How to Make the Most of Instagram Stories

Making the Most of Instagram Stories with the design twins (Updated June 2020)

Learn how to use Instagram stories to boost your engagement, enhance your growth and authentically connect to your followers.

Jodie of The Design Twins creating Instagram stories pin

People are always asking, “What’s new on Instagram?” “What’s the future of Instagram?” or “What should I be doing to grow on Instagram?” We can answer all those questions with one word: Stories.

That’s right. Instagram Stories are not only big today, but their power and importance continues to increase. There are more people watching stories than browsing feeds. What does this mean for you? And how can you best use this feature to grow your feed and influence? We’ve got all the ins and outs in this post. We’ll explain why, what and how to share, as well as the technical details to get you rocking your Instagram stories.

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What are Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories is Instagram’s disappearing content feature, which allows users to share photos and videos in a slideshow format that last 24 hours. Separate from users’ carefully curated galleries, it is as a place for more raw, real-time sharing. Stories offer filters, text, drawing, interactive stickers, tags, music, and other features for added creativity. New features are being adding every day.


how to make the most of Instagram stories pink laptop with glasses on desk

Why are Instagram Stories So Important?

  1. Video is the future. Plain and simple.
  2. People want to be entertained. Video captures people’s attention and holds it.
  3. Instagram wants to see an engaged audience. Stories build relationships and therefore commitment and engagement.
  4.  The algorithm factors in story views, which increases your overall value on Instagram.
  5. Stories add another dimension to your feed, another dimension to you.
  6. Stories add a direct link feature (swipe up) for accounts with over 10K followers. 
  7. The direct link makes stories even more valuable to brands and anyone with a website.

What Should You Share?

Stories are the perfect place to add more value and give people more reasons to follow you. This is your chance to give your followers more than pictures & words. This is your bonus forum to inspire, teach and showcase what you do and who you are. Unlike a carefully curated gallery stories allow more freedom to show a more personal side while still mixing in value-added content.

  1. Show your personality
  2. Life in progress, as long as there is something interesting/worthwhile
  3. How-to videos & tutorials
  4. Showcase other talents
  5. Make people laugh
  6. Show real life or behind the scenes
  7. Sponsor brands in a personal, meaningful way
  8. Share the love and feature others
  9. Give shout outs to followers or your hashtag users
  10. Answer questions from your feed
  11. Invite people to ask questions, create dialog
  12. Ask followers what they want to see more of
  13. Advertise your company, brand, blog, products
  14. Sell products you love
  15. Make announcements
  16. Offer special promotions/coupons to reward loyal viewers
  17. Provide a “call to action”


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What if I’m Camera Shy?

  • You Will Get Used to It

There are plenty of people who don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera. Guess what? In the beginning Jodie and I were quite nervous too. But you get used to it. Now it feels like we are talking to our friends, which we are.

  • Practice Makes Better

I would say practice makes perfect, but you don’t have to be perfect. In fact, the more real you are the better your stories will be. If people wanted professional, they’d turn on the TV. Even on TV the reality shows are taking over. Why? People want real and relatable. So, stop worrying, and have fun.

  • Be You

While it’s great to get ideas from watching others, don’t try to make your stories like any else’s. Just be yourself.

  • Baby Steps

If you are nervous begin by taking baby steps. Begin by facing the camera away from you and just narrate your stories. Once you’re comfortable with that be brave and turn the camera around. Jodie and I like to mix it up. Half the time we share decor, projects or our view and the other half we talk to the camera.

  • Don’t overthink it

Let it all unfold organically. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. This way you’ll enjoy it more. When you’re enjoying something, your natural energy will draw people to you. And if you’re enjoying yourself it’s much more likely your followers will be enjoying watching as well.

glasses and desk Instagram stories

Important Tips for Better Instagram Stories

  • Tell a Story

If you want people to stay interested and engaged treat your stories like a mini movie. Because your stories will present like a slide show or movie, one after another, try to make it flow together and really tell a story.

  • Get Follower Feedback

This is the perfect place to start a conversation. You are doing double duty here. Feedback from followers is invaluable and at the same time you are building a bridge as you engage your audience. Nothing builds relationships more than conversation. Relationships create the strongest, most loyal followers.

  • Entertain

People want to be entertained. Be witting, fun, silly, creative. Show your personality. Let them fall in love with the real you.

  • Add Value

Besides entertainment share something of value. Teach your followers something. Give them tips, inspiration, how-to, advice, or a meaningful take-away.

  • Provide a Call to Action

You’ve worked hard to create engaging content. Now that you’ve got your followers’ attention what do you want to do with it? Give them a call to action. Send them to your business page, your blog, your shop, whatever it is you want to create.

The Technical Side of Instagram Stories

Maybe what’s holding you back from fully embracing Instagram Stories is the technical aspects. Once again, be brave. Remember when Instagram itself was a mystery? And look at you now. You can do this too. The cool part is you can learn the many features of your stories bit by bit. You can stay basic at first and when you feel ready slowly add “skills” to your stories’ repertoire. Here’s a great resource to learn about all the capabilities of Instagram stories.

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Instagram Stories Capabilities

Our advice is to understand the capabilities so you can know what is possible, and then you can decide what is important to you. Here is an overview summary. Note that new features are being added all the time. Don’t ignore them. Use them.

  • Live story feature. Create a live video. Let it end or press save to have it viewable for full 24 hours
  • Still photos which show like slides for five seconds or videos. Access any photo or video taken in last 24 hours.  Want to show an older shot? I just screenshot which is then time stamped and recognized as recent. There are apps to help as well, Slack & WhatsApp both do this.
  • Show older videos or tie together 15-second bits of video by using an app called Cut Story
  • Hands-free 15-second video option
  • Boomerang video option

Instagram Stories Add-ons

  • Add music to your videos
  • Add Text, adjust color, alignment, size. Create text boxes, use multiple colors, etc.
  • Add stickers like temperature, day, time stamp, selfie
  • Tag people
  • Link a website (if you are a verified account or have a business account of over 10K followers) which creates a swipe up feature. You can link your blog, a company website during a collaboration or affiliate links for sales.
  • Draw feature, three styles of pen, with adjustable width of pen, and color choice
  • Face filter options
  • GIFs to add animation. These are not just for teenagers. They add a little delight. Studies show a huge increase in viewership when GIFs are added.
  • Location. Just like posts people search stories by location tags
  • Add hashtags, ten or less to help your stories be found. There is only one clickable hashtag link, but you can manually type in up to 10 using text option.
  • Use quiz sticker, poll sticker, emoji slide, and question stickers to create interaction and increase engagement.
  • Be ready for new additions all the time. Remember, if Instagram offers it, they want you to use it.

Using Instagram Stories Strategically

Jodie and I love Instagram stories, for all the reasons listed above and more.

Here are some of the ways we currently use stories:

  • to interact with our followers
  • to make people smile, laugh, hopefully brighten their day
  • share products we love
  • advertise for companies who sponsor us
  • tell people about new blog posts
  • share a project or DIY we are working on
  • hashtag feature sharing
  • giveaway or other promotional reminders
  • share home decor restyling
  • show behind the scenes
  • occasionally share other talents, like our violin playing
  • and more.

One of the reasons we love stories is they allow us the ability to accomplish things we can’t on our galleries. We protect our feeds and try to keep them as aesthetically pleasing as we can. Stories provide a place where we can do all the things we don’t want to do on our galleries, and so much more.


make the most of Instagram stories laptop and desk

How Often Should I Create Instagram Stories?

Every day.

  • Want people to be committed to you? Show them you are committed to them.
  • Be consistent. Do you want your followers to look forward to connecting with you daily? Do you want them to make you part of their day? Of course you do.
  • Then that’s your answer. Create Instagram stories every day.
  • Show your commitment to your followers, your commitment to IG.
  • Help your followers create a deep connection to you and your brand.
  • A habit is something you do every day.
  • Help your followers make you their habit.

Final Argument

Not yet using stories? Think it’s just not for you?

Let us change your minds.

If you are on IG for fun and kicks then you can use stories for added fun. But, if you are an influencer or hoping to become one, or you’re on Instagram for business of any kind and you’re not yet using Instagram stories, it is like leaving money on the table.

It’s like being half in the game. And all signs point to this becoming only more true in the future. It’s another example of success going to those who are willing to evolve with the times.

Whether you are new to stories or just getting ready to take the plunge we hope this post will help you optimize the power of Instagram Stories and take your engagement and your account to the next level.

  • Ready to take your Instagram to the next level? We offer Personalized Instagram Audits that give you a complete analysis of your Instagram account, a detailed road map for success, and 90 minutes of video coaching.
  • Be sure to read our many other Instagram related blog posts and sign up to receive our VIP email so you never miss a post. Click on the pink box below and receive free bonus materials.
jodie & julie

For more tips on how to create amazing Instagram stories, read Later Media’s article, “How to Design Instagram Stories That Captivate Your Audience.”

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How to Make the Most of Instagram Stories
Article Name
How to Make the Most of Instagram Stories
Learn how to use Instagram Stories to engage, advertise, grow, and connect. Learn why Stories hold the key to success and how to take full advantage now!
Publisher Name
The Design Twins
Publisher Logo
  1. Piper says:

    Loved this article. I will start playing with all the things that can be done with stories. Loved your baby steps idea. I think that is precisely how I need to start!! Thanks so much for taking the mystery out of it!

    • jjdesigntwins says:

      Yay Piper! We are SO excited to be able to help you with our posts! So happy! We can’t wait to see you rock your stories. Have fun…they’re addictive..haha, didn’t mention that! XO ~ Julie

  2. Trisha Bushey says:

    Hey girls! It’s me Trisha @abusheyandapeck !! I have to tell you that I had stumbled across your feeds a couple of times but it wasn’t until recently that I have truly been following along! Someone had posted to go check out your blog. So I did! I do have to tell u my favorite part about the two of you … is guess what?? Your stories!! You are both so lively and cheerful and truly engaging!! I look forward to seeing your happiness in each and everyday!!! Younladies are truly down to earth , huggable and inspiring!! I’m so happy to have met you! Xoxo

    • jjdesigntwins says:

      Wow Trisha! You just made our day! What a beautiful and generous reply. Thank you so much. Your words mean more than we can tell you. We look forward to sharing our journeys. Many blessings, Julie & Jodie

  3. Lisa J Wood says:

    I haven’t done much with IG stories, you are convincing. I’ll get more focused and I look forward to seeing what it does for my direction. Thanks for sharing this. πŸ™‚

    • jjdesigntwins says:

      Hi Lisa,
      We sincerely hope this positively impacts your efforts on IG. Not only do stories add value to you and your feed they are enjoyable. Jodie and I can’t remember before they were a part of our IG journeys. We truly enjoy them, and we bet you will too. Blessings, Julie & Jodie

  4. Fran says:

    I finally tried a story for fun and it would only let me video tape for the 15 sections ???? I had more to say ????????but I didn’t know how to continue so I just saved the story and I clicked on my picture and there it was for only 15 sections so it didn’t make any since…because I wasn’t finished talking! ????????‍♀️

    • jjdesigntwins says:

      Hi Fran,
      So you did nothing wrong, let me explain. The maximum length of a story segment is 15 seconds. We all have more to say! After you post that story, hit the top left camera button again like you just did to add another one. They just add one on top of the other and form an on-going video in 15 second increments. I try to watch the rotating red circle so I can see how much time I have left so it doesn’t cut me off but if it does no worries πŸ™‚ There is no limit to how many you can post, so have at it. Hope that helps. Best wishes, Julie & Jodie

  5. I just learned about IG stories this week from a new IG friend. I think the most intimidating part will be the judgement of others. I feel as though I have to look perfect, not sound like Minnie Mouse, gray hair roots covered, ironed clothes, etc. and that is overwhelming! I can hardly wait to see your stories for inspiration. Your emails are always that way and I pin everything! Love you two – your smiles, selfless attitudes and willingness to help others. Big hugs!

  6. Fran says:

    Hello again! I have another question for you ! ???? Since I am new to all this I did a hashtag of another gal I’m following and she told me that since My Instagram is private I need to change to open to public! I have family pictures that I don’t want public! My question is can I have 2 accounts? One private and one that I follow all my bloggers and decorators if so how do I set it up? Help!

    • jjdesigntwins says:

      Hi Fran,
      The answer is yes, absolutely, and it’s what we suggest. Have 2 accounts, one that is private and is all your family photos and anything personal. Have a second account that is public and that is focused on your passion, like home decor or cooking or whatever your passion is. We suggest reading our many other IG related blog posts where you will learn all you need to know about how to enjoy and flourish on Instagram. Enjoy, Julie & Jodie

  7. Denise says:

    Great post! I have used stories a couple of times but only with a photo. I wasn’t sure are you able to post a photo from your camera gallery or do you have to take a new one with the stories? I will try to use stories more. I caught part of your live video playing violins! Beautiful. Thanks so much ladies!

  8. Ann @rekindledsigns says:

    So good, ladies! I prefer stories to scrolling through my feed and agree with all of your points! And because of stories, I feel that you are my friends and I can tell you apart now!

    • jjdesigntwins says:

      Ann, Gosh, we just love to hear that! If you can’t tell already, we love the added feature of the stories…we truly enjoy the opportunity to reach out and connect more personally with everyone πŸ™‚ You add to our blessings, sweet friend! We thank you sincerely for your support and hope you continue to find inspiration from us! With gratitude, Julie & Jodie

  9. Heather says:

    What a great post! I think this was the encouragement I needed to get serious about stories. I am very camera shy (actually just shy in general). I’ve recorded a few stores with the camera pointed away from me, but never one looking into the camera. I’ve tried, but it just felt weird, like I was talking to myself. After reading this, I feel more encouraged about just being myself. So I may just give this a try today. πŸ˜‰

    • jjdesigntwins says:

      Heather, You’ve got this! Many people are “shying away” from doing actual videos of themselves. We aren’t sure why, if it’s a lack of time commitment or willingness to be open and vulnerable. But we truly think that people on the viewing end want to connect uathentically and there is no better way to build connections with your followers. Plus when we reach beyond our place of comfort of course we grow. Blessings to you sweet friend, Julie

  10. Nancy says:

    Here is another tip. You can download cool stories through the service . Cut them into pieces and prepare templates for your cool stories!

  11. I was more than happy to uncover this great site. I need to to thank you for your time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it and I have you bookmarked to see new information on your blog.

    Pinoy Teleserye

    • jjdesigntwins says:

      Hello there,
      We are so glad you enjoyed this post! We hope to hear from you again in the future. Thanks for the kind comments!
      Lots of love,
      Jodie & Julie

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