Instagram. You might have heard about it. It’s that thing kids are on. It’s sleek, intuitive, and, most importantly, simple to use.
Which makes seeing the best part of your precious photo getting cropped even the more frustrating. As Instagram introduces new features and content you can showcase on your profile, there are more things to take into account to make it look good. And yes, this includes optimizing Instagram story dimensions. But don’t worry, I got you covered.
First things first – what are Instagram story dimensions?
Instagram story dimensions entails two things: size and aspect ratio. Size refers to the numbers of pixels in a given photo/video. It’s also known as resolution – we’ll circle back to this later.
Aspect ratio is the width and the length of a photo/video. Example: that 4k monitor that you bought for “graphic design” (we all know it’s for binging Netflix, Kevin) has an aspect ratio of 16:9.
Some technical specifications
The Instagram story resolution is 1080 pixels wide and 1920 pixels high. As long as you stay within these parameters, you can upload anything without hassle.
Instagram aspect ratio is 9:16. I’m not making the Netflix joke again.
The supported image file formats are PNG. and JPG.
Instagram is very strict about dimensions, so unless you want your content to get cropped to oblivion, make sure to stick to the recommended specifications. You know those ugly disaster videos that amateurs send to their local news stations whenever there’s a flood? Yeah, you don’t want your Instagram story looking like that.
One other thing: the maximum size for an Instagram story photo is 30 MB. The maximum file size for videos should be less than 4 GB. Anything larger than that won’t work. This shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re dealing with raw formats, in which case you’ll have to use a converter.
One more thing x2: careful with Instagram story length. Stories longer than 15 seconds are broken into chunks. Savvy Instagrammers have figured out how to work around this limitation, so make sure to experiment with this.
Why should you care about Instagram stories?
Lots of reasons. For one, you’re missing out. Big time.
As a SME marketer, short of spending your entire fortune on a billboard on Fifth Avenue, there’s no better way to promote your service or product. Instagram has effectively democratized advertising, allowing small businesses to compete head to head with the big brands.
Which is all the more reason to optimize your content before posting.
Now here’s some statistics (because we all love numbers):
90% of accounts follow at least one business on Instagram.
According to a survey, 77% of users see brands as creative, and 72% as authentic and dedicated to building a community. Long story short, many users are perfectly okay with ads popping up in their stories – as opposed to, say, Facebook ads, cuz’ we all know how annoying those can get.
According to the same survey, 83% of users discover new products and services through Instagram.
How can you create an Instagram story?
Creating an Instagram story is as simple as opening the app and tapping a button in the upper left corner of the screen.
Now, if you’re thinking about experimenting with horizontal stories, I’m here to tell you that’s not a good idea.
What’s wrong with horizontal stories?
There’s nothing wrong with horizontal stories per se. But let’s do a mental exercise: say you’re lying in bed and scrolling through your stories, and suddenly, you stumble into a horizontal story. The design’s good, the copy’s good, but the content is cropped to oblivion. Annoying, isn’t it?
But I really, really like horizontal…
That’s fine, as long as you make it part of your brand and stick with it. Still, adjusting your content to each platform is digital marketing 101. Try making the user experience as nice as possible.
Types of Instagram stories
Back in the days, Instagram was much simpler. Like your regular corporate boardroom, all you saw were squares.
But now, Instagram is pretty much the place to create spontaneous, creative content.
In one of the boldest moves in social media history, Instagram introduced stories in 2016. Now this is not a jab at anyone, I literally forgot until researching this piece – stories were first introduced by Snapchat in 2013. That year saw the explosive series finale of Breaking Bad and Justin Timberlake’s disappointing follow-up to The 20/20 Experience. Yes, that long ago. But I’m getting sidetracked.
Since then, Instagram’s stories function has surpassed its Snapchat precursor in every metric possible. Just to give you an idea, in 2019, Instagram stories had acquired 250 million daily users. Within a year after launching stories.
Another study conducted by social media marketing firm Mediakix revealed that North American influencers were using Snapchat 33% less and posting on Instagram 25% more. But we don’t need stats to know that Snapchat isn’t as hot as it used to be.
So why should you use stories for branding purposes? Simply put, it’s the best way to create the illusion of FOMO in your viewers. Why FOMO? You know exactly why – because everything is real time and engaging. You either see it or you don’t. Well, there’s highlights, but let’s not ruin my point with logic…
Now let’s look over some types of Instagram stories and how you can use them.
Almost synonymous with Instagram stories at this point, the boomerang setting takes a burst of photos, which loop to create a sort of improvised animation.
When used creatively, the boomerang can turn an otherwise mundane action into something visually appealing. Take California Kitchen Pizza, who took something as ordinary to Italian cuisine as grating cheese and turned it into an eye-catching animation.
Funnily enough, the boomerang method is an actual proven and tested sales technique used by any executive worth their salt. Coincidence? I got my eye on you, Instagram.
Instagram’s live function is pretty self explanatory – you press a button, and Instagram will notify your followers that you’re live.
Naturally, brands, influencers, and artists alike were quick to jump on this trend to increase their reach and connect with followers. A great example of a brand using this feature is Cosmopolitan, which holds exclusive interviews with various influencers over Instagram Live.
It was wildly popular in the first weeks of the pandemic amongst artists, many of whom held jam sessions or full-blown concerts over Instagram live. If you’re curious, I especially recommend you check out DJ Premier and RZA’s now iconic Instagram battle. If not, here’s Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie fame jamming at home.
Superzoom allows you to zoom in on a particular feature, usually with a humorous and dramatic sound effect. Instagram rolled out this feature back in 2017, and it quickly became one of the most meme-worthy additions so far.
We all love a good zoom in, so its application for branding purposes can’t be more understated. As of 2019, Instagram superzoom comes with Halloween AR stickers. So if you want to impress your audience this year, make sure to freshen up on your superzoom game.
Make your highlights interesting
While the ephemeral nature of Instagram stories is precisely what makes them so appealing (FOMO – remember these four magic words), Instagram lets you “pin” stories to your profile indefinitely.
Savvy brands and influencers use Story highlights to:
Increase brand awareness.
Cater to users who might be looking for something very specific from the stories post, like additional information about a product.
Promote important information like updates, deals, etc.
Showcase the content brands want users to see first.
Establish a narrative or tell a story through carefully curated content.
Best Instagram stories stickers to use for your business
Next up: Instagram story stickers. Simply put, they’re a fun way to connect with your audience, and add some personality to your stories. But their advantages go beyond that: you can use Instagram stickers to grow engagement and, most importantly, build brand awareness. And like everything on Instagram, a clever usage of stickers can become a brand in and of itself.
First up is the quiz sticker. The idea behind it is very simple. By the magic of a few key inputs, you can educate consumers about your product and dig useful information about users, like their interests and hobbies.
Say you’re selling a skin-care product – you can ask your audience about their morning skincare routine. Or, I don’t know, custom T shirts – simply asking users what music they listen to during their morning commute can offer you valuable insights about your (potential) followers.
Or maybe have a little fun and do what AS Roma did here:
DM me sticker
The DM sticker is kind of like the Quiz sticker, only obviously more personal. It’s useful both for holding AMA sessions with your followers and for asking feedback. The more approachable you are, the more willing users will be to give your product or service a shot.
The music sticker doesn’t have as much business use as the others, but you can still use it to give your story an extra bit of “oomph” and grow engagement. The best thing about the music sticker is that there are thousands of songs to choose from, from mainstream artists to the underrated indie darlings we like to flex on stories (that’s definitely not me). So, if you’re looking to spice up your story, don’t hesitate to try out the music sticker.
If content is king, the shout-out is queen… or however that saying goes.
When you’re working with brands or posting user original content, it’s good practice to give them a shout out via the mention sticker. This is a great way to build a community. Also, the mentioned account might repost your story. Which will get more eyeballs onto your account.
Ever since Instagram teamed up with Giphy back in 2018, a whole new area of possibilities opened up for savvy Instagrammers to add a little spice to their content. On top of that, brands can upload their own stickers and encourage their audience to use them. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.
So, whether you want to attract attention to a link, create engaging CTAs or simply add some personality to your stories, there’s a GIF for everything, and I mean everything.
Poll & emoji slide stickers
Surveying your Instagram followers about their interests, like, dislikes (especially the latter) is a vital part of every marketing campaign, and the poll & emoji slide stickers let you do exactly that.
When you post a poll sticker, you can ask your audience a question and analyze the results as they come in. Emoji slider stickers are self-explanatory – users have to drag the slider left or right to submit their response. It’s kind of incredibile how Instagram emojified a field as inaccessible and esoteric as market research, isn’t it?
Here’s some examples of stories done right by brands
Good branding on Instagram Stories comes down to building a cohesive aesthetic, identifying the right hashtags, and keeping a consistent posting schedule. We all know that. Right?
But it’s not as straightforward as it seems. You can do everything right, but still get no traction. So you have to look for that one thing that can make you stand out from the crowd.
The following brands do exactly that. Let’s take a brief look at them and see what they did right.
The New York Times
Wait… a news outlet? Yes, I know. Just hear me out.
No one would expect The New York Times to be as good at playing the social media game as they are. The renowned publication is, though, surprisingly innovative when it comes to using Instagram stories.
They complement their news articles and investigative journalism pieces with carefully crafted and visually dynamic stories. The stories work as teasers by combining high-quality imagery with biting copy and an invitation to swipe up for the full story. Think of them as YouTube thumbnails, but for articles.
The Times have given the dying field of photo-journalism a new lease of life. They deserve big props for that.
I mean, obviously, right? The outlet famous for their beautiful nature photography? It’s like Stories was invented specifically for them.
However, Natural Geographic’s content is not limited to videos of cute tigers and gorgeous vistas from the African savannah. Their mission is first and foremost to educate.
On the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, National Geographic launched “The Last Voices of WWII”, an interactive piece offering detailed firsthand accounts of the war. This initiative was heavily promoted on Instagram Stories. National Geographic proves yet again that Instagram can be a great educational tool if used right.
Vans has always been, above all else, a promoter of scene, street, hip-hop and skateboarding culture, and this is clearly reflected in their social media presence.
I think we can all agree that Vans has one of the tightest Instagram stories aesthetics. From the clever usage of their trademark graffiti style fonts to the intimate snapshots of skateboarding culture. It’s one of those brands that doesn’t really feel like a brand on social media, if that makes any sense. It’s rare for a company as big as Vans to be as connected to its roots as they are.
Careful with cross-device dimensions
Instagram stories look different depending on the viewer’s device – a story viewed on a tablet will, obviously, look much different than mobile.
So what’s the solution here? The easiest way to avoid cross-device dimension issues is to have your photos and videos no larger than 1080 x 1920. Photos and videos taken directly with the smartphone via Instagram’s app will always be 1080 x 1920, so you can upload them directly with no issues.
Careful when uploading from your gallery, though – you might need to resize your photos and videos.
Optimize photo resolution
There’s one more trick to get an edge over your competitors — reduce the resolution of your photo or video, but keep the aspect ratio. That’ll increase upload time.
You can do this with both videos and photos. As we’ve established earlier, the standard resolution for Instagram stories is 1080 x 1920. Reduce the resolution of the video or the photo to, say, 1280 x 720 and keep the 9:16 aspect ratio. Your content will be uploaded faster and will buffer quickly on the viewer’s device.
Don’t be afraid to compromise on quality if the situation warrants it. Remember, it’s all about the user experience.
But wait, there’s an app for that…
And here comes the plug. What, you actually thought we were going to let you off the hook?
If you ask any marketer to name one aspect of their job that annoys them the most, all (according to my on-the-spot, non-empirical empirical analysis) will say posting on Instagram. This is usually accompanied by a deep sigh and an expressive hand gesture, but hey, what do I know. I’m a marketer, not a geologist.
Why? Because one of the many responsibilities marketers have (along with writing engaging copy like this) is planning and executing social media campaigns across multiple platforms. And Instagram can be one of the painful ones.
Not with Planable. Planable is a sleek and intuitive social media collaboration tool that allows marketers to plan their social media campaigns in advance. With Planable, you can create and preview posts exactly as they would appear on your preferred platform, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Linkedin. You can tweak your content and add all the bells and whistles necessary. All that in one place.
This includes Instagram stories. With Planable, you can create, plan, preview, and edit your stories directly from the browser with no hassle. When creating a story, you will be able to add photos and videos, resize them, add text, and modify the backgrounds and colors. Oh, and you’ll also be able to choose from multiple fonts. Oh, and yes, collaborate with your peers & stakeholders on each Instagram story. Because discussing Instagram stories through emails, or spreadsheets is just… do I have to say it? It’s bad.
Here’s more of what you can do with Planable
Wait, we’re not done yet. Here are a few more things that Planable offers:
Four types of ways to view your social media content:
Feed view shows your posts exactly as they would appear on social media.
Grid view displays your activity in a series of sleek, aesthetically pleasing squares. Hey, just like Instagram!. Spoiler: that was planned.
List view displays all posts in a convenient list form and supports bulk actions.
Calendar view allows you to visualize your month or week with one click.
The ability to schedule and publish posts at your convenience. Directly. No more push notifications.
Plan Instagram grids. Instead of having to plan the grid’s layout in a separate place, you can plan, re-arrange and preview your grids on Planable. The re-arranging part happens through simple drag & drop.