How to use Instagram stories

Launched in 2016, Instagram stories soon became a big hit with users. They’re arguably now the app’s most popular feature. But what exactly are they? And how are they different to a regular post?

What is an Instagram story and how does it work?

Fun and fast-paced, stories appear at the top of your main Instagram feed. Each one is short. Only 15 seconds. And they disappear completely after 24 hours. Instagram stories are a great way to keep your followers updated. Plus the app offers lots of creative ways to make your content more attractive.

You can use text, photos or videos. Then liven things up with filters, emoji stickers, music, and more. Although people can’t leave comments on stories, they can send a reply. You’ll find your story replies in your inbox, along with your DMs.

The basics of how to create an Instagram story

The fact is, there’s no one perfect way use Instagram stories. Some people post live video, giving behind the scenes footage in real time. Others prefer not to tell the entire story. Instagram stories is a great opportunity to showcase the best bits from your day. Below we’ll walk you through the basics of creating an Instagram story.

How to add photos to your story

It’s quick and easy to add photos to your Instagram stories. Either take the photo in the Instagram app, or upload one from your camera roll. Below, we talk you through how to do both.

How to add text on Instagram stories

Want to write a personalised message? The best way to do this is by adding text to your Instagram story. Instagram gives you two options for doing this.

How to use gifs on Instagram story and add stickers

Gifs and stickers are a fun way to add some flair to your content. They’re a great tool for daily users looking to liven up their regular Instagram posts and create an extra interesting story.

How to use a song in Instagram story

Adding music can take your content to the next level. Just ask influencers and brand ambassadors – they do it all the time because they know it will catch the eyes (and ears!) of their target audience. Picking the right song can take your stories from good to great. So let’s find out how to use this great tool:

  1. Create your Instagram story as you usually would – adding text, images and gifs.
  2. Tap on the stickers icon (the square with a smiley face along the top of the screen).
  3. Tap on ‘Music’ then use the search bar to find the song you want to add to your story.
  4. The song will now play in your story.

Once you’ve added the song, follow our top tips to customise the music further:

  • To change which part of the song plays – slide the music bar at the bottom of the screen backwards or forwards. The white box shows which part of the song is selected to play in your story.
  • To change the font of the lyrics that appear on the screen – scroll through the different font options (the black circles with white lettering) to find one you like.
  • To take the song lyrics off the screen – swipe through the font options. The last two icons allow you to display the song title and artist – without the lyrics.

How to change background colour on Instagram story

Eye-catching stories are just a few clicks away. There are three main ways to change the background colour on your Instagram stories:

How to use filters on Instagram story

Filters may not be a new feature but they’re still one of the most popular tools with people on the app, especially for live streams. There are hundreds of different options – from cartoon filters that make you look like a Disney princess to out of this world filters that turn you into an alien. Let’s look at how to use filters on Instagram story.

The first thing you need to do is find the filter you want to use. There are three main ways to do this:

  1. Find them through your friends – if you see someone else using a filter you like, at the top of the screen (under their profile name) you’ll see the name of the filter and who made it. Tap on it and then choose ‘Try it’ from the pop-up menu.
  2. From the filter creator’s Instagram account – this is a great way to find a filter if you know the name of the person who created it. Use the search bar to find the creator and then click through to their account. Tap the smiley face icon (just above their photo grid) and you’ll see all the filters made by this person. Select the one you want and then tap ‘Try it’.
  3. Browse effects in gallery – go to the story menu and swipe through all the filters at the bottom of the screen. Tap on the final icon - ‘Browse effects’. Find the filter you want and then tap ‘Try it’.

Once you’ve found your filter, you can either take a photo or record a video with it.

How to make Instagram stories longer

Fifteen seconds is the longest an individual Instagram story can be. Even if your video is much longer, that’s all your followers will see. Say for example you add a 5 minute video to your story, only 15 seconds of it will play in your story before moving on to the next.

The time limit on stories is fine if you’re adding a photo or sharing a post. But what if you want to share more? There is a way to make longer story content on Instagram stories.

What some people do is split their longer video into several 15 second clips. Then upload these clips in order so they’ll automatically play one after the other. To your followers it will look like one long video. Instagram users can use a third-party app to help with this – there are lots to choose from for both iPhone and Android users.

How to make Instagram highlight covers

Highlights are fast-becoming a popular feature with Instagram users. But what exactly are they? Think of them like an add-on to Instagram stories. They let you select some of your old stories, group them together into different themes, and then display them as story highlights.

Who can see my Instagram story?

Your profile settings will determine who can view your Instagram stories.

If your Instagram profile is public

Anyone can view your Instagram stories. Go onto your story and in the bottom-left corner, you’ll see how many people have viewed your story. Click on the profile photos above the number and Instagram will show you a list of everyone who’s watched it.

If your Instagram profile is private

Only your followers can watch your Instagram stories. Again, as with a public profile, you’ll still be able to check who’s seen them. Looking for a little more control over who watches your Instagram stories? One of the best things about the app is the option to choose who can see your content.

Close friends

If there’s something you want to share to stories - but it’s not for everyone’s eyes - close friends stories are the best way to do it. This relatively new Instagram feature lets you pick and choose who can see the content you’re posting to Instagram stories. One story at a time. Making stories the perfect place to share without worrying about who will see what.

Usually, whatever you post to your stories is visible to anyone (if you’ve got a public profile) or to all your followers (if you’ve got a private profile). But with this handy tool, you can change the audience for each Insta story you add. So only the people you choose will see it. Your story will still show in the same way on the app. It’ll pop up in your close friends’ story feeds like usual – but in a green circle (rather than a pink/orange one). It’s quick to set up on both iOS and Android phones. Let’s look at how:

The 24 hour limit

One of the things that makes Instagram Stories such a popular feature on the social media platform is that they only stay up for 24 hours. At least that’s the case for your followers. Instagram users can still view their own stories after 24 hours – but only via the archive option. Let’s look at how you can view Instagram stories after their 24 hour expiry date. The following steps work for iOS and Android devices but remember you can only do this for stories you posted on your own profile:

  1. Open up the Instagram app on your phone.
  2. Tap your profile picture in the right corner at the bottom of the screen.
  3. You’ll now be on your own profile. Tap the three lines in the top right corner.
  4. Select ‘Archive’ from the menu.
  5. You’ll see all your previous Instagram stories – ordered by date. You can now scroll through your stories archive.

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