The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Story Ads

November 28, 2019
Kyra Goodman

All things Instagram Story ads! How to get started with Instagram Story ads and 7 of our favorite tips and tricks.

Social media advertising is an integral part of pretty much all social media strategies now. Most companies run ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. but are you running Instagram Story ads as well?

500 million people watch Instagram Stories every single day. That’s more people using this one feature in one day than people who use Twitter in an entire month.

Instagram Story ads are integrated in between regular Stories which makes them look like normal Stories, but people POWER swipe through them. If your ad doesn’t grab attention right away then its over, swiped past, left in the dust and not converting.

So how do you get someone interested in 5 seconds and encourage them to keep watching and head to your page? That's the challenge!

So let's dive into all things Instagram Story ads.

What is an Instagram Story ad

Just in case you are very new to the Instagram scene, let's talk about this!

Instagram offers a few different advertising opportunities (placements) that show up either in the feed or in Stories.

IG Story advertisements should be full screen, vertical content that appear when users are watching Instagram Stories. You can target your ads by Brand Awareness, Reach, Video Views, Conversions, App Installs, Lead Generation or Traffic.

Story ads also give you the ability to have a "swipe up" link that directs your target viewer to your page or to complete a given action. In regular Instagram Stories, this feature is only available if you're verified or have over 10,000 followers.

Instagram Story ads can be pictures, videos or carousel posts.

Depending on your goals, your brand and the type of content you have available, the type of ad you select will vary.

How to create Instagram Story ads

Here's how to start a new campaign for your Instagram Story ads. Note that you can add certain types to an existing campaign so this example is just for creating a new Instagram Stories ad campaign.

Step 1: Go to Ads Manager

Just like your other Facebook and Instagram ads, Story ads can be created through Ads Manager. Once you are in Ads Manager, click on Campaign and click Create.

Campaign create dashboard

Step 2: Objective

Choose between Brand Awareness, Reach, Video Views, Conversions, App Installs, Lead Generation or Traffic. For the purposes of this tutorial, we're going to use Traffic. A traffic objective simply means you are looking to get the most people to your site for the least amount of money per person.

There's also a link to get help in choosing an objective if you're not sure yet. Once you click on an objective, another box appears below.

Choosing objective on ads manager

Here you will name your campaign, create a split test if you want and optimize your budget across ad sets (also optional).

Naming campaign on ads manager

Then click the blue Continue button.

Step 3: Name your ad set and choose your audience

Name your ad set and select where you want to drive traffic (you'll select URL later).

Naming the ad set on ads manager

Then select your target audience. You can create a new audience or use a saved audience. You can use interests, age, gender, locations and other options to create a profile that best matches up with your ideal customer.

Choosing your audience on ads manager

Step 4: Select placement

In the Placements section, select Automatic Placements or Edit Placements.

Automatic Placements will run ads on all of the platforms (including Stories). But if you just want to run Instagram Story ads then click Edit Placement.

Choosing placements on ad manager

You can choose if you want your ads to appear in the Instagram feed or just Stories. Just check all the boxes that you want your ads to appear in.

Checking boxes for story placement

Step 5: Edit your budget and schedule

Optimization for ad delivery is how you want your ad to be delivered so choose one from the drop down list.

Budget and schedule on ads manager

You can set a cost control if you want, which will set your budget based on a per-click basis but you don't have to do that.

We like to set a daily budget and set the schedule for how long we want the ad to run. This is especially helpful if you are running limited time promotional ads. Be sure to select an end date.

Click continue.

Step 6: Create your ad

Here's where the fun part starts. First name your ad and select the Facebook Page and Instagram account that you want the ad to run on.

Naming your ad and choosing account on ads manager

Step 7: Choose your format

You can choose single image or video or carousel posts. There are two types of carousel posts:

  • Native Stories Carousel automatically displays up to 3 cards with full-screen creative and can only be bought as a standalone Instagram Stories placement
  • Expandable Stories Carousel displays 1, 2, or 3 cards automatically but gives people the option to tap "Keep Watching" to see the remaining cards for a total of 10 cards. The number of cards automatically displayed before prompting viewers to keep watching is tailored for each viewer. This version can be bought using automatic placements along with feed ads and only supports creative with feed ratios.

We're going to show an example of a Native Stories Carousel.

Adding the creative to your ad in ads manager

Add your images, a headline and description (optional) and the URL that your CTA will take the user to.

Adding See More URL on ads manager

You have to have primary text but if you're designing the creative in another space, your primary text can be something super simple. You might have to play around to get your formatting how you want it.

On the last card in a carousel post you have an option to add a See More link, which you can add in the See More URL.

Then decide what you want your call to action to be from the drop down list

Choosing CTA on ads manager

Step 8: Tracking and confirm

Turn on your Facebook pixel so that you can track how your ads are performing.

Click confirm to publish your creation and your ads are good to go!

Tips for ads

Check out some of our favorite tips for upping your Story ads game!

1. Try video

Video is more likely to captivate the attention of people watching Stories. It's more interesting and people would rather watch 15 seconds of video than stare at a single photo for 5 seconds.

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PD Paola

It doesn't have to be award-winning cinematography to look professional and get the message across in a meaningful way.

2. Keep it short and simple

Again you only have a few seconds to grab attention and get your message across. Stay away from lengthy copy (no one can read that fast) and complex messages.

Alo Yoga instagram Story ad
Alo Yoga

People want to know exactly what's going on right away. If they don't understand the message of the ad, they will not do the research to figure it out. So make it easy for them by keeping it short and simple.

That does not mean boring!

3. Make sure your logo is there

It's important that people know who/what the ad is for. If it's hard to tell, no one is going to click through. They'll feel unsure - and with all the scams and half truths on the internet today, being as transparent as possible is super important.

Ice Breakers Instagram Story ad
Ice Breakers

Even though your username and profile picture will appear in the top left corner like a regular Story, you should also display a recognizable logo or name somewhere more visible.

4. CTA

Including a meaningful call to action makes it easy for consumers to get to your page. Deciding what button to include in your post will help you have a clear message and encourage users to click. The clearer you are with what you want the user to do, the more likely they are to do it.

Grubhub CTA on Instagram Story ad

The fewer steps it takes to get them to see what you're all about, the more likely it is that they will actually click through and buy from you.

5. Add music and sound

60% of people watch Stories with sound on so having music or sounds will help catch their attention.

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Just make sure it makes sense and fits with your brand.

6. Draw eyes away from the top left corner

In the top left corner of your ad, it will say “Sponsored” letting users know that this is an ad and not your actual Instagram Story.

[video width="450" height="800" mp4=""][/video]


People are more likely to keep tapping or swipe out once they realize it’s an ad. Try to draw the eyes away from that corner.

Strategically place text or images away from the corner and towards the CTA.

7. Get creative!

You can use creative Stories features (such as Boomerang and filters) in your ads. You don't need fancy editing software to add a little wow to your ads. Here's how you can use Instagram's built in Story features to help design your ad:

  • Create a Story in the Instagram app
  • Add Boomerangs, zooms, gifs, etc
  • Save the story to your camera roll
  • Upload the image or video captured to Ads Manager when creating the ad

This also helps it look like an actual Instagram Story as opposed to an ad. No one wants to be bombarded with someone trying to hard sell so make sure your ads align with the goal of the ad, and that they look as native to the platform as they can. Users don't want to be removed from the experience just to be 'sold'.

Design requirements

Here are some specs that you should keep in mind when designing your Story ads.

File type

  • .mp4 or .mov (Video)
  • .jpg or .png (Photo)

Maximum File Size

  • 4GB (Video)
  • 30MB (Photo)

Video Length

  • Maximum: 120 seconds
  • Images show for 5 seconds by default


  • Recommended Resolution: 1080 x 1920
  • Minimum: 600 x 1067

Supported Codecs

  • Video: H.264, VP8
  • Audio: AAC, Vorbis

Now that you have all the tools you can go out and make some killer Instagram Story ads!

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