Video Marketing

Instagram Stories: A Getting Started Guide

Kari Livesay


Instagram Stories are a quick and easy way to get caught up on what’s happening right now with the people and brands you follow. And for those creating content, Instagram Stories offer a fun suite of tools for engaging with your friends, fans, and followers in the moment.


If you’re brand new to Instagram Stories, trying to familiarize yourself with the platform, how it works, and all the tools you’ve got at your disposal may feel a little daunting. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you get started.

In this post, we’ll cover:

If you’re looking to dive in a little deeper, we’ve got you covered there too. Check out our other blogs to learn more about Instagram Stories:

To learn more about all things Instagram video, including Instagram Stories, the IG feed, and ads, check out our complete Instagram video guide.

What are Instagram Stories?

We’ll start with the most basic question: What is an Instagram Story, or IG Story? Instagram Stories are short photos or video clips, up to 15 seconds in length, that vanish 24 hours after posting. Instead of displaying within your primary Instagram feed, they’re showcased at the top of the app, in a row with the Stories of all the other accounts you follow. Users can upload multiple images or videos to their stories at a time, but once they’re up, the countdown to 24 hours begins. Users can check out your Instagram story when they see your profile picture at the top of the feed, or by navigating directly to your profile and clicking on your profile picture.

Why should you use Instagram Stories?

There are so many different places to be when it comes to social media. So why should you be using Instagram Stories? For starters, Instagram is the fourth largest social platform with 2 billion monthly average users (MAUs). As a business, your customers are there and you should be too!

Aside from just being on Instagram and posting in the feed, stats show being active in Stories can make a significant impact on your success on the platform. Here are a few noteworthy stats from Hootsuite:

  • 58% of users say they’re more interested in a brand after seeing it in a Story
  • Instagram Stories generate a quarter of the platform’s ad revenues
  • 50% of users say they’ve visited a website to make a purchase after watching a Story

So you know you need to be active on Stories, but how do you watch Stories, and better yet, how do you post your own?

How do you watch someone’s Instagram Story?

Before we get into how to post your own Instagram Story, we’ll talk about how to watch someone else’s Story. Before you watch, it’s important to note that views are not anonymous! If you watch someone’s Instagram Story, you will show up in a list of viewers.

That said, you do not have to be following someone to see their story. In this section, we’ll show you how to watch the IG Stories of the people you are following, as well as how to watch anyone’s IG Story that has a public profile.

To watch your friends’ Instagram Stories

When you open up the Instagram app, you’ll automatically see the Stories of everyone you’re following at the top of the app, in circles. To watch, simply tap on the image of the person whose Story you’d like to watch.

When you watch in this fashion, it’ll show one person’s Story after another, in the order displayed. Once you finish watching a user’s story, their icon is removed from the list and the queue continues with the next user.

To watch the Instagram Story of someone you aren’t following

If you aren’t following someone, but they’ve got a public account, simply head over to their profile. If they’ve got a colorful line around their profile picture, it means they’ve got a Story. To watch their Story, simply tap on their profile picture.

Instagram Story commands

There are a few commands you should know about to make the most of your viewing:

  • Pause: To pause a story, tap and hold. As long as your finger is down, the Story will be paused. This can be helpful if there’s a lot of text and you need time to read, or if you’d simply like to look at an image for longer than the amount of time it’s displayed.
  • Skip to the next Story: Tapping once on the right side of the screen will skip ahead to the next Story. If the person whose Story you are viewing has multiple Stories posted, it’ll skip to their next story. If they only have one, it’ll skip to the first Story posted by the next person in line. You can also tap on the left side of the screen to go backwards and rewatch a story.
  • Skip a person’s Story: To skip ahead to the next person and stop viewing the story you’re currently looking at, swipe left. To go back to a previous Story, swipe right.

How to post an Instagram Story

Ready to create your own Instagram Story? It’s easy! Whether you want to upload content from your camera roll or use the Story feature to capture new content with your camera, there are a couple ways to get started.

1. Create your Story

You can start by either tapping your own Story (a circle with your profile picture in it) in the top left of the Instagram App when you open your feed, or tapping your profile image from your Instagram profile when logged into your account. You can also click on the + in the top right hand corner of your screen, then click on the Story option. From here you can access your camera to take a photo or record a video, or upload a photo or video clip you already have in your camera roll.

To create something new, click the black box in the top left corner with the Instagram icon in the middle. It’ll bring up a screen with your camera open. You can hold down the circle button on the bottom of the screen to record your Story. When you're finished recording, remove your finger from the button and then press the arrow at the bottom right of your screen to share with followers.

You can also get more creative with Story tools. On the left-hand side of your screen, you'll find a variety of tools for building your Story.

They include:

  • Create: Clicking the create button will allow you to do just that. Swipe right through the circles on the bottom of the screen to choose what you want to create. You can add everything from text and GIFs to mentions and various Instagram stickers. (More on those later).
  • Boomerang: Shoot a quick Boomerang to add to your Story. A Boomerang is a video that plays backwards and forwards in a loop, giving it a boomerang effect almost like a gif.
  • Layout: Add several photos to one Instagram Story. You can either take a photo by clicking the layout symbol at the bottom of the screen or upload photos from your camera roll by selecting the small photo in the bottom left corner.
  • Hands-Free: You’ll notice that for most of these modes you need to hold down the play button for the entire time you’re recording. Hands-Free lets you simply tap once to start recording and tap again when you’re done, so you don’t need to hold your phone for the entire time.
  • Multi-capture: Snap up to eight photos in a row and upload them all to your Stories at one time.
  • Level: As the name states, this tool displays a grid over your screen to ensure that your Instagram Stories are level.

Once you’ve selected a photo or video clip from your library, or recorded a clip up to 15 seconds using the tools mentioned above, you’re ready for the next step.

Animoto makes it easy to create a vertical video for Instagram Stories using one of our templates. Learn more in our post on how to make vertical videos using Animoto.

2. Decorate your Story

Next, you’ll find options to decorate your Story at the top right of the screen once you’ve created your Story. You can decorate your Story with text, stickers, filters or drawing tools. The order in which these icons appear differs between users, but we’ll make it easy to track down the feature you desire. If you don’t want to decorate your clip, move on to the next step to publish your story.



The filter icon looks like three stars. When you click on it, a row of filters will appear at the bottom of the screen. Scroll to the right and left to check out different filters, clicking on the ones you want to try out. If you decide you don’t want a filter, click the circle icon with a diagonal line through it.


Add stickers to your Story

The sticker icon looks like a smiley face. Tapping it will open up a screen where you can search for gifs, emojis, and other stickers to adorn your story with.

This is also where you can add poll stickers, questions, @mentions, #hashtags, and more. To add a sticker to your story, just tap on it. Then, hold and drag to resize and reposition the sticker where you’d like it on your Story. Note that with some stickers, tapping once may reveal different visual looks for the sticker you selected.

If you tap a sticker and decide you don’t like it, you can remove it by holding down on the sticker, dragging it toward the bottom of the screen, and dropping it into a trash can that will appear.


Draw on your Story

Depending on how your story editing features display, you may see a squiggly line icon at the top right of your screen. If you don’t see it, simply click the three dots in the top right, then click the draw button. Select a pen type, use the slider on the left to make your line thicker or thinner, select a color, and get to work. If you want to make the background a solid color, tap and hold down on the screen for a few seconds, until the screen becomes that color. You can also tap “Undo” or use the eraser tool to remove unwanted lines or colors.


Add text to your Story

You can add text to any Story by tapping the text icon (Aa) in the top right corner. You’ll be given the option of text style, color, transition and alignment, as well as a background and foreground color for some of the text style options.


3. Share your Story

When you’re ready, you can either tap “Your Stories,” to share publicly (or, if your account is private, with the people that are following you) or “Close Friends” to share with a select group of friends. Your Story will remain live for 24 hours, though you have the option to download it to your camera roll to save it or you can save it as a Highlight.

Instagram Story best practices

Finally, we wanted to leave you with a few best practices to help you make the most of your Instagram Stories.

  • Mind your Story’s length: During Creators Week 2021, Instagram chief, Adam Mosseri shared that posting two Stories per day is ideal for building your following.
  • Use stickers: Increase engagement with interactive stickers including polls, questions, quizzes, and more.
  • Highlight your newest posts: Share your latest post to Stories, adding text or stickers encouraging followers to check out the post in your feed.
  • Start strong: Our Chief Video Officer says, “Save the best for first.” Put your best Stories first to capture attention, draw viewers in, and entice them to keep watching.
  • Share user-generated content: Your customers are your strongest advocates. If they tag you in a post mentioning or using your product, share it to your Stories.

Are you using Instagram Stories yet? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Let us know in the Animoto Social Video Marketing Community on Facebook. Happy video making!