How To Use Instagram Stories – Mastering The Basics of Instagram’s Most Powerful Feature

August 4, 2016 by Alex Tooby

If you want to build strong relationships with your audience, increase your engagement and get more eyes on what you offer, you need to add Instagram stories to your strategy!

Instagram stories allows you to add short videos or images to your profile for 24 hours for your followers and non-followers to see. It provides a great opportunity to add content that is more ‘in the moment’ than your regular posts and helps your audience get to know you better. You can easily use this feature to give a behind the scenes look at your business, announce an update, promote a new product, or simply share extra content that you don’t plan to add as a permanent post.

But let’s be clear: As I always say, those who are the most successful on Instagram stick very strongly to their focus, so just because you are able to share every moment of your day, it doesn’t mean you should! Instead, your Instagram stories content should be complimentary to what your normally upload and be relevant to the focus of your account. 

Now, let’s get learning! 

Prefer to watch the video version of this tutorial? Check out my YouTube video!

*Note: Instagram Stories are constantly changing and evolving – this blog covers the basics. If you’re looking for a more advanced and up to date tutorial, visit this blog: Instagram Stories tutorial.

Watching & Navigating Instagram Stories

If you’ve fully updated your app and your mobile operating system you should see something like this when you visit your home feed on Instagram:

how to use instagram stories

Notice the bar at the top with your followers profile pictures? Those are their stories! To watch what they’ve shared simply click on the profile photo and the story will open up. From there you can:

  • TAP the screen to quickly go through their story
  • SWIPE LEFT to skip their story entirely and automatically start the next person’s story
  • CLICK the “send message” button to send a direct message to the author of the story
  • CLICK the ‘x’ button in the top right to exit out of Instagram Stories and go back to your home feed

Recording Your Own Instagram Stories

From your home feed you can also start recording your own story. To do that, simply swipe to the right and your Instagram story camera will open. Alternatively you can visit your profile and tap your profile picture. 

From there you can:

  • FLIP the camera view by tapping the dual arrow icon
  • PRESS AND HOLD the centre button to record a video
  • TAP the centre button once to take a photo
  • SWIPE UP to select an image from your camera roll

how to use instagram stories

Uploading & Downloading Your Instagram Stories

Once you have taken a video, image or uploaded content from your camera roll you can:

  • CLICK the checkmark, or ‘send to’ button to add the photo or video to your Instagram Story
  • CLICK the cancel or ‘X’ button to discard your photo or video and start over
  • CLICK the down-pointing arrow icon to download your image or video to your camera roll

Customizing Your Instagram Stories

Before you share your story to your audience, you can customize it in a variety of ways:

  • CLICK the ‘Aa’ icon to open your keyboard and type out any text you want to appear on your story
  • PRESS, HOLD & DRAG the text to place it wherever you wish
  • PINCH the text to increase or decrease it’s size
  • CLICK the marker icon to open the drawing area
  • CLICK any color of your choice from the bottom and any brush stroke from the top
  • SLIDE the scale on the left to increase or decrease your brush width
  • PRESS, HOLD & DRAG to draw with the brush
  • SWIPE LEFT to add a color filter

how to use instagram stories

When you’re done making it look snazzy, click the ‘send to’ button to share your image or video to your Instagram Story for all your followers to see!

Viewing Your Instagram Story Analytics

To see who has watched your stories, open your story by clicking on your profile picture in your bio, or the “Your Story” button from your home feed. Then, swipe up form the bottom of the screen to access your analytics.

instagram stories analytics

From here you can:

  • VIEW how many people have watched each section of your story
  • VISIT the feeds of the people who have viewed by simply clicking on their usernames
  • DOWNLOAD the story to your camera roll
  • UPLOAD your story to your Instagram feed∙   DELETE sections of your story

Managing Your Instagram Stories

From the analytics page you can also customize who can view your story and send you messages by clicking the cog in the top left:

instagram stories analytics

instagram stories settings

Alternatively you can access these options by going to your profile page, selecting the settings cog and selecting ‘Story Controls’. From there you can:

  • BLOCK users from viewing your story
  • CUSTOMIZE who you would like to be able to reply to your stories

The last thing you need to know about Instagram Stories is that everything you share only lasts 24 hours! Some see this as a negative but I like it. It’s what makes this feature so engaging – your audience has to watch or they risk missing it. So make sure your content is relevant, interesting and be sure to check your analytics to see what’s working and what isn’t!

Have fun!

What do you think of Instagram Stories? Do you use them on your account? Let me know in the comments!

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I was waiting for something like this! Had no idea you could pull photos taken in the last 24 hours, very informative!

This is an informative post which I will refer back to. Thank you

Thanks for the update Alex!! It looks like it will be a lot of fun!

I am so new with the Instagram stories. I was new in snapchat and now we have it in IG lol! Still trying to get used to it. But I’ll miss the filters made by still exploring. But what you posted are really useful! Thanks for the share! xx

This is so awesome! I still have yet to grasp Snapchat lol but I already have a small following on Instagram so I’ll have to figure this one out and start it soon. Thanks so much for the info

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