polls, quizzes, countdowns, short 15 second videos and more… All can be “magicked” up with a doodle or a sticker. Fun. Personal. Human. Powerful.

And yes, they disappear within 24 Hours… if you want them to.

The power in this, is that you get to explore and experiment with your Instagram Voice and see what works for you and what connects with your followers.

And guess what… People LOVE Instagram Stories. They love that self contained, fleeting nature of them. They love that you don’t have to “read” the bit that goes with a typical social media post in order to understand it. With Instagram Stories, what you see, is what you get. It’s not hard work. It’s a flash message or communication. It’ll pop (or it won’t) and then it’s gone.

The challenge for us therefore is to make it something that is that self contained, useful and /or entertaining for our audience. And of course, to do it again tomorrow.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s get the practical bit sorted first.


Instagram Stories: The Basics of Getting Started

If you do not already have an Instagram account, download the Instagram app from the Apple or Google Play store and login. Next, let’s get familiar with the main Instagram icons. You’ll find them at the bottom of your screen when you are logged into your Instagram account and they look like this.
Instagram Stories NavigationThey are your core navigation buttons to help you get around Instagram. Let’s break them down, one by one.


Instagram Stories - Home This button will always bring you “Home”. Your “Home” screen is where you’ll find anything posted by you and your friends. It’s your “feed” and it’s where you will like and comment. This is also where you can access your Instagram Story via your profile pic in the top left hand corner and is appropriately named “your story”.
Instagram Stories Search The Magnifying Glass Icon is the “Search and Explore” area which displays curated photos and videos from accounts you don’t already follow but may be interested in based on your behaviours.
Instagram Stories Plus The plus sign icon will take you to the camera roll (“Library”) on your phone where you can access your photos or videos to post in your main Instagram feed. You can also select “Photo” or “Video” from this screen to take a picture or video to share in that moment.
Instagram Stories Heart The heart icon displays the likes and comments on your own posts and you can reply directly in here. Interestingly, it is also the space where you can see the photos and videos that the people you are following are liking and commenting on. It also shows you the hashtags that you tend to be engaging with and gives you the option to follow those hashtags.
 Instagram Stories Profile The “Profile” icon brings you to your Instagram Posts and here you can see how your individual posts look collectively and what your bio looks like.

Finding Your Instagram Stories

Appropriately enough, you will find your latest Instagram Story on your Profile Pic.

Your Profile… Your Story…With a Lovely Pink/Purple Outline…

Interesting Subliminal Message That 😉


How To Post Your Instagram Stories

If you haven’t a story running, there’ll be a small plus sign beside your profile picture. So when you’re ready to tell your story just click on that little, enticing, blue plus sign and off you go!

The thing about Instagram Stories is that you have so many options in terms of what to post.

You can prepare something in Canva when you “choose a design” by selecting “Instagram Story”.  And if you have the Pro version of Canva, the images are automatically available from the Canva Mobile App. I’ve found this particularly useful and it’s worth considering, especially as you have automatic access to your own logos etc.

The alternative is to post directly from your phone. It’s not as hard as you think.

7 Steps to Posting Your Instagram Story

If you’re like me, you just want each of the steps broken down so you can get started. So here they are;

  1. Take a photo of something that will interest your audience by tapping on the “Normal” white circle.
  2. You can also hold down the white circle to create a 15-second video. If you want to go direct to camera, which is always a powerful option just tap the two arrows that form a circle icon to turn the camera on you.It’s a great way to get started on video, because it’ll be gone in 24 hours 😊
  3. If you want to use photos/videos from your camera roll instead, tap on the square icon to the left of the white circle camera button to make your selection.
  4. Once you’ve decided on the image/video you’d like to use you can now add text by tapping on the “Aa” icon at the top right of your screen. Type in your text and select “Done” from the top right of your screen.
  5. Now, you’re ready to share with the world! Tap the “Your Story” icon on bottom left of your screen.
  6. To add another image to your now active Story, tap on the camera icon at the very top left of your screen.
  7. If you want to quickly delete something you’ve posted, click on the “Your Story” icon and when you find what you want to delete, click on the 3 small dots on the bottom right of your screen and select “Delete” from the options that appear.


Instagram Story Options Direct From Your Phone

Let’s face it, Instagram Stories are “made” for mobile. So, it’s best to get familiar with these options right from the start. You already know how to post a simple image and text to your story but before you post why not explore some of these options to add a little colour to your story.

Just tap on the square with the smiley face icon on the top right corner of your screen, or simply “swipe up” on your screen. This will take you to the “Sticker” library. And this is where you’ll find a host of options to play with by layering them on top of the image you have already selected. You’ll quickly discover that sometimes a sticker is just a sticker and then sometimes it’s not 😉

  • Instagram Stories - Sticker ScreenSimple Stickers
    There are many stickers available to you and each add something special to your story. You can choose from “Stay at Home”, “Thank You Hour”, “Ugh” and so much more. Explore them and see what resonates with what you want to communicate. When your followers see these stickers, they’ll know you created this on your phone. This adds a layer of authenticity to your story and that’s not to be underestimated.
  • Donation
    When you click on this sticker, you’ll be taken to a list of possible charities to donate to. This is then converted into a Donation Button for your story.
  • Location
    Adds your location as a pin to your story.
  • Mention
    Allows you to tag someone in your story.
  • Hashtag
    This sticker allows you to add a hashtag to your story. This is particularly useful if you have identified a key hashtag that will connect you with your audience.
  • Gif
    This sticker allows you to add a Gif to your story which adds a little movement and that is always good in a story.
  • Poll
    Allows you to add a poll to your story. You can ask a question with a simple yes or no answer option and collect the results as more and more people see it.
  • Questions
    These are very interesting and such a powerful way to connect with your audience, build engagement and do market research all simultaneously. Consider if there’s a question you really want to put to your potential customers e.g. Amy Porterfield has used this very successfully in the past with a “What’s the one thing that’s stopping you from creating an online course?” question. The answers helped her craft subsequent messaging to really reach the painpoint of her audience.
  • Countdown
    Great for when you have an event or launch happening and will add urgency to your story.
  • Heart Slider
    You can make a statement and see how much your audience loves that position.
  • Quiz
    You get to post a prompt like “Guess My Favourite”, give options for answers and then collect the results when people answer. One instagrammer created a story with her deciding whether to choose Plain or Sprinkles in her donut choice so she asked her followers.  It’s a great way to build engagement with a simple fun question or use it for market research too. You decide.


Locating Responses to Interactive Stories

If you did decide to post a question, run a quiz or poll to your followers then of course you’ll want to collect your results.

When they see your story, your followers will be able to reply directly to your question while viewing your Story. They simply type their answer right in the “QUESTIONS” / “POLL” / “QUIZ” sticker, and hit send.

To view their responses, check your Story’s viewers list. Open your Story and tap on the “Seen by X people” on the bottom left of your screen. A page will appear with a list of your Story’s viewers and any responses that have come in.

The really powerful thing here is you have the ability to respond to each person who answered.  Don’t’ pass up that opportunity. If they answered, you’ve already started a conversation. Keep it going.

How To Respond To Those Who Answered

Just tap on “Reply” under each response and you’ll have the option to “Send Message” back to the person who responded, or you can tap “Share Response” to share the response(s) as a post on your Story.

If you’re just beginning, make sure to be intentional about the responses you share on your Story. You want to share in context and only if it will be helpful or interesting to your audience.

So there you have it. I hope that this article clarified some of the questions you might have had about Instagram Stories. I’m sure that you can see the potential of such a tool in your marketing toolbox.

Let me know how you decide to use Instagram Stories in your business. Your sharing may give others inspiration. And if you’re not quite sure yet, then ask here in the comments below. I’ll be happy to give you ideas on how to get started with your Instagram Story strategy.


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I love to work with businesses, both large and small to help them create sustainable business dreams... Brand and Strategy are at the heart of everything I do and that gets rolled out digitally and across any channel where your customer lives.

2 responses to “Instagram Stories: What They Are and How to Make Them

  1. alot of the icons you are mentioning I am not seeing on my instagram feed.
    on my home page there is no square with no smile face in the middle . when i swipe up my screen I do not see any stickers . Does this work for a personal or business account .

    1. Hi Lisa

      The icons appear when you start your Instagram story. Click on the + sign beside your account pic, choose an image from your phone or take a new picture and then these icons will appear. Best of luck and enjoy. Instagram stories are fun!

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