In 2016, Instagram introduced Instagram Stories. This feature allowed Instagram users to better relay their daily activities by sending out short clips to their followers that are gone in about a day.

What began as a way for Instagram to compete with Snapchat has become one of the service’s most used features. Still, many users are in the dark regarding how to best use Instagram Stories or how to use them at all.

If that sounds like you, then you’ll want to look at our guide to what Instagram Stories is and the many ways you can be using it to boost your Instagram profile.

What Are Instagram Stories?

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Instagram Stories can best be thought of as Instagram’s answer to Snapchat. It allows users to posts photos and videos that disappear in 24 hours. After that, they – essentially – disappear forever.

Whatever content you use for Instagram stories stays in Instagram Stories. It won’t be posted to your account and vice versa.

Why Would You Use Instagram Stories?

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Instagram Stories isn’t quite as rigid as the rest of the service. It allows you to capture a moment or series of moments in a more natural way. You’re allowed to edit the stories a bit, but the process is a bit more freeform.

Basically, it’s a system designed for spontaneous users.

There are other benefits. Businesses have used Stories to post exclusive content. The 24-hour timer adds a layer of exclusivity to whatever content you post. Mercedes once posted exclusive design concepts to their account via Instagram Stories. Other companies find that Stories allows them to post content without clogging up the feed.

Stories also allow you to be a little more creative. The temporary nature of the content means you don’t have to be as scared to make mistakes and try new things.

Is Instagram Stories Better Than Snapchat?

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That depends.

Feature-wise, the two are very similar. Their tools are slightly different, but they essentially serve the same purpose. Both offer users the ability to create short-term feeds of custom content.

The biggest difference between Instagram and Snapchat is the Instagram name. Instagram has a larger userbase and recent reports suggest that Instagram Stories is becoming more popular than Snapchat Stories. There are also signs that advertisers prefer Instagram.

Instagram Stories also allows you to still use your Instagram account. That means you can still determine what content is best for Stories and which is best for your Instagram feed.

How Do You Use Instagram Stories?

That’s a pretty big question. Let’s start with the basics.

How to Create an Instagram Story

  1. Tap the plus sign on the top left corner of your Instagram profile
  2. Take a photo or add a video using the circle capture button. You’ll also need to choose a format, but we’ll cover that later.
  3. If you want to add any filters and effects to your photos on the next screen. Again, we’ll talk more about this later.
  4. Finally, tap “Continue” to share your story or press the Plus sign on the bottom left to add it to your story.

That’s pretty much it. You can add to your story using the exact same method for as long as it’s available. You can also add existing photos to your story using the “+ your story” button available via any existing content.

How to View Other Instagram Stories

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Instagram has assigned Stories a good bit of interface real estate. The stories of everyone you follow can be found at the top of your Instagram profile. Simply choose one and it will automatically start playing.

You can also see who has been viewing your stories. This information will be at the bottom of your Stories post. It will state something like “John Doe and x others.” You can tap on that information to see the full list of people that have viewed your story. You can even tap on the individual pieces of content to see the stats for every photo and video.

What Are Formats?

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Instagram Stoies formats allow you to dictate the kind of content you’ll be sending out to the world. Here are your options:

Normal: Just as it sounds, this is a normal photo or video. They’re just like the ones you would post to your regular Instagram account. You tap the capture button to take a photo or hold it down for up to 15 seconds for a video. The only difference is that Story photos and videos will disappear after a day.

Rewind: Rewind is a normal video that plays backward. This is used entirely for stylistic purposes.

Hands-Free: This handy format allows you to record a video without holding down the capture button. Simply choose Hands-Free, press the capture button once, and take your video. It will run the full 15 seconds unless you choose to manually stop it.

Boomerang: This is one of Instagram’s most exciting format. It allows you record a few seconds long moving GIF that will play forwards and backward until the user exits it. It’s a popular format that is well worth mastering.

How to Use Instagram Live Format

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We’re separating Live from the Format pack because it’s the most complicated of the options.

Basically, Live allows you to live stream content and send it out to your followers. It’s incredibly easy to use. Just choose live, press the capture button, and you’re set. Just be sure to let people know when you’re streaming.

Not too long ago, Instagram added the ability to save your Live videos as a story. At the end of your broadcast, you’ll see a “Share” option appear on-screen. Simply choose that option and your video will be added to Stories for the usual 24 hour period.

If you want to save the stream footage permanently, you’re going to have to choose to add it to your Instagram feed. To do so, just choose the “Save” option that appears on the top right of the screen at the end of your video.

What About Story Filters and Effects?

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You can add filters to your story content just like you can with regular videos and photos. To do so, simply scroll through the list of filters that appear after you’ve taken your photo or video just as you normally would. Most of the same options should be available.

Most Story users choose to go beyond filters, though. There are a few more options to consider to spruce up your posts. All of them can be found in the top right of your captured photo or video.

Available Effects and Filters

Text: Just as it sounds, this allows you to add text to your content. That text is available in a variety of fonts and colors.

Pen: Pen can also be used to add text, but it’s a bit more versatile. Basically, it turns your finger into a pen that can be used to trace whatever you’d like on your content. From writing text to tracing doodles, the pen feature is a great way to distinguish your stories. Just be sure to use the eraser in case you make a mistake.

Stickers: Stickers are essentially emojis that can be applied to your content. They include everything from your location to the current time and a variety of smiley faces. Instagram is constantly expanding the sticker selection, so be sure to regularly explore what’s available.

If you want a little guidance, be sure to consider few of the specialty stickers available to all users. For instance, typing in “Poll” to sticker options will allow you to create a custom poll that your followers can participate in. Typing “Location” brings up a variety of location-based sticker options.

Face Filters: Face Filters are another feature borrowed from Snapchat. They allow you to add a variety of effects to your already fascinating face. Accessing them is quite easy. You just choose the face icon at the bottom right of your photo screen. You can even choose a filter before taking your photo/video in case you want to preview it.

As for choosing the right filter, that’s going to be up to you. Instagram has expanded their filter options quite a bit since Stories launched. As such, it’s best to preview quite a few just to see what’s out there. That’s especially true of animated filters that follow your face while active.

Are There Any Hidden Effects Available?

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Yup. Here are a few of the most useful ones:

Access More Colors

Instagram doesn’t offer a lot of default color options (there are about 30 of them) but it’s easy to find just about any color you could ever want.

Simply choose the Text or Pen options as usual when editing a photo. When the default color options appear, tap and hold one of them. This will bring up a full-color gradient that lets you choose whatever shade you’re looking for.

Create a Solid Color Background

Tap the Pen icon when editing your photo, then choose the color you’d like to use to fill your screen with. Next, tap your photo and keep your finger pressed. This should fill the photo with the color of your choice.

From there, you can use the eraser or chisel-tip pen to change the transparency of the filter or remove certain sections of it.

Add Music To A Story

Instagram has made this versatile feature pleasantly simple. All you need to do is start playing a song on your phone when you’re recording a Story. Instagram will detect the music and add it your story as normal.

Create A Custom Selfie Sticker

After you’ve taken a picture, choose the Sticker icon. Next, tap on the Camera icon and get your face in the frame. From here, you’ll be able to insert your fresh selfie as a custom sticker.

Is it Possible to Save a Story?

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It is.

First, you’ll need to bring up your completed story by accessing it through your profile. Then, you need to tap the “…” button on the bottom right. That should convert your story into a video file that will be saved via your camera roll.

Through that same “…” option, you can also select “Share as Post” to promote your Story as a regular post instead. You’ll even get another chance to edit it before it goes into your feed.

Can Everyone Access My Instagram Story?

Unless you alter your profile, anyone who follows you will be able to access your Stories.

If you’re not ok with that, then you’ll need to set some restrictions. Before publishing your story, choose the “Settings” option available via the camera view. Select “Hide Story From” and choose which users won’t see the story.

You can also choose to see replies from everyone, only see them from your followers, or just turn off replies entirely.

How Should I Promote My Instagram Stories?

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There are a few unique ways to promote your Instagram Story.

The first is through stickers and text. If you select the stickers option, you are able to type in “#” to the options and create a custom hashtag for your post that will appear on the story post. This sticker doubles as a link that will lead users to similar stories.

You can also use text to tag specific accounts. To do this, use the text option and type in “@.” This will allow you to tag user accounts to the Story. Via this method, that person will still receive a notification that they’ve been tagged.

Otherwise, you can share your stories by reaching out directly to other Instagram users, waiting for your stories to appear in feeds, or promoting them via other social media outlets.

Instagram Stories may have begun as Instagram’s attempt to catch up with the rising popularity of Snapchat, but it’s become one of the service’s most popular features. It’s a diverse and entertaining tool that people are finding new uses for all the time.

Got your own story to tell about how to use Instagram Stories to its full potential? Let us know about it in the comments below.