instagram stories

It’s getting pretty hard to avoid Instagram Stories. If you’ve been resisting, hoping that filling your feed is enough, then it’s time to strap in. Over 500 million people are sharing to their Instagram Stories every day. Some are all out abandoning their feed for this fast-moving, snapshot of life. 

But it’s a little less straightforward than it may seem. Unlike the typical “media + caption = post” recipe you have a lot of features and options for branding your IG stories and we’re going to break them down for you here. 




We get why you’ve avoided Stories. It’s often hard enough to think of what to post once a day, then Stories comes along wanting to be a part of your life all the time. 


It feels like a lot to ask content-wise, but actually, each story clip only runs 15 seconds and you are limited to 100 a day. If you’re doing the math, that’s 25 minutes a day. And you’re in no way obligated to hit the max. Most never will. The point is, Stories doesn’t demand that you live your life like The Truman Show. 

That being said, it can still feel like a tall order. Luckily you have a ton of options for what to share. 

What to post in Instagram Stories:

  • Your feed posts (both new posts and older ones that have relevance for your day). You can do so by pushing the little paper airplane and choosing “Add post to your story.”
  • Great content from other people’s Instagram feeds.
  • Resources (like informative IGTV videos from professionals or screenshots from news articles).
  • Product photos (and links if you have 10K or more followers)
  • Video/photos from your day-to-day (not everything is “feed worthy,” but they may work on Instagram) 
  • Images your clients/customers tag you in talking about your brand, business or products

Stories is a daily reel of important info. If you’re thinking of Instagram in terms of a job interview, your feed is your resume, the Highlights is your interview and Stories is what your co-workers experience working with you everyday. 




Now that you’re in the flow of producing content in Stories, you might be feeling a little burnt by the fact that they all disappear 24 hours after you share. Thankfully, Insta threw us all a bone with Highlights, which, simply put, means you have a place to store your best Stories content forever. 

But you should definitely put some planning into how you intend to use your highlights. We recommend falling back on your buckets when forming this section of your IG profile. 

Stories allows you to categorize your content in ways that allow your followers to go straight to the information that best suits them. Like a blog’s tagging system, your Highlights should be subject matter that fits inside your brand, but has its own designation.

For example, let’s say you’re a florist. Perhaps you provide Everyday Bouquets, Wedding Centerpieces, Bridal Bouquets and Wreaths. Maybe there are particular flowers you work with as well like Lillies, Peonies and Sunflowers. You may also Grow your own flowers, Forage in the wilderness and source from Global Growers.

Each of the bolded topics can become highlights. So while you might share a ton of photos from a wedding you recently did, certain photos would be added to the highlights where it best fits. 

Highlight Icons

As a side note, you will also need to consider the branding for your individual highlight icons. Since these are prominently displayed on your Instagram profile, you want to consider how they blend with your feed. A few options include:

  • Designed images/illustrations
  • Solid colors that match your brand colors
  • Photos (recommend branded photos)

Also be sure to choose your title for each highlight careful as the number of characters that show are very limited. 




Instagram Stories is supposed to feel a little more off the cuff than the structured, planned feed posts. Though it can be uncomfortable for some, the beauty of doing a live video in Stories is that it doesn’t have to last very long AND it disappears in a day. So if it isn’t your favorite piece of content, who cares? 

What’s really nice about it is it bumps your account WAY up in visibility. Live videos are featured in the front of the line when you’re looking at the suggested Stories that appear when you open the app. Also, your followers who are currently on Instagram can get a notification dropped to them that you’re live. 

It doesn’t have to be a long live video to make an impact. You can come up with a brief plan before you hit record, for example:

  1. Decide on the topic
  2. Jot down the points you’d like to make
  3. Anticipate questions/comments that could arise
  4. Pick an on-brand or  neutral setting behind you if possible

And then press that little red button!


Polls, Q&As, Quizzes 


Without the “Swipe Up” option for linking (aka a super useful feature you only get after you hit 10K followers) Stories can turn into a very passive activity. The automatic progression through content can feel more like watching TV than engaging on a social platform. 

That’s where Polls, Q&As and Quizzes can help. When you are building a Story, there are options for adding small interactive elements to your content. You can poll your audience about a common question in your community, then share the results and do a video on what you think of their answers. You can set up a Q&A that gives your audience a chance to dig deeper with you, then answer questions via Stories, thus deepening your connection and your value with followers. Quizzes can also give you a sense of where your audience stands in terms of education on your particular subject-matter. Are you speaking to beginners, advanced operators, passive watchers?

Don’t let your stories become a reel of entertainment. Pull your audience in allow them to participate. 


Filters, Fonts and Flash


Have you ever seen someone’s Stories and they look like they hired a professionally produced selfie studio? Their hair and makeup is gorgeous, the lighting, exquisite, the complimentary text is flawless. And then when you go to do the same, it looks like you, Lisa Frank and Microsoft Paint got together and made an infomercial. 

There is a lot of razzle-dazzle that can be added to Stories, but if you’re going for an on-brand look and feel, here are a few hacks.

Video Effects

If there is someone you follow who has a similar aesthetic as you and gorgeous Stories, check the top right corner of their content. If they are using an effect, you can click the text that has three little stars, the name of the effect and who made it. Then all you have to do is save the effect and next time you fire up stories to record, choose the effect you’ve downloaded. You can also browse effects in the marketplace by click the drop down below your chosen effect and scrolling through to see what you like. 

Filters and Presets

Just like most image-based apps, you have the ability to filter photos for a particular look and feel. Like with many preloaded filters, the ones Instagram provides are okay at best. If you’re looking to alter and edit photos, we recommend you do so outside the Stories editing tool using things like Photoshop or presets in Lightroom.


Luckily, Instagram recently added to their font catalogue giving us a few more options than before. If you aren’t seeing these new additions, make sure you have the most recent update on Instagram downloaded. Click through and find a combination that feels like your brand even if it isn’t an exact match. Once you boil things down to a look/feel you like, stick with it. Consistency can help your audience connect with your content and immediately recognize it as yours. If you’re looking to really go branded, there are ways to incorporate custom fonts. Check out this article from the Later app for tips on doing that.

GIFs and Stickers

Perhaps the most fun element of IG Stories is the large catalogue of GIFs and Stickers, little animated additions to your content can add a splash of personality and humor. But, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. 

Keep in mind that while fun, the stickers and GIFs you use still need to align with your overall tone and aesthetic. You can definitely branch out a bit here, but don’t go nuts. A GIF isn’t required EVERY TIME you post.

The best way to get better at Stories, is to create more Stories. Like anything else, practice with the platform is what makes perfect. And this is a great testing ground since the content doesn’t have to be polished because of its impermanence. Instead of looking at this as another platform that needs more content, just consider it as a way to bring your audience along for your day. They’ll appreciate the access and you’ll learn a lot about where their interest lies. 


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