8 Tips on How to Create Effective Instagram Stories and Stories Ads

8 Tips on How to Create Effective Instagram Stories and Stories Ads


At Facebook’s F8 2019 conference back in May, the company reported that there are now more than a billion people using Stories every day across its family of apps – Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status. Along with this rising usage, research has also shown that 56% of people now use Stories on three or more platforms at least once a week, and 57% agree that stories make them feel part of a larger community.

It’s no wonder then that Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report highlighted the significant rise of Stories, where attention is increasingly shifting. 

A slide from Mary Meeker's 2019 Internet Trends report

More people are using Stories, more often – which means that brands also need to be aligning with that shift.

Are you looking to add Stories into your social media marketing approach?

To help, in this post, I’ll outline eight key Stories tips – including examples – which may help to guide your process, and put together more effective Stories and Stories Ads.

1. Polish Your Creative Elements

Just because Stories generally have an “in-the-moment”, DIY-feel, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your brand Stories should follow suit. In fact, keeping in mind that 56% of a brand’s sales lift can be attributed to the quality of the creative, the higher the quality of the execution, the better.

This means using high-resolution assets, and producing pixel-perfect montages, which Adidas does extremely well in this #Futurecraft Story:

Instagram Story example - Adidas

Not all brands will have the resources or budget to go so “high-end” in their creation, but it is worth noting the importance of presentation, and creating stand-out content where possible. 

2. Go Fast

Stories are raising the bar in terms of immersion and interactivity. And for brands, one of the keys to meeting users’ expectations is speed.

Offering quick, dynamic content is one of the most effective ways to sustain viewers’ attention. A nice example of a “fast” Story is this campaign from Levi’s: 

Instagram Stories example - Levis

3. Break Down Your Narrative Arc

Another good practice to keep users interested is to split your Stories into a sequence of smaller, contrasting scenes, rather than presenting them with one continuous shot.

This Story from Marshall Headphones accomplishes that really well, by juxtaposing several creative elements to tell an engaging story (pun intended) as part of their Guided by Music series:

Instagram Stories example - Marshall

4. Think Vertical First

Did you know that 82.5% of visitors to video-centric web sites hold their smartphone in portrait orientation?

In other words, mobile-first now means vertical first too. The secret to making the most of the screen real estate available to you in Stories, is to craft content specifically in portrait orientation from the start, rather than adapting and porting content from another format (square or landscape).

Warby Parker has nailed vertical presentation in its Stories content:

Instagram Stories example - Warby Parker

5. Keep Stickers to a Minimum

This may sound counter-intuitive, but stickers – and particularly the abuse of stickers – can actually hurt your Stories engagement.

Instead of filling up the screen with extras, it’s smarter to only use contextual stickers, which enhance the experience of the user.

For example, in order to announce their Fall Winter 2019 Collection, Gucci brilliantly included a countdown sticker in their Story to build up anticipation until the big reveal:

Instagram Stories example - Gucci

6. Open and Close With Your Brand

In order to help users identify from whom your Story is coming from and fix their attention to your brand, you want to integrate brand elements in the first and last few seconds of your message.

This works wonderfully in this Sephora Story, a part of their Belong campaign:

Instagram Stories example - Sephora

7. Call To Action

CTA is the name of the game – with 60% of businesses on Instagram Stories using an interactive element every month, you don’t want to hold back when it comes to encouraging users to take the action you expect from them.

Don’t be shy here – draw attention to your CTA, and literally invite people to “Swipe up”, for example, in order to maximize the outcomes of your campaign.

One brand that excels at this game is Red Bull:

Instagram Stories example - Red Bull

8. Test, Learn, Rinse and Repeat

According to Facebook, 1 in 2 people surveyed say they have visited a website, and 31% have gone to a store to buy a product/service as a result of seeing it first in Stories.

In other words, Stories rock when it comes to traffic generation. If you’re not yet seeing the results you expect from your campaigns, you may want to keep testing different hypotheses until you understand which stimuli your audience best responds to, and find your sweet spot. And even if you’re already happy with the performance of your campaign, it’s still worth exploring new avenues to unlock the full potential of this booming medium.

In addition to the eight best practices outlined above, I want to also share two more campaigns which have used Stories cleverly to offer unique experiences to users.

Bonus #1: Netflix Wallpapers

In its Instagram Stories Highlights, Netflix enables users to view and download wallpapers for their smartphone, featuring its most popular original series and movies. This is an interesting way to hack a platform that was meant to view ephemeral content into a channel to distribute branded assets to the devices of users.

Instagram Stories example - Netflix

Bonus #2: Decathlon « Frappe Le Sac »

I’ll say it right away – this campaign by Hobbynote for French sporting good manufacturer and retailer Decathlon is probably the smartest use of Stories I’ve seen to date.

To promote the launch of their latest punching bag, Decathlon invited users to a Street Fighter-inspired, in-Story game. Every tap on the screen takes you to the next Story frame, and “damages” the punching bag a little more, in stop-motion fashion. Do it fast enough and you’ll feel like you’re playing an actual arcade game, all within Instagram.  

Instagram Stories example - Decathlon

Your Turn

Stories and Stories Ads are where attention is increasingly shifting, and now is the time to take advantage of this immersive format, which provides brands with a rare opportunity to talk to their audience in a distraction-free environment, while also triggering direct-response outcomes.

Coupled with the power of Facebook’s targeting, audience reach and measurement solutions, this is a whole new territory, with endless possibilities. And armed with the best practices listed above, you have all the keys to create effective Stories and stand out from the crowd.

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