Next Level Social Media: Understanding Stories

Today, we’re excited to continue our series on how to take your social media to the next level with a look at a feature that has become near-ubiquitous in the last couple of years: stories.

What Are Stories?

Stories is a feature that has become the cornerstone of many social media platforms. It was first popularized by Snapchat, a camera-based app that revolves around short live updates to and from friends, and has quickly become a staple of Instagram, its parent company Facebook and, of course, the ever-popular TikTok. Stories are typically short videos ranging between a few seconds to a few minutes that allow users to capture impressions, experiences, and reactions extemporaneously. Their meteoric rise is due in part to their immediacy and dynamism, complemented by the ability to enhance these captures with stickers, filters, embedded links, polls, and lots more. What distinguishes them from traditional video posts, though, is both their appearance and their availability: Stories are full-screen vertical visual content that disappear after 24 hours. They typically appear at the top of apps rather than in the news feed, though you can also re-post them to your main feed. 


When Should I Use Stories?

There are many reasons to use Stories as part of your organization’s social media presence. Being typically short and in-the-moment posts, Stories require less production time and fewer resources to publish. They are also a way to build connection with your audience, showing a more informal and intimate window into what you do and how you work. They are also a great tool for engagement, providing immediate feedback through features such as polls and Q&As, and they are a great way to generate buzz and cross-promote your posts to another channel. 

Today, more than 500 million people use Instagram Stories alone. What’s more, according to Hootsuite, 58% of users say they’ve become more interested in a product or brand after seeing it in Stories. In fact, Stories can be used for anything from doing behind the scene posts to event updates, quick announcements, contests, product launches, fundraising drives, and more. Possibilities are virtually endless! 


How Do Stories Work?

Even though Stories were popularized by Snapchat, their use has skyrocketed and solidified through Instagram. Since then, even platforms such as Pinterest, WhatsApp and Twitter have introduced a similar feature, each with their unique branding. In this section, we are going to unpack the ins and outs of posting Stories to Instagram as a template for working with this medium across other platforms. Once you have mastered Instagram’s Stories, you will be on your way to posting video updates to all the other channels your organization has a presence on. 


How to post an Instagram Story: 

Stories are best posted directly from the app. To do so, 

  1. Click the plus icon at the top of the screen.

  2. At the bottom of the screen, choose ‘story’ from the menu. Here you also have the option to switch to the selfie camera and record yourself. You can do so by tapping the switch-camera icon on the bottom right.

  3. Now you will have the option to post a photo or a video. To post a photo, tap the white circle at the bottom of the screen or press and hold the white circle to record video. You also have the option to swipe up (or select the square camera roll icon on the left) to use pre-existing photos or videos found in your Photos app.

  4. You can also swipe right and left to choose between Normal (a regular photo or video), Boomerang (a GIF), Rewind (your video in reverse), and Hands Free, which automatically takes a 15 second video without you having to hold down the record button. 

Keep in mind that the videos you add to your Instagram Story each have a maximum time of 15 seconds. If your video is shorter, it will loop for the full 15 seconds and then end. At the same time, there are ways to post longer videos in your Story. The most popular option is to split a video that's longer than 15 seconds into 15-second segments, which Instagram now does automatically for you. You could also explore the IGTV and Instagram Reels features, or consider creating your own Instagram series

Pro Tip: If you don’t want your stories to disappear after 24 hours, you can pin them to your profile until you choose to delete them. This will create what is known as a Highlight Reel, which you can also organize by theme. This creates a living archive that functions as a sort of photo album. Every time you have a new update, you can add it to the relevant Highlight for users to find and keep building your archive from there.

Here are the steps to create an Instagram Stories highlight:

  1. If the Story is less than 24 hours old and is still visible on your account, simply tapping your Story to open it will allow you to save it into a new or existing Highlight. If the Story is more than 24 hours old, you can retrieve it from your archive. To do so, you would tap your profile icon at the bottom right, then tap the menu icon (three lines) in the top right, and finally choose ‘archive’. From there, you can scroll back to the Story you want to highlight and save it in the reel. 

  2. In the lower right corner of the screen, tap the highlight icon.


Looking for a visual way to learn how to get familiar with these steps? Check out this Instagram Story tutorial by HubSpot:


If you’ve been following our Spotlight on Social Media series, you may also be familiar with the importance of planning and scheduling your content ahead of time. Canadian-based app Later now has a feature that allows you to schedule Instagram Stories, and they break down the steps of how to get started in the video below:


Additional Resources

Instagram Help Center (Instagram)
Instagram Stories Hacks and Tricks You Didn’t Know Existed in 2021 (Later)
Instagram Stories Hacks: 5 Hidden Tricks You Didn't Know Existed, Part 2 (Later)
How to Use IGTV in 2021: A Complete Beginner's Guide (Later)
How To Animate Facebook and Instagram Stories with Canva (Canva)
Your guide to creating a beautiful Instagram Story (Canva)
Instagram Story Templates (Canva)

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