Instagram Stories 101

Elke Farnworth
September 17, 2020

Convenient, mindless but oh so engrossing. Instagram stories are a low key big deal, and if you and your brand haven’t already implemented them in your marketing strategy, I'm here to tell you, you should start yesterday.

There's a reason why 500 million people and rising use Instagram Stories every day. These little videos act as trailers for the bigger picture, produced well enough, and your audience will want to see the whole sequel. Capturing everything in between, creating a richer relationship with your audience than any series of individual photos can provide.

While 2020 went off the rails, it's admirable to see that Instagram is ever adapting and rapidly developing new features and functionalities to support businesses, keep users happy and engaged and competitors at bay. We saw the addition of stickers such as the ‘support small business’, ‘gift cards’ and ‘donations’ to name a few. Instagram also added the ability for users to purchase badges (the Tiktok tip feature 2.0) aimed at helping influencers make more money. Recently, we saw Instagram launch Reels (Tiktok 2.0), behaving like the Story feature these are placed on your feed which you can also share as a story. After the launch of this feature by Instagram, Tiktok took to Twitter posting “well…this looks familiar”. Like they say - If you can’t beat them, buy them. If you can’t buy them, one up them.

Feel like there’s a bit going on? Let us break it down for you; there are Reels, Stories and then also are Story Ads. Organic stories are seen by people that follow your account and disappear from view after 24 hours. Story ads can run for as long as you wish and can be optimised to match the business objective that matters to you. A game changer for e-commerce stores in particular.


Instagram is the top social referrer to e-commerce sites, dwarfed only by its mother company Facebook. They provide a less competitive space, with higher engagement, a full screen experience and also opens up two way communication between consumer and brands via polls.

Given users' predisposition to rapid-fire swiping (cheers, Tinder) it's crucial to own the first few seconds of your video and check the following:

  1. Save the best for first.
  2. If it's a video, add volume. 
  3. Create clear and concise messaging.
  4. Maintain brand visibility.
  5. Feature influencers.
  6. Include a clear CTA.
  7. Make it clear what you're selling, don’t wait until the last carousel slide to show it.

Acting as dividers between stories themselves, story ads appear as any other story aside from the indistinct "Sponsored" reference at the top and also the fact that the production value should be substantially better. 

Story ads also give you the ability to link within your post which in the world of organic posts is an exclusive function reserved for accounts with over 10,000 followers or with a verified tick.

To access your post link, users need merely swipe up on your CTA arrow, at which point they'll be taken to your website. If this is functionality you're interested in—if you want to send prospects to your product page, to your blog, or to a lead form—you were at one time limited to the four of the six marketing objectives for which Story ads were available. There are now seven objectives for which Instagram Story ads are available (Brand Awareness was added recently), and you can add CTA links to any of them:

  • Brand Awareness: Increase awareness for your brand by finding people more likely to be interested in it.
  • Reach: Show your ad to the maximum number of people.
  • Video views: Get more people to view your video content.
  • Conversions: Drive valuable actions on your app or website.
  • App installs: Get more people to install your app.
  • Lead Generation: Drive leads like email addresses and phone numbers.
  • Traffic: Send more people to your website.


Instagram stories are here to stay, and they’re only going to get better so if you haven’t already used and abused then you should consider implementing them now. In short, they allow you to reach new audiences, sustain engagement between consumers and your brand while showcasing your brand, business and products to an already engaged audience. If you’ve got budget to work with, these bite-sized commercials are worth their weight in gold. As long as your stories tick the right boxes, they are likely to be your best weapon in staying top of mind while developing a greater perception for your brand. At April Ford, perception is everything.