A complete guide to creating an Instagram Story

Humans are natural storytellers. It’s how we make sense of the world, how we engage with and entertain our peers, and how we connect with one another. But we’ve come a long way from the campfire. The storytelling circle of 2019 is, quite literally, at our fingertips. It’s called Instagram Stories, and here’s how to get yours seen (and heard). In this article, we outline how to use this social media platform effectively and give you some Instagram Stories tips along the way.

More than 1 billion active monthly users are communing around the digital water cooler that is Instagram. And over 500 million of them are using Instagram Stories every day. One-third of the most popular Stories are posted by businesses, and this year will see brands focusing their marketing prowess on these 15-second videos (or 10-second images) with a shelf life of 24 hours.

Why? Well for starters, Instagram Stories are a simple, speedy way to showcase you or your brand’s personality. With transparency being a major factor in building trust with your audience (especially millennials) they offer a casual, endearing invitation ‘behind the scenes’.

Stories are also a failsafe way to test new ideas and content with your following. They’re experimental and fun—like a holiday fling, if you will—with no strings attached. But despite their fleeting nature, their impact lives on.

In 2019, Instagram Stories engagement growth is outpacing that of its photos. Videos drive more comments than a static snap, and with Instagram’s algorithm ever-changing, Stories are more likely to be seen than feed posts.

Around 20% of Stories posted by a business result in a direct message from viewers, so if you’re not already spinning a yarn through this medium, you should be. You are? Great. But amid 25 million active business accounts, how is your content going to cut through?

Here we’ll explore how to add to Instagram Stories to your profile and elevate your offering.

How to create an Instagram Story on Canva

Mimco Instagram story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Sportsgirl Instagram story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

The New Yorker Champion Instagram story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Image: Mimco, Sportsgirl and The New Yorker champion their brand aesthetic across Instagram Stories

Sure, Instagram has an in-app Story builder with various features and modes, but from a business perspective, a simple way to stand out and keep your messaging sleek, on-brand and consistent is to create your Instagram Stories using Canva templates.

Templates make it easy to batch-produce on brand content and strategize, plan and schedule your posts. They’re also a huge time-saver. Setting up templates—a specific one for quotes, another for sales, and so on—is a savvy way to streamline your social output and means you can outsource your Story creation to other team members.

Canva is home to millions of professionally designed templates that are ready to roll or customize to match your brand aesthetic. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to creating your Instagram Stories with Canva (prefer a visual guide? The fine folk at Later have a tutorial on the topic).

  1. Open the Canva app and search ‘Instagram Story’ templates, or select custom dimensions at 1080 pixels wide and 1920 pixels tall. output_Re4zcS
  2. Select a template to customize or you can start your design from scratch. output_Re4zcS
  3. To add an image from your library, simply tap on the template. Next, your images will appear at the bottom of the screen with your Camera Roll. You’ll also be given an option to search Canva’s image library which holds millions of images and illustrations. By tapping on the image it will magically be added into your design. output_Re4zcS
  4. Once you’ve chosen your image and are happy with the placement, you can easily adjust the colors and filters to match your brand aesthetic. output_Re4zcS
  5. Canva also allows you to easily add and edit other elements such as text, shapes, frames, lines, icons and charts into your design, where they can be swiftly shifted and resized. output_Re4zcS
  6. Once you’re happy with your design, tap the Download button. output_Re4zcS
  7. To share your design, simply tap the Download button to save onto your device, or share via text message, social media or email directly from Canva. output_Re4zcS

Design tip: When creating your design, consider the flow of your Instagram Stories: How will the graphics run together and combine with video content?

Create clean and image-centric quote posts with the Polaroid Minimalist Modern Your Story template, or go minimal and fresh with the Green and Cream Coffee Instagram Story template.

Tips and tricks to enhance your Instagram Story

Parents magazine customized gifs Instagram story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Parents magazine customized gifs Instagram story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Parents magazine customized gifs Instagram story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Image: Parents magazine have made their customized GIFs a talking point

Below are some Instagram Stories tips to help you boost engagement and create professional looking designs every time:

How to use filters on Instagram Stories

Consistency is key when it comes to top-notch content, so when you’re working with images, stick to the same photo filters. Instagram offers numerous pre-set filters and settings to adjust contrast, brightness, tint, color saturation and more.

Once you’ve uploaded your design into the Instagram app, there are augmented reality (AR) filters aplenty to play with. Predicted to be a hot new trend for 2019, use these cute, comical overlays to add a little charm and cheek to your Instagram Stories.

How to use GIFs on Instagram Stories

Last year Instagram buddied up with GIPHY to create a library of GIFs (that you can access from the ‘add sticker’ button in Stories) designed to shine, flash and shimmy across our Instagram Stories. If you want to really up your ‘gram, you can even create your own.

Strategic as they are amusing, a thoughtfully placed GIF will direct your viewer’s eye to certain elements in your Story. Use them to highlight text, as a call to action (like ‘swipe-up’ and ‘sound on’) or as arrows and other cues to guide your audience.

How to create highlights albums on Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories Highlights are made up of Stories that you can curate under specific themes. Unlike Instagram Stories, these highlights stick around and live on your Instagram profile. They can be used to showcase your products, share tutorial content or create trailers for your account.

To do this, simply press on the Story Highlights section on your profile page. From there a Plus sign will appear allowing you to create a highlight reel from previous or current Instagram Stories.

This feature, along with Instagram TV (known as ‘IGTV—an app within Instagram that allows users to share videos up to an hour long), is perfect for content-conscious business owners—over 80% of whom are using video marketing.

Design tip: Highlight album covers are a simple, stylish way to brand your Stories (and fancy up your account, too).

Create on-brand covers for your Highlights albums by using a blank Instagram Story template, filling the background with your brand’s signature colors and drag-and-dropping in customizable icons.

Highlights album covers on Instagram, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Highlights album covers on Instagram, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Highlights album covers on Instagram, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Image: Highlights album cover creating process screen grabs

How to boost engagement with Instagram Stories

Glossier Instagram story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Everlane Instagram story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Girl Friday Instagram story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Image: Glossier, Everlane and Girl Friday keep things conversational with questions and polls

It’s all well and good for your audience to like what they see, but how can you get them to engage with your content? Here are some simple ways to do just that (Hint: Utilize the insights analytics tool on Business accounts to see which ones work for your brand).

Add links to your Instagram Stories

If you have over 10,000 followers you can add ‘swipe-up’ links to your Instagram Story posts, driving traffic to your website, product pages, blog and beyond. Verified shopping accounts can also use product tags and stickers to showcase their wares and allow users to click through to learn more and make a purchase.

Ask questions on your Instagram Stories

Questions trigger a natural answering reflex in humans (aka automatic engagement). To ask your followers a question, select the Questions options by swiping up when creating a story. Next, you will be asked to type in your question. This is a great way to open communication and kick off conversations with your audience, gather questions for a live Q&A, run an Instagram Stories contest or share FAQs and useful information.

Evening Standard UK image, guide to creating Instagram Stories

Image: Evening Standard

Add polls to Instagram

It’s hard to swipe past an invitation to throw in your two cents! Instagram has two different poll stickers you can add to your Stories: The original poll with two customizable answer options and the recently added emoji slider. As well as encouraging interaction, polls are a great way to ask your followers for feedback (who doesn’t love a little bit of free market research?)

Mention followers in your Instagram Stories

Another tool to up your engagement is the @mention sticker that allows you to tag in a friend, kindred brand or location to your Instagram Story. Once tagged, a user is sent a notification, so encourage your audience to @mention you and share their Stories to build a sense of community.

Add locations in Instagram Stories

Want to increase your brand awareness and attract new followers? Tell them where you are! The location sticker makes your Story discoverable under the location tag search, so new users can come flocking (seriously—posts with a location get 79% more engagement).

Go live on Instagram Stories

It’s a little daunting, but live streaming your Instagram Story—by way of a workshop, Q&A session or product launch—will have your audience glued to their screens.

To go live on Instagram Stories simply tap the camera icon at the top of your screen. Next, click on the Live button at the bottom of Stories. You will them be given a button that says Go Live. It’s as simple as that! Viewers can comment on your Instagram Live Story in real time, and if things really get sparking, you could land on the Explore page in front of potential new followers.

Design tip: Make sure your audience catches your live stream by giving them a heads-up post on your feed and Stories a few hours prior.

It’s easy to spruik your live event with the Purple Modern Announcement Story, the Black and White Fashion Bag Announcement Story is perfect for a product drop, and if you’ve got a flash sale on the horizon, try the Red-Purple Shape Announcement Story on for size.

How to use fonts and colors on Instagram Stories

GoTo Instagram story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

GoTo Instagram story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

GoTo Instagram story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Image: Beauty brand GoTo weave their peachy hue throughout Instagram Stories

Fonts and colors might be the most basic elements of your Instagram Story, but they pack a serious punch. Before you go wild, consider how white space (which doesn’t have to be white, by the way) will help viewers hone in on your message, and don’t forget to leave breathing room for any text, GIFs, and stickers you plan to add.

With Canva, you are able to choose from hundreds of free fonts to allow your Instagram Stories to look professional and sleek—Instagram currently only provides five fonts to choose from.

When choosing fonts, stick to two personalized styles (header and body copy styles, for example) and pair them thoughtfully. Serifs are back, according to typography trend watchers, and couple nicely with a lightweight sans serif font. All caps marry well with lowercase lettering (so long as they’re in a similar font family) and totally customized fonts are hot to trot.

This years’ color trends are at the bolder end of the spectrum, with vibrant and iridescent hues to the fore. Pantone has dubbed ‘Living Coral’ its color of 2019, but fear not, neutral fans—earthy shades and whites are also on the rise.

Design tip: keep your Instagram Stories cohesive by using your brand color as the background or accent color on each of your posts.

White space is yours for the taking on the Fashion Photography Instagram Story, while the Green Beige Modern Minimalist Your Story has earthy tone lovers sorted. Want to take the lead from Pantone? Jump on the Living Coral color bandwagon by resizing the Coral Pattern Beauty Makeup Instagram template for Instagram Stories.

How to add music to your Instagram Stories

Spotify Instagram Story Beyonce, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Spotify Instagram Story Ariana Grande, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Soundcloud Instagram Story, guide to creating an Instagram Story

Image: Spotify and Soundcloud make their Instagram Stories sing

Adding another sensory level to your Instagram Story is a simple way to enhance your offering. Thanks to Facebook busily partnering with every major record label in the biz, Instagram allows users to soundtrack their designs with ditties from the lyrical likes of Bruno Mars, Calvin Harris, Ed Sheeran, Guns N’ Roses, Cardi B and Kendrick Lamar. (However, it’s important to note that this feature is only available in certain countries at this stage.)

To add music to your Instagram Stories click the camera icon at the top of your screen and swipe up. Next, select the Music sticker. From there you are able to search songs by name, mood or genre. You can also tap the play button to preview a track before adding it to your Story, and fast-forward or rewind to choose the exact part that fits with what you’re sharing.

SoundCloud has also tuned in to the trend by allowing listeners to share songs from its app directly to Instagram Stories, arriving in the app complete with album art and a sticker that links to the music-streaming platform.

Design tip: Don’t forget to include a ‘sound on’ sticker or GIF to let your viewers know to listen up.

The Aerial Ocean Photo Your Story template provides the perfect backdrop for a chilled tune, or go for a theme song with the Pink and White Cake Hat Birthday Story or the Black and White Modern Travel Vacation Your Story.

Instagram Stories doesn’t need to be a chore, and beautifully crafted templates make them even less so. You really can’t go wrong when any missteps melt away after 24 hours, so have fun and see what gets your audience going.

To create your next Instagram Stories using Canva, download our iOS or Android app for free. And for constant inspiration and design tips along the way, you can also follow Canva’s Instagram account.

Your secret weapon for stunning design