How to Use Instagram Stories – The Advanced, Step-by-Step Tutorial

May 28, 2017 by Alex Tooby

How much time do you spend watching Instagram stories every day? I know for me it’s a substantial amount! In fact, I’m almost always watching Instagram stories before I even look at the new images in my feed. What about you? If you’re in the same boat, that says A LOT about Instagram Stories. They’re powerful, captivating, engaging, and of course fun! If you haven’t added them to your Instagram strategy yet, you need to!

With over 800 million Instagram users watching Instagram stories every day, by not posting any to your account, you’re missing out on a huge potential to build your relationship with your audience, increase traffic to your feed and boost your engagement rate!

So strap in, this tutorial is a long one. I am going to walk you through ALL of the features within Instagram stories so you can start effectively using them on your feed!

Tutorial Pre Requisites

Before starting this advanced Instagram Stories tutorial you should know how to:

  • Open your Instagram story camera
  • Take a video, image or upload content from your camera roll
  • Add and resize text
  • Drag and place objects such as text and emojis
  • Share content to your story

If you are not certain how to do these things, please refer to this blog post before starting the below tutorial: How To Use Instagram Stories – A Basics Tutorial.

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

*Note: not every user will have access to all of the features listed in this tutorial – Instagram ‘rolls out’ their features to users at different intervals depending on a variety of variables such as location and account size. Always make sure your Instagram app is up to date when checking for features.

Creating Instagram Stories

Video Styles

When you open your Instagram stories camera you should notice a large record button as well as some small text directly below it. If you slide the text to the left you’ll expose more text – these are your video styles! Here’s what each style does:

Normal: this style allows you to take a standard video or image

Boomerang: this style takes a burst of photos, then loops it over and over to create a moving image.

To take a boomerang, simply tap the record button once and wait! A number of photos will be taken very quickly to create your boomerang. To create the best boomerangs, make a small but deliberate movement while it’s recording. For example, winking to the camera, sticking your tongue out, or jumping up and down. These are an engaging alternative to video or photo!

Superzoom: this style allows you to chose a focus point and zoom in on it with accompanying music to create a humorous or dramatic effect. To use Superzoom:

  • Tap the small music icon that appears above the record button and select your style.
  • Tap the spot in your video that you want the Superzoom to focus on (this will be marked by a white rectangle)
  • Hit record!

Rewind: this style simply plays your video in reverse.

Hands-Free: this style allows you to record a video without having to keep your finger on the record button. It’s perfect content like makeup tutorials, demonstrating exercises, teaching sign language, etc.

Stop-Motion: this style allows you to add a little animation to your images by quickly playing a sequence of images to create a video (kinda like flip-books from back in the day!)

To create a stop-motion sequence, take a photo, then move your camera or object slightly, then take another photo. Continue this process until your ‘movie’ is done, then tap ‘done’ and watch your video come to life!

Customizing Your Instagram Stories

Face Filters

Don’t feel like you look your best but still want to record an Instagram story? Use face filters! You can easily add cute bunny ears, glasses, a flower crown, and many more options to change your look. To do this:

  • Change the camera view to selfie mode
  • Select the smile icon to the right of the record button
  • Select the face filter of your choice by sliding them the left or right

instagram stories face filters feature

Draw & Handwrite

The markers in Instagram stories allow you to do so much, you just have to get creative! Start with basic drawing or writing:

  • Select your marker style (fine point, angled, neon, chalk or eraser)
  • Adjust the size by using the slider on the left
  • Select a generic color by tapping one of the options on the bottom of your screen
  • Select a custom color by pressing and holding one of the generic colors, then dragging to select a color from the palette that appears.
  • Select a color from your image or video by tapping the eye dropper tool on the bottom left and dragging it onto a color you want to use

instagram stories - marker colors and widths

Add A Colored Background

Pictures and video are what most people choose to upload to Instagram stories but did you now you have a few other options? How about choosing your brand colors, creating a solid background then adding some text to make an eye catching graphic? Here’s how:

  • Select the marker tool and the color of your choice
  • Press and hold the screen for three seconds

instagram stories - add a solid background

Now you have the perfect blank canvas to create with!

Create a ‘Peek-a-Boo’ Effect

By using a solid background and the eraser you can create a fun peek-a-boo effect in your Instagram stories!

  • Add a solid background to your Instagram story
  • Select the eraser marker
  • Draw to reveal the image behind the background

instagram stories eraser brush

Add Text (Size, Fonts & Tagging)

Adding text seems pretty basic but you can really do a lot by simply adjusting the size, font and color!

By adjusting the size of your text you can have really big words surrounded by smaller ones to emphasize importance and create visual variety. You can also change the style of the font by tapping the ‘Classic’ button in the top middle and cycling through the five options (Classic, Modern, Neon Typewriter & Strong). Combining these two can make for really eye-catching graphics.

Another great thing you can do with the text feature is @ mention Instagram accounts and turn those mentions into live, clickable links! To do this simply type the @ symbol followed by the name of the user you want to tag. When you publish your story and click on the text you just added, a small bubble will appear with the users account, and when clicked on, will take your viewers directly to their page! This feature also works for hashtags.

Instagram stories text options

Adding Flair To Your Instagram Stories

On top of customizing your Instagram stories with text, colors and markers, you can also add a variety of “stickers” to your content. These fun little additions allow you to really amp up the creativity while also helping you reach a wider range of people.

After taking a photo or video, click the square square smiley face icon or swipe up from the bottom of your screen to access the Instagram story stickers. Inside you’ll find the date, time, fun sayings like “yaass” and a full range of emojis, as well as:

Location stickers

Use this sticker to add a location to your story. Not only will it give your audience insight into where you are (perfect for travel bloggers!) but it also gives you the opportunity to be seen by a wider range of users. How? Instagram compiles the best stories from that location, into it’s own, location story. Viewers can see this story from the explore feed, or by searching the location. If your content ends up in this story that means it could be exposed to a much larger audience! I love this feature and use it often to get an extra boost in views.

instagram stories stickers

Hashtag Stickers

Much like the location sticker, this sticker allows you to describe your story with a hashtag. If your story performs well, it could be added to the subsequent hashtag story, sending your content far and wide!


The introduction of gifs to Instagram stories has made a big impact on users and encouraged even more people to take the plunge because they’re so fun and easy to use! Gifs allow you to add vibrancy, personality and fun into a story in just a few clicks:

  • Select the flashing GIFs sticker
  • Choose from the trending gifs that appear on the front page
  • Type a keyword in the search bar to narrow your results


Now you can easily gather insight and important data from your audience by using polls in your Instagram Stories. There are two different types: a simple A/B poll where the user gets to choose one option, or the Slider Poll where the user slides a bar sideways to give their answer as a percentage. I personally think the A/B poll is the best option here for getting engagement and actual data, however the slider option does provide a fun, interactive moment for your visitor. Here’s how to implement both:

A/B Poll

  • Select the ‘Poll’ sticker
  • Type your question
  • Tap the placeholder ‘yes’ & ‘no’ text and replace it with the answers you want your audience to choose from

how do I create a poll instagram stories

Slider Poll

  • Select the slider sticker
  • Type your question
  • Choose an emoji to use as your slider. Swipe left to expose more emojis

Making Your Instagram Stories Interactive

Add Links

Now that you’re creating eye-catching Instagram stories, you can take it to the next level by directing your audience somewhere impactful with links! Link directly to your website, latest blog post, specific product, or even an affiliate offer! To add links:

  • Select the link icon at the top of your screen
  • Input your desired link
  • Tap the ‘preview link’ button to make sure it works
  • Tap ‘done’ and share to your story

how to add a link to instagram stories

Viewers of this story will see text at the bottom that says “see more”. When they swipe up they will be taken directly to the link you input! Game changer!

Repost Other Users Instagram Stories

Has someone recently @ mentioned you in their story? If so, you can repost their story to your own! When you’re mentioned in a story you will receive a direct message that tells you and will give you the option to repost. It should look like this:

repost instagram stories

Simply tap the ‘add this to your story’ button to repost!

Note: this feature only works if you’ve been tagged in the story

Share Instagram Posts to Your Story

This feature is one of my personal favorites! You can now share any post on your feed (or someone else’s!) to your Instagram story and have it link directly back to the post! This is amazing for getting more eyes on your content and boosting that engagement rate. Here’s how to do it:

  • Navigate to the post you want to share (this can be your own, or someone else’s)
  • Tap the airplane icon underneath the image
  • Select ‘add post to your story’
  • Tap the image to change the style

how to share posts to instagram stories

Now when your audience views your story, they can simply tap the image and a ‘see post’ button will appear. If they click that they will be taken directly to the shared post!

Share Songs from Spotify

Instagram has now partnered with Spotify to let users share their favorite songs right in their Instagram stories! To share your latest tunes:

  • Navigate to a song, album, artist, or playlist on spotify
  • Tap the share button
  • Select Instagram Stories and the app will open
  • Share your song with your audience!

share spotify song to instagram stories

When a viewer watches your story they’ll be able to tap the image or the ‘play on Spotify’ text to instantly open the song in their Spotify app! This is a great way to share your interests with your audience.. You could even use the poll feature to ask if they liked it or not!

Using Instagram Highlights

Alright kids, this is a BIG one! Instagram story highlights are a huge addition to Instagram and one that you should surely be taking advantage of.

Story highlights are collections of images and videos that can be ‘pinned’ to your Instagram profile indefinitely. In contrast to an Instagram story that expires after 24 hours, these highlights can be used to broadcast your most important information, updates, promotions, etc.

instagram stories highlights

Creating a highlight begins with creating a story as you normally would. Once your story is live, open it and:

  • Select the highlight icon in the bottom right
  • Create a highlight by giving it a name (or select an already made highlight)
  • Continue to add sections of your story to your highlight until satisfied
  • Navigate to your profile and tap on your newly created highlight
  • Edit the cover photo, add archived stories, and remove sections as needed

Keep in mind that your story highlight will play in the order that the stories were uploaded. That means you cannot re-arrange the order of images or video after the fact so plan ahead if you need to! Also note that you must keep your story live for a full 24 hours. If you delete your story before the 24 hours commences, those sections of your Instagram highlights will also be deleted.

Check out my account @alextooby to see how I’ve utilized the highlights feature!

My Three Favorite Ways to Use Instagram Stories

Announce new posts to encourage likes and comments

If you aren’t the type of person who wants your face on camera all the time (totally me, but I’m trying to get used to it..), then creating an “announcement” out of the tips and tricks mentioned above can be a great way to let your audience know that you posted a new photo, you’re hosting a sale or uploaded a new link to your bio.

Instagram stories features announce something

Ask a question and tell viewers to send you a DM

While this doesn’t immediately equate to a like or comment on your content, getting a potential customer into your DM’s can be far more valuable! Here you can start a conversation with them that leads to a sale, a collaboration, partnership, recommendation etc. It’s always extremely valuable to talk to your audience one on one, so ask a question or make a statement in your Instagram story, then encourage your viewers to reply!

instagram stories - send a message

Reward viewers with a limited time offer

This is a great way to get clicks over to your website and potentially make some sales! By offering a very limited time sale via your Instagram story you give your loyal viewers an opportunity to save. You could mention that you do this often in a new Instagram post to create hype and encourage more users to look out for your stories as well!

Instagram stories features discount

With all of these features and many more to come (I’m certain!) the opportunities to engage our audience, increase your engagement, and make more sales is totally possible with Instagram Stories!

Are you using Instagram stories? Will you be adding any of these features to your strategy? Let me know in the comments!

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thanks for the information

Hi I have 15k in instagram. I was able to use my swipe up link just fine not until i switched to android. Now whenever I need to post with link, i have to do it in my old ios phone. I cant do it in my new android phone. Help

My Instagram doesn’t let me share posts to my stories even though my app is updated ;—;

How do I see the results of the slide-poll? In the A/B version I just click on it and get the percentage and can share it, but slider doesn’t seem to work like that. Thanks!

Thank you, I found what I was looking for. Very helpful!

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