17 Creative Instagram Story Ideas to Engage and Wow Your Audience

August 8, 2018
Kyra Goodman

Looking for inspiring Instagram story ideas? Look no further.

Are you looking for engaging Instagram story ideas to fast-track your social media marketing strategy results?

Ready to connect with your audience in authentic and engaging ways (and supercharge your engagement rate)? You need to be taking advantage of Instagram Stories.

Why? Well, an incredible 500 million Instagram users use Instagram Stories every single day. Alongside your Instagram feed content, coming up with memorable Instagram Story ideas can feel like a mammoth task. 

But, with a clear social media strategy and Instagram marketing plan in place, you can continue coming up with click-worthy Instagram stories that your audience won’t be able to resist. And with so many new engagements features constantly being rolled out (hello link stickers), now is the time to make Instagram stories a non-negotiable part of your Instagram presence. 

Plus, creating inspiring and engaging Instagram stories isn’t nearly as complicated as you might think. And, getting on board with Instagram stories can help you connect more deeply with your audience and boost their chances of converting, too.

Ready to roll up your sleeves and get started? Let’s dive into everything you need to know to make the most of Instagram Stories (including how to schedule them to publish automatically using Sked Social) and how to develop creative Instagram Story ideas.

Let’s chat Instagram Stories 101

Before we dive into our top Instagram Story ideas, we’d better give you a rundown of what you need to know about this platform feature. 

Since launching in 2016, Instagram Stories have been Instagram’s answer to the popular content sharing platform, Snapchat. 

Along with content that is shared to your grid (such as Reels), Instagram Stories allow brands, creators and individuals to post in-the-moment images and videos. 

Originally, these stories had a lifespan of just 24 hours before disappearing forever. Now, thanks to the launch of Instagram Stories Highlights, this content can be saved forever in a collection on your Instagram profile.  

Instagram Stories are shared in their own clickable feed at the top of every user’s Home page. Plus, any user can view your current Instagram story by clicking on your profile image (whether they're already following your account or not).

Plus, there are stacks of fun ways to engage with your audience using Instagram Stories stickers. Currently, you can use stickers to:

  • Ask questions or callout for feedback using the Question sticker
  • Test the knowledge of your audience using the Quiz sticker
  • Gather audience interest using the Poll sticker
  • Share links to your website using the Link sticker
  • Gauge sentiment using the Emoji Slider sticker
  • Encourage your audience to reach out to you using the DM sticker

Instagram stories have proven to be highly engaging. That could have something to do with the sense of urgency in viewing them, considering they’re gone after 24 hours.

Plus, they’re pretty short (Instagram stories can be 15 seconds at the longest), which means users don’t need to commit a ton of time or attention. They’re bite-sized clips that are easy and convenient to consume.

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Instagram Story ideas: 17 strategies you should try

So, you’re convinced that IG Stories are a valuable tool to promote your brand on Instagram. But, here’s what you’re probably thinking: what the heck should you post?

Luckily, we’ve rounded up a stack of the best Instagram story ideas to help you hack your engagement and boost your following. Here are XX different Instagram Story ideas you can use to get your own creative juices flowing.

1. Answer questions

Are you frequently on the receiving end of a lot of questions from customers and followers? 

Perhaps people are always asking about the best way to use your product or how you achieve something specific.

Instagram Stories is a great place to answer those questions—whether you want to talk on video or just create text images for people to read.

You can step up engagement even more by asking your followers to leave their questions as a comment on one of your photos so that you can answer those in an Instagram story. It’s a great way to get your followers involved and to strike up a conversation. 

Or, why not call out for questions using the Insta stories Question sticker and answer these FAQs by going live via an Instagram Live broadcast. 

One more tip: If there are questions you’re being asked over and over again (and, in all honesty, are getting sick of answering), do something like the Aussie pet food startup, Lyka and create FAQs Highlight with everything your audience wants to know. 

Lyka story post featuring dog chewing on a toy

2. Do an employee takeover

You might be fresh out of clever Instagram story ideas. But, your employees? They probably have all sorts of exciting stuff to share.

So, why not start an employee takeover? It’s exactly what it sounds like: you let an employee take control of your Instagram stories for a day. They can give a peek into their average workday, give a tour of your office or their own workspaces, and generally offer followers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what your business or their lives are really like.

For example, wellness platform Goop has an Instagram stories Highlight dedicated to their team’s WFH routine. Each week, a new team member jumps onto Instagram stories to show what their remote workday looks like. 

Goop employee takeover of their account

People love feeling like they’re being given exclusive access to something, so this is an effective way to engage your followers, whether they’re just fans or prospective candidates to work for you.

3. Host a contest or giveaway

Hosting a contest using Instagram Stories is a speedy way to boost engagement, grow your following and attract your ideal customers to follow your business account on Instagram. 

Here’s the gist of how hosting a contest using Instagram Stories works:

  • Ask your followers to post a story about something specific in order to enter your contest—whether it’s them holding your product, them making a funny face, or really anything you’d like.
  • Within that same Instagram story, they should tag your account (both by tagging your Instagram profile and by using a specific branded hashtag). They’ll only be able to tag you if they follow you, hence why this is a great way to increase your follower count.
  • You’ll need to stay on top of your notifications (you’ll get a notification every time someone tags you in an Instagram story) and keep a log of everyone who has entered so that you can choose a winner. Remember, their stories will disappear after 24 hours, so you should be taking screenshots in order to have a record.

That’s it! Again, there’s a little elbow grease involved (and safer than using bots for growth), but it can be well worth the added effort.

Check out this great Instagram stories contest example from the organic clothing brand, Pact.

Pact story giveaway asking followers to tag them in their posts and use their hashtag.

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4. Do a customer takeover or customer spotlight

Similar to an employee takeover, you can also have a happy customer take control of your Instagram stories for a day.

Not only will you engage with the customer who’s actually taking over for you, but you’ll also catch the attention of your other followers as well, as they’re bound to trust a customer more than they trust you. This is the power of user-generated content!

Virtual women’s health clinic, Kin Fertility has dedicated an entire Instagram Stories Highlight to shout out and share their customer’s success stories with their products. 

Kinfertility customer takeover from one of their most loyal followers

It’s a powerful use of social proof and encourages other customers to share their stories online for a chance to be featured.

5. Share how something is made

Again, people love feeling like they’re getting exclusive content, and, given its somewhat urgent nature, Instagram Stories is the perfect place to do that.

Why not give users a glimpse at how something is created? Whether it’s how your own product is made, a fun craft project, or even your team’s favourite guacamole recipe, create a series of videos that show how you create something from scratch.

Etsy, a marketplace for makers and creative entrepreneurs, is awesome at doing this. They’re always posting stories (and even saving them to their highlights!) that teach followers how to create everything from headbands to macarons.

Etsy showing how one of their creators makes their art - in this case, hand-drawn cards.

6. Share behind the scenes

Have a sweet office or a WFH set-up you’re proud of? Are you visiting the warehouse where your products are made? Give your followers a little behind-the-scenes peek at where or how you get your work done.

Giving this insider look into your business fosters a more personal connection with all of your followers.

Take this example from the oral-care brand, Gem. They’ve taken their followers behind-the-scenes of their daily routine while working from home.

@Gem HQ taking their followers behind the scenes of their lockdown operation

7. Feature other accounts

Want to foster a greater sense of community on Instagram? It’s not all about promoting yourself. Instead, you can also use Instagram Stories to share some other accounts (including influencers and small businesses) that you think are worth following.

It’s a tactic that numerous different bloggers (like beauty blogger and writer Gemma Watts) have used to support each other. 

Simply post screenshots of other accounts that you love to your Instagram Story and tag that account so that they see what you’ve posted. Or simply repost one of their recent Instagram posts to your own Instagram Story. You never know, those accounts you tag might just return the favour!

@gemma watts showing off her gift guide of 2020

8. Teach your followers something

Remember when we talked about using Instagram Stories to show your followers how something is made? That’s not the only thing you can teach. In fact, you can use Instagram Stories to teach your followers just about anything using a tutorial.

You can show them how to more effectively use your product, how to write a snippet of code, or even how to teach their dog to high-five. The options are virtually endless.

For example, revolutionary sunscreen brand Ultraviolette has created an engaging Instagram Stories Highlight to show their audience how to properly apply (and reapply) their sunscreen for maximum protection.

@reapplying sharing one of their customer's tutorial for their SPF sunscreen

9. Ask for suggestions

Have a problem you’re struggling with? Need an opinion on a new feature or product release? Wondering which logo is better? Want to know what type of content people want to see from your account?

You can use Instagram Stories to ask your followers for their own insight and input.

As far as how you collect their answers, you can have them respond to your story via direct message with their suggestion, instruct them to leave their answer in a comment on a recent photo, or even use Instagram Story’s poll feature (more on that in the next tip!) to easily collect responses.

@essie using a Instagram story poll asking their followers if they should play this or that

10. Poll your followers

We’ve already mentioned Instagram’s poll feature, and it’s a great way to get general responses from your followers. Much like any other poll, respondents click on one of two options to submit their answers (often using a 'this or that' format).

There are tons of different ways you can use this feature. Have your followers choose between two names for your new product launch. Or, get extra crazy and have them dictate your entire day—from what sweater you wear to work to what you make for lunch—by posting a series of polls.

It’s an effective tactic and another of great Instagram Story ideas to involve your followers in your decision-making and emphasize that you have a two-sided relationship, rather than constantly broadcasting your own messages.

@shameless podcast asking their followers if they will be watching the new Sex and the City season

11. Promote a recent blog post

You worked really hard on a recent blog post, and you want to get as many eyeballs on it as possible. You can use Instagram Stories to drive traffic to that specific post, or really any type of content!

One of the easiest ways to do this is to add links directly to your Instagram Story using the Link sticker. The good news is that you don’t need to have a certain number of followers to use this feature (unlike the previous swipe up link).

For example, linen company Bed Threads have used the Link sticker to drive traffic to a series of interviews on their blog.

@bedthreads sharing one of their recent blog posts on Instagram

12. Fill out an Instagram story template (or create your own!)

While there are plenty of things you can do with Instagram Stories, it’s also the perfect place to let people get to know you a little bit better.

One surefire way to do that is by filling out a template. Plenty of outlets create graphic surveys that you can fill in with your own responses—and then post a blank one for other people to fill out themselves.

Want to get extra creative? Take a cue from graphic designer Jasmine Dowling and make your own branded templates to share with your existing followers. It’ll engage your current followers while also putting your account in front of new people.

@support local sharing a post spruiking local businesses

13. Share your location

Within Instagram Stories, there are all sorts of fun filters and stickers you can use. One you should be sure to check out? The location sticker.

Adding it to your story is simple. Start your story and then click the happy face icon in the upper right-hand corner. Scroll down until you find the sticker for location and you’ll have the option to view locations near you or to search for somewhere specific.

Not only does this clue your followers in on where you are, but it also gives your engagement a big boost and helps you reach new audiences.

Additionally, including your location gives you a chance at being featured on Instagram’s location page. So, people who are interested in that specific location can find your content.

@four pillars gin sharing a shot of their gin in a cocktail

14. Provide a sneak peek

We’ve already talked about the fact that people like to feel like they’re getting special access to something. Leverage that to your advantage by providing exclusive content within your Instagram stories.

Maybe it’s a quick peek at a new product you’re developing. Or, perhaps it’s a tour of your brand new shop that’s opening soon.

Using Instagram Stories (and taking advantage of the Countdown sticker) is a great way to give people insider access in a highly convenient and engaging way.

@lu lu lemon sharing a sneak peek of their upcoming fabric technology

15. Offer a discount

Another type of exclusive content you can offer within your Instagram Stories? A discount or promo code.

Doing so not only means that your followers feel like they’re getting access to something that nobody else is getting, but it can also help to drive sales.

So, go ahead and give followers a code for 10% off, free shipping, or whatever else works with your unique business. You’ll probably be surprised by your results!

@body lover mamas sharing their 25% off sale on Instagram stories

Bonus tip: To increase the chance of users converting, why not share a few powerful customer reviews or testimonials in this Instagram Story too? This social proof will give your audience another reason to take action and buy from you.

16. Start a series

One of the reasons that consistency is so crucial on Instagram is because people love predictability. That’s why scheduling your content can be so beneficial, it helps you stick to your schedule, without the headaches and hassle. By the way, Sked can help with that!

With consistency carrying so much weight for users and Instagram’s algorithm, it’s worth considering starting a regular series on your Instagram Stories.

Take this example from Go-To Skincare. Their ‘How To’ series teaches users how to get the most out of their entire product range.

@go to skincare series on how to use their product to the best effect

17. Make use of your story highlights

While the entire concept of Instagram Stories is built on the fact that they disappear after 24 hours, there’s probably still some content that you want to make readily accessible to your followers.

Fortunately, you can do so by adding selected Instagram stories to your highlights.

To save a story, you simply need to view your own Instagram Story and then tap the “Highlight” button in the bottom right corner of the screen. You can either use that story as a new highlight or add it to an existing one.

Voila! Those clips will be categorized and live at the top of your profile, so anybody can access them when needed.

Ready to create your Instagram Story ideas?

Obviously, there’s no shortage of ways that you can use Instagram Stories to promote yourself or your brand on the Instagram app. But, figuring out just what you should post there can be challenging.

If you’re in need of some creative inspiration, use one (or several!) of the Instagram Story ideas we’ve pulled together above and you’re sure to knock your own Instagram stories out of the park.

Ready to create your Instagram Story Ideas?

Obviously, there’s no shortage of ways that you can use Instagram Stories to promote yourself or your brand on Instagram. But, figuring out just what you should post there can be challenging.

If you’re in need of some creative inspiration, use one (or several!) of the Instagram Story ideas we’ve pulled together above and you’re sure to knock your own Instagram stories out of the park.

How to Schedule Story Posts To Publish Automatically

Did you know you can use Sked to visually plan, create, schedule and automatically publish your Story posts, just like you would for regular posts? It’s a great way to build a dynamic feed that keeps your followers engaged, without having to post everything manually at all hours of the day and night.

1. To start Story scheduling, login to your Sked Social account (or start a free 7-day trial).

2. Click the red Create Post button in the top right corner. Select your Instagram account from the dropdown.

3. Click the plus sign to add your media. Note that you can create story chains with up to 10 pictures and videos. Instagram Stories should by 9:16 with a recommended size of 1920 x 1080. You can correctly size your images in the photo editor by hovering over the image in the Media section and clicking on the pencil icon.

You can easily transform your images using Sked's pre-set cropping for Instagram as shown below. And you can add text, filters, emojis, Instagram-like stickers and more. Click the blue Save button in the top right corner.

4. Next make sure you toggle on the button that says Switch to story, Reel or IGTV post and select Story from the dropdown. If you've unlocked Instagram's swipe up feature, you can add your URL here as well. 

5. If you want to get a push notification to post your Stories manually (so that you can interactive Stickers like polls and questions), make sure you check that box. Add any notes that you want to remember for the Story. These will show up when you get a notification that it's time to post. 

6. Then, either choose to send your Story post to DraftsAdd to Queue or Schedule it to publish automatically at a time that best suits your audience.

If you're looking to carve out hours in your social media workflow, sign up for Sked’s 7-day trial. Our all-in-one Instagram scheduler allows you to automatically post images, carousels, Stories, videos and more. Tag locations, users and products and manage all your hashtags in one place to save 5+ hours every week.


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