July 26, 2017

Oh, Instagram Stories – you either love them or you don’t! And you can either do them well, or you can’t  Let’s face it, some of the content people share in their Stories…. well, it sucks! It’s like people figure because the content disappears in 24 hours, they don’t have to put any effort into the content. But, in doing that, you’re actually hurting your brand and driving away your audience. So we want to avoid those mistakes!

And there are those who are killing it with Instagram Stories and creating amazing content that people devour. Now, I don’t claim to be one of these masters of Stories. I honestly don’t even really like them. But, I know their value and potential for businesses so I commit to using them and sharing as much as I can with you.

Instagram Stories have been gaining a ton of steam and they aren’t going away any time soon. If you haven’t yet embraced this feature on Instagram, you really should experiment with it and see how your audience interacts with it. Even if the “raw” feel and more unpolished content we typically see doesn’t jive with your brand style, you can still find ways to make Stories true to your brand. Focus on creating the content that stays true to your messaging and aligns with your audience’s expectations.

If you want help figuring how to strategically use Instagram Stories, you can check out this previous blog post.

And, now, in this post, I’m going to share with you the more tactical tips to master Instagram Stories.

Upload an Old Photo

Instagram Stories only allows you to upload photos taken in the last 24 hours. When you swipe UP on a Story screen or tap on the image icon, you can access all of the images you’ve taken in the last 24 hours.

BUT, what if you want to upload something older than that? Well, then you have to get a little sneaky with your photo storage. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to edit the photo on your photo. Hit it with a tiny adjustment in brightness or contrast and resave the image. Voila! A new photo that is less than 24 hours old.

You can also take that older image and email it to yourself and then re-download it to your phone. Again, this saves it as a new image.

Then, you can swipe up in the Story and choose this latest image for your post.

Use a Filter

There are actually a number of filters you can apply to your photos. Swipe left or right after uploading or taking your image to rotate through the filters and choose the one that best enhances your image.

Create a Solid Color Background

One of my favorite techniques for Stories is using colored backgrounds so that I don’t actually need a photo. And it’s super easy to do!

Open your Story and take a photo of anything – it doesn’t matter, it’ll get covered over  Then, tap on the pencil icon in the top right corner and choose any color from the options at the bottom of the screen (you can scroll through to find two more pages of color options too). Once you choose your color (it will default to white if you don’t choose something else), tap and hold anywhere on your screen. The whole screen will become the color you just selected!

Tap “Done” and now you have one solid colored background to add text or stickers to.

Use the Eraser Tool

I personally love this little tool! Follow the steps above to do a solid color fill. But, make sure that the image in the background that you’ve taken or uploaded is one that you want to showcase.

Select the Eraser tool by going to the pencil icon and tapping on the icon that looks like the eraser from an old school pencil. When you “draw” with the eraser, it will remove the solid color and the photo underneath will come through.

Add Text and Drawings

Of course, half the fun in Stories is adding text and doodles. It’s all super easy to do too!

To add text as typed text, tap on the “Aa” icon in the top right corner or simply tap anywhere on the screen after you took/uploaded the photo. Start typing on the keyboard and tap “Done” when finished typing.

You can select one of the color options for the color of the text (remember, you can scroll through 3 pages of color options). The text will appear as plain text in the color you chose.

You can change the text to white with a colored background by tapping on the “A” in the square. If you tap on the “A” again, the background becomes transparent versus opaque. And tapping on it a third time removes the background again.

I also recommend you add different components of text as different text boxes. You can move each one, change colors, change sizes, and otherwise personalize it when each area is a different piece of text in the Story.

Beyond using the typed text, you can also freehand and draw on your Stories. Go to the Pen/Pencil icon in the Story screen to open up the options for writing tools.

You have a fine tip pen, a wide tip marker, a highlighter, and a rainbow tool. Each one creates a slightly different effect and colors can be chosen using the color options at the bottom of the screen. Tap “Done” when you’ve finished drawing.

Change the Size of the Writing Tool

All the writing tools are all fun and whatnot, but did you know you can change the thickness of each one? On the bottom left of the screen, is the bubble that shows what color you’ve selected and it has three different sized dots in the circle. Tap on that bubble to open a slider and drag that slider up to make the pen thicker or down to make it slimmer.

Add Stickers

One of the other commonly used features in Stories is adding stickers. There are plenty to choose from and Instagram is always adding more. During trending times or seasons you’ll notice new and different stickers – for example, July 4th had it’s own set of stickers and right now it’s summer so there are a bunch of summer themed stickers.

All of your keyboard emojis are also in here to choose from.

The “Location” sticker allows you to geo-tag your Story (a big advantage for getting new people to find you!). You can choose from the populated locations or type in the Search bar to find the location you want to tag.

There’s also the Hashtag sticker which makes the hashtag clickable and puts it in a white background with the Instagram-theme colored text. BTW, you can also just type a hashtag using the typed text, and it’s clickable.

A tip for you too… when you add a sticker to the Story, you can pinch it to make it bigger or smaller and drag it around on the screen.

Tag Someone in Your Story

If you want to tag someone in your Story, use the @ symbol and start typing their name. A list of matches will appear to choose from. You can easily tap on that person’s name and their handle is now clickable in your Story. You’ll notice the underline when their handle is clickable – and this sends them a notification too. If the line doesn’t appear under their username, it isn’t hyperlinked.

Build Text on Consecutive Story Posts

The downside to Stories is that images rotate every 10 seconds so it’s not a lot of time to read. If you have a lot of text, it helps to break it up over multiple images.

I often create a series of images where each one adds more text so it’s easily read but the final image has the whole message.

To do this, create your first image and make sure you save the image (or have the automatic save feature enabled). Then use that saved image to start the next Story post and add the next layer of text. Save and continue until you’ve completed the message. This way, the text is in the same place on each image and reads cohesively.

Record a Video

Of course, videos work really well in Stories and you should be finding ways to incorporate actual video footage regularly. This is where the trust builds and authenticity shines through.

To record video, tap and hold the big round shutter button. You’ll see the colored bar fill around the circle until time runs out.

You can also choose to use a boomerang video, use hands-free video (tap and release so you don’t have to hold the shutter button), and Live video.

After you’ve recorded the video, it will play back on repeat. If you don’t like it, tap the “X” in the top left corner and record again until you get it right. You can also go through all the add-on components like you did for a photo – adding text, doodles, stickers, etc.

You can also turn off the sound on the video if you don’t want that to play on the Story. Tap on the little speaker icon up top to mute the sound.

Hide Your Story

Did you know you can choose to hide your Story from certain people? If you’re planning something and don’t want someone to find out, or if you have information that you don’t want to share with certain people in your audience, you can actually hide the Story from them.

Tap on the Settings icon (gear icon) in the top corner of the Story screen, and then type in the names of those to block from seeing your Story.

Save Your Photos and Videos

You can individually save any post you upload to your Story. Before you publish it, you can tap on the “Save” option in the corner of the screen. Or, after publishing (but before it disappears, obviously), you can tap on the options button on your post and choose “Save Photo” or “Save Video” and it’ll download to your camera roll.

I personally always save every photo and video I share to Instagram, even my Stories. You never know when you want to repurpose that content!

Again, go into the Settings for your Story and slide the “Save Shared Photos and Videos” slider on. This will automatically save your Story posts so you don’t have to manually save each post.


Well, there you have a bunch of my tips to master Instagram Stories. There are some other things and Instagram is always updating things. But this will get you well on your way to mastering Stories and connecting with your audience.

You can always stay up to date with the latest changes and tactics in my membership community exclusively for Instagram marketing!

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. You know i love my IG Stories (and I hated Snapchat so go figure lol) 😉
    Two things I didn’t know about was the “tap and hold” method to make my background my branding colour and the “size change of writing tool”! I’ve always wanted to know how to make my Markers thinner 😉

    Thanks again, Jenn!

    1. Thanks Tanya! I’m so happy to hear these tips helped you and that now you can do that much more with your Stories 🙂

  2. Super helpful post! One thing I’m struggling with is the text box. How do you get it so perfectly rectangular? I know there is a trick I am missing.

    1. Hey Erica. The text box is automatically created by tapping on the box with the A at the top of the screen when typing. I don’t have to do anything to get it to that shape 😉

  3. There’s another trick! If you hold on the colors, within the three pages, when writing it will bring up different shades. So now you have even more options!

    1. Ooh! Yes! Thank you for sharing this Brianne. I totally forgot about this feature but that is a super helpful tip to get more personalized or branded coloring.

  4. What an in-depth Article Jenn. We always tend to avoid simple things in our Insta posts that play an important role to grab immediate user attention. In this article, you have pointed out such details one can keep handy while posting on Insta.

    Thanks to You.

    1. Thank you Manisha! I really hope these tips will help you get better results with your Stories. Best of luck!

  5. Thoroughly enjoying and learning from your posts Jenn! Q4U- I saw on an Instagram Story not the ususal “write message” at the bottom but instead the person typed “Swipe up for recipe”, under that it said “See More”. When I swiped up it took me to her webpage with the post and recipe. First time I’ve seen that. Are you familiar with this and how it’s done? Could have missed it on your site.

    1. Hey Lynn. Yes, business profiles with over 10k followers have the option to add a clickable link to their Stories. We’re all hoping they expand that to all business profiles but I don’t know if/when that will happen.

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