Of all the Instagram features released over the years, few have been as groundbreaking as Instagram stories. Stats show that over 500 million people engage with Instagram stories everyday. This gives brands a massive opportunity to engage with users, generate high quality leads, and promote their businesses - something that we, as a business, also do extensively on the InVideo Instagram channel.
So if you want to embrace the power of Instagram for your business, using Instagram stories is the way to go. However, with organic stories your reach will be limited to the people who already follow you on Instagram. If you want to reach a wider audience, your best bet is to create and run Instagram story ads. And that’s exactly what we will be talking about in this article.
In this guide we’ll tell you everything you need to know about Instagram story ads. What’s more, we’ll even show you examples of IG story ads that worked, along with some ready-to-use Instagram story templates to get you started making your own thumb-stopping story ads! And while you’re at it, make sure to follow InVideo on Instagram for ideas & inspirations that will help elevate your presence on the platform.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
1. What are Instagram Story ads?
2. IG story ads: Sizes and Specs
3. Instagram story ad formats - with examples
4. 22 awesome ideas for Instagram ad stories
5. How to create Instagram story ads quickly (using Invideo)
6. How to schedule and run IG story ads
7. Instagram story ad best practices and top tips
You can read straight through, or click on the links above to jump to a specific section of the guide.
But before we get started, you might also want to check out this guide to Instagram marketing for businesses, which has literally everything you’ll need to develop a successful Instagram marketing strategy for your brand.
Now, let’s get right to it!
Instagram Story ads are advertisements that either appear or are designed specifically to show up as stories for Instagram users. These can either be photos, infographics, or videos in the vertical format, i.e. the 9:16 aspect ratio, that appear as dividers in between the Instagram stories of accounts a user already follows.
What makes Instagram Story ads unique is the option to include links and create clickable stories, so advertisers can drive results at the bottom end of the marketing funnel. And these ads have also shown to generate a higher ROI.
Instagram Story Ads are seamlessly immersed into a user's Story-viewing experience and it’s often difficult to tell them apart. They look almost exactly the same as stories (they’re also full screen and vertical) - except for the ‘sponsored’ tagline which appears below your username when you post an ad.
Ads stories will display up to 15 seconds for videos and up to 5 seconds for single images each time they’re served to viewers. And unlike an organic Instagram Story, ads don’t disappear after 24 hours - instead you can choose the length of the campaign and frequency at which you want them to be seen.
Instagram plays video ads that are 15 seconds or less for the full duration of the video and you can get started with creating these video ads in minutes using Instagram story ad templates on InVideo.
The static IG story ads that are longer than 5 seconds will be split into separate cards which are continuously displayed one after the other. If your video is longer than 15 seconds, Instagram will pause the ad and ask users if they want to continue viewing the ad.
The number of cards automatically displayed before prompting viewers with a ‘Keep Watching’ button is tailored to each viewer.
Instagram story Ad marketing objectives
Users must swipe or click on the link button to access your call-to-action link. Choosing where you link to will depend on the nature and objectives of your ad campaign. Do you want users to make a purchase after showcasing your products? Would you like them to watch a music video, or fill in a form?
You can now tailor your marketing goals and objectives to your CTAs on Instagram. Instagram currently offers advertisers seven marketing objectives to select from. These include:
- Brand Awareness: Increase awareness for your brand by locating people likely to be interested in your products
- Reach: Show your ad to the maximum number of people.
- Video views: Get people to view your video content
- Conversions: Drive valuable actions like purchases or sign ups on your app or website
- App installs: Get people to install your app by linking directly to an app store
- Lead Generation: Drive sales leads and collect email addresses and phone numbers through sign up forms
- Traffic: Increase the number of people that view your website
Please note that for selecting most of these objectives as well as running ads specifically on stories you will need to create and run ads through the Facebook Ads Manager as the Instagram app itself doesn’t offer a very high level of customization at present.
Now that you know a little bit about what Instagram story ads, let’s go ahead and discuss their specifications in a little more detail. If you’ve been wondering how long can Instagram story ads be, here’s a quick look at all the specifications you’ll need to follow while creating an Instagram Story ad.
Note: Sponsored Instagram story specifications remain the same as those used for organic stories.
The best dimension for Instagram story ads are 1080 pixels wide by 1920 pixels tall (1080 x 1920) with an aspect ratio of 9:16. The minimum width should be 500 pixels. If you upload an image or video that doesn’t fit the above dimensions, Instagram may crop or zoom in on your content, resulting in a poor quality or stretched image.
Remember that Instagram compresses images and videos during the upload process, so a grainy or low resolution file will look even more pixelated. 1080p is the ideal resolution for both photos and videos uploaded to Instagram Stories. The minimum acceptable resolution is 72ppi.
Instagram Stories ads accepts JPEG, PNG, and GIF file formats for images. Videos should be uploaded in MP4, MOV or GIF file formats, with a duration of 15 seconds or less.
Instagram does not offer built in captions or subtitles, so if you want to include such text, it must be part of your image or video file.
Here’s a more detailed look at the images and video specifications for sponsored Instagram stories.
Image Instagram Story Ad Specs
- Aspect ratios: 9:16 and 4:5 to 1.91:1
- Maximum duration: 5 secs
- Maximum file size: 30 MB
- Supported image types: .jpg, .png
Video Instagram Story Ad Specs
- Aspect ratios: 9:16 and 4:5 to 1.91:1
- Maximum duration: 60 secs
- Maximum file size: 4 GB
- Minimum video width: 500 px
- Supported video types: .mp4, .mov
- Video quality: H.264 compression, square pixels, fixed frame rate, progressive scan
- Audio quality: Stereo AAC audio compression at 128 kbps+
- Sound: Optional
When you’re creating Instagram story ads using InVideo, all of these specifications are already taken care of, so you can focus on getting your brand’s message out without getting bogged down by technicalities.
Creative tools available for Instagram Stories ads
- Face filters
- Poll sticker
- Animated GIF
- Camera effects
You might also want to take a quick look at this guide on the best time to post on Instagram while creating your ad strategy to ensure you get the highest ROI on your ads.
You can run your IG story ads in a few different formats, each with their own benefits and uses. The four main formats for sponsored Instagram story ads currently offered are:
- Single Image: a static image that plays for five seconds
- Video: a video ad plays for up to 15 seconds; you can also create 60 second video ads (but users will be prompted to keep watching after 15 seconds)
- Carousel: a carousel lets you play three separate pieces of content (video, photos, or both) within one ad for up to 15 seconds
- Canvas: canvas ads allow viewers to open a full-screen, mobile-optimized experience straight from your ad
Let’s go into a bit more detail about these Instagram ad templates, and take a look at some examples.
A. Single Image Ad format
Single images are the standard Instagram ad template which appear as full-screen vertical ads between a user’s organic story feed. They’re visible for about five seconds or until the viewer swipes or taps out of the story. It’s best to keep these ads as simple and clear as possible.
Take a look at this single image ad from Aveeno - it’s super clean, includes minimal text and is focused entirely on the product - Aveeno’s best-selling moisturizer.
Pro-tip: If you’re creating a single image ad, Instagram recommends that you leave roughly 14% (250 pixels) at the top and bottom of the image free from text and logos as this is where your profile icon and the call-to-action appear. Elements placed in these areas won’t be visible - or worse, will look sloppy - and you want to avoid this at all costs!
B. Video Ad format
Did you know Video posts on Instagram receive twice as much engagement when compared to other types of posts? It’s no surprise that Instagram has a video format to draw in that all-important attention. Video ads also include sound and run from 15-60 seconds.
Note: For video ads, Instagram asks users if they want to continue watching the video after 15 seconds. Ideally you should try and stick to ads below 15 seconds as these receive the most engagement.
Check out this Instagram video ad by PlanetArt that showcases all the information in less than 5 seconds.
Learn how to make highly effective video ads like this one using Invideo’s easy-to-use video templates for Instagram story ads.
C. Carousel Ad format
Carousel Instagram ads are one of the best ways to promote your brand in refreshing and interesting ways. Carousel ads are ads that include 2-3 cards within a single ad and can contain a mix of photo and video. They are best for showing multiple products or sequenced narratives.
Instagram now offers two types of carousel ads within stories:
- Native Stories Carousel automatically displays up to 3 cards with full-screen creatives up to a maximum duration of 15 seconds
- Expandable Stories Carousel displays 1, 2, or 3 cards automatically but gives people the option to tap "Keep Watching" to see the remaining cards up to a total of 10 cards. (Your ads cannot be longer than 60 seconds in total)
Take a look at this example, where GAP used a carousel ad on Stories to target millennial shoppers during the launch of its “Logo Remix” collection of T-shirts.
D. Canvas Ads
Canvas ads are now available as Instagram story ads! They’re a great way to show off some of your branding assets, build an emotional connection with an audience and support your overall brand building efforts.
Created by Facebook, Canvas ads are a full-screen interactive format that is designed specifically for Facebook and Instagram. When you click on a Canvas ad, the window opens up into a full screen micro-site allowing users to click, scroll, swipe and tap on the screen - something you can’t do with regular ads that have only one static image or a video. It also loads faster than other mobile sites because it’s hosted on Facebook, overcoming the problem of frustrating mobile ad experiences, with high load times.
Since Canvas ads support videos, gifs and the same interactive capabilities of a website, they’re your chance to get really creative and capture the attention of customers with just a single sponsored Instagram story.
Take a look at how the mattress company Casper tapped into Canvas to educate its audience about its unique product benefits and warranty, as well as share client testimonials for the feel good brand.
In this section we’re going to take you through some great examples along with Instagram story ad templates that you can use to create your own.
Since video ads get the most traction, we’ll start with these and then move on to ideas for image ads on Instagram stories.
So get ready for some killer inspiration with these Instagram ad designs!
Ideas for IG story video ads
With some of the most high-converting and best Instagram story ads being videos - you cannot ignore this format.
1. Highlight your products
One of the key ways to utilize story ads is to showcase your products and get viewers to purchase or order them right away! Including offers in your ad will also make it more likely to draw in viewers and get them to tap on your CTA.
Take a look at this Instagram story ads example for a restaurant:
2. Announce a special event
If your company hosts events, conferences or panel discussions - get more people to attend by creating a sponsored Instagram story that highlights the event. If you have well known speakers, you should definitely advertise them. If you can, try and show a short clip of them speaking about the event! Don’t forget to include all-important details like the date and time and whether the event will be held in person or online. To ensure you get those conversions, link your CTA to a sign-up form where people can register directly for the event.
3. Create a compelling real estate ad for your properties
If you’re in the real estate business, advertising on Instagram is a great way to get prospective clients interested in your business. You can do this by highlighting some of your best properties with a compelling Instagram story ad. Using short video clips will give potential buyers a chance to see what the properties are really like and draw them in even further.
And if you need more help, check out this super-helpful guide to real estate marketing.
4. Use story ads to notify viewers of a new blog post
If you write blogs regularly and need some extra eyes, consider driving traffic to your website with a sponsored story ad. You can include excerpts from the blog along with a catchy headline that will make people want to read more!
5. Build confidence in your products with great testimonials
Audience testimonials are possibly one of the best ways to get people to visit your store and purchase something. So why not advertise them in your stories? People are much more likely to be convinced by someone else saying something nice about your products and you won’t look like you’re bragging - it’s a win-win!
You can also check out this other testimonial video template if you’re looking for more options.
6. Announce a new product
New products deserve a little flash - so shine some light on them to get people excited and start buying! You can choose to feature very specific details about your new product (and what makes it so great), or just have some really compelling images and direct people to your store.
7. Advertise new discounts and offers available in your store
Who doesn’t like a good discount? The best Instagram story ads usually showcase some kind of offer or discount to get people excited and click-through to the landing page. So if you’re running a sale and want to get more people to buy your discounted products - highlight this on your IG story ads.
8. Tell people you’re looking to hire
This might seem like an unusual way to hire staff - but why not try using Instagram ads? If you’re looking for younger people who are savvy with social media, this might be a great untapped way to source talent. Send out a video ad to your key demographic and watch the replies come in! You could also direct people to your job site so they can view a detailed description of responsibilities or lead them straight to an application form.
9. Show your audience how your brand is celebrating the holidays
The holidays are a great time to advertise your products and services - or show people you’re celebrating too! If you run a holiday campaign or have an exclusive offer the best way to tell people is with a great video ad like this one:
10. Advertise your gym or fitness program
Gyms and fitness programs are always in high demand. So use a video ad to show how you stand out from the crowd and convince people to attend classes, sign up with a trainer or join your gym.
11. Build those hunger pangs, by highlighting your menu
Instead of showing just one or two food products and then leading customers to your website and menu - why not cut out the middle option and just put your menu up? Once customers see your products and prices, they’ll be primed to go ahead and order straight away!
12. Celebrate calendar days with exclusive discounts
Calendar days are a great way to highlight your brand personality by talking about the causes you care about or days that align with your brand. For example if you are a shaving company you could run a discount for dads on Father’s day.
Ideas for IG story image ads
1. Use stickers to make image ads even more interactive
Static image ads don’t have to be boring! You can do something truly fun with them by including interactive stickers as part of the ad. Dunkin Donuts announced their new product offering, donut fries, by adding a poll to it’s Instagram stories ad.
2. Take close up shots of your products
J&Co Jewelry, a minimalist jewelry brand, took a series of close up photos of their earrings and to advertise their sale. The minimal design and small carefully placed text about their sale might seem like too little, but this subtle design worked perfectly for their brand and drove a ton of sales.
3. Use a mixture of text and images to highlight your product sales
Madedotcom advertised their sale beautifully using a carousel ad that alternated between images and text. Note how the text is extremely minimal and can be read at a single glance - the limited time available for Stories means you can’t include a ton of text. The ad hooks you with an exciting headline, showcases the products and then draws you in with the 40 percent off announcement - who could resist?
4. Use influencers or celebrities to market your products on Instagram
Pepe Jeans used their brand ambassador, Dua Lipa to create a compelling ad that mixed video and images. While not everyone can use high profile celebrities like Dua Lipa - you could consider engaging with micro-influencers or other social media influencers to create an ad that benefits both of you.
5. Use a slideshow of images to highlight products
While this is technically a video, KLM created a super compelling ad by mixing a static image of platform binoculars with a slideshow of images to showcase the various destinations they fly to. This is a great way to showcase different products for your brand. For example, Real estate agents can do this with properties and a static for sale sign.
6. Advertise for a subscription
Bloomberg created this really simple minimalist ad with a single message. Their tagline - The savings are clear - is reinforced by the simplicity and clarity of the graphic. Everything subscribers need to know is in that one image.
7. Increase your followers with a boosted post
Not all your ads have to direct potential customers to a website or landing page. Dale Ventures used this image ad to get more people to follow their Instagram account. This is a great way to get a boost in followers and doesn’t take too much time or effort to create.
8. Make static images work for your brand
While everyone is always prioritizing video over images - this is one ad which is perfectly suited to an image - a video would never work here. The Sill has a beautifully minimalist ethos which is conveyed in this static image with the extremely simple text. The white and green color scheme also serve to make everything seem very calm - which is exactly what they’re aiming for!
9. Use text to support your offerings
While using a lot of text isn’t always the best idea, it can work for certain brands. When advertising for specialist services like digital marketing agencies or consulting firms - you’ll need to say a bit more to get people to click on your ad. Acadium does this really well with a strong title which catches attention. The smaller text can then be read by whoever is interested in their services.
10. Speak to your audience
Babbel created this really compelling image ad that asked just one question. The single question and the logo is all the text that appears on the ad - so their product - the Babbel app stands out front and center.
And we’re done with our Instagram story ads examples! If you’re looking for even more ideas you can use on your Instagram stories, check out this blog. Or here are some cool ideas you can use for your Instagram posts.
Now, let’s learn how to create an Instagram story ad using the ideas we’ve just outlined.
With over four million advertisers, and probably five times as many ads on Instagram stories, standing out from the crowd isn’t easy, but we’re here to help! In this section, we’ll take an in-depth look at how to create Instagram story ads that stand out.
We’ll be using InVideo’s online video editor to create some attention-grabbing ads.
If you’re feeling adventurous you can check out some of our Instagram Story ad templates, and get started on your own. Or stay with us, and learn how to create Instagram stories ads in minutes!
Step 1: Sign up or Log onto InVideo.io and select the vertical 9:16 aspect ratio and then search for the template of your choice in the search bar. Once you’ve found the template, click on Use this template and you will be taken to the InVideo editor to edit your Instagram story ad template
Step 2: Start by uploading your own media by using the Upload Media button on the left menu panel. You can also select from 1000s of stock video footage available in the Video section on the left-hand panel.
Adjust the video duration and crop scenes using the scene editor below.
Step 3: If you don’t prefer the music that already comes with the template and want to replace it. Click on the Music tab on the left panel to get started. You can either upload your own track by clicking on the upload icon on the top or scroll through something that would suit you.
Search for music by mood, or type something into the search bar at the top. Click on a track to preview it.
Step 4: Add text to your Instagram ad by clicking on Text on the left panel. Select from a pre-made text template or click on Add a heading to add simple text to a scene.
Once you’re done adding text, you can click on a textbox to edit the font, color and style of the text. You can even animate your text by selecting the Animate button on the menu.
Step 5: Preview your video and make any final changes or edits. Now download and export your video! Click on the “Download and Share” button on the top right-hand corner of the screen. Once your video has been rendered, you can download it onto your computer or upload it directly to Instagram.
If you’d rather watch a video on how to create an Instagram story ad, check out this detailed InVideo tutorial to learn how you can leverage our templates to bring your ads to life.
If you need to create more videos for Instagram, you might also want to check out this guide on how to post videos on reels, IGTV and other Instagram formats or take a look at this super easy way to post your YouTube videos to Instagram.
Now you’re done creating ads on Instagram stories, let’s take a look at how to run an Instagram ad story.
Instagram story advertising is easy. You can schedule and run ads using the Facebook Ads manager using pretty much the same methods as you would to run other types of sponsored Instagram stories or Facebook posts.
To begin any sort of advertising on Instagram, start by converting your existing Instagram account to a business account, if you haven’t already. You’ll also need to connect your professional Instagram account to a Facebook page managed by your brand or business.
This will unlock your access to Ads Manager, where you can then start building Instagram Stories ads.
While Ads Manager is the main platform to run stories ads, you can also boost or promote your stories directly from the Instagram app.
We’ll go through the two main ways you can schedule and run your insta ads.
Let’s get started creating an Instagram Story Ad using Facebook Ads Manager. If you’ve created Facebook ads in the past, the process is pretty much the same - you’ll just have to change the ad placement to stories.
Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: Open Ads Manager on your Facebook page and select Create.
You’ll be asked to choose from a Guided Campaign or a Quick Creation option. We’ll be using the guided campaign to show you exactly how to create an instagram story ad from scratch.
Step 2: Pick the advertising objective that aligns with your marketing goal and select Continue. There are 4-7 options you can choose from depending on what you want to achieve with your Instagram story ad.
We’ve selected traffic, which will help increase traffic to a website or landing page.
Step 3: Now set your ad’s budget and schedule.
Step 4: Choose an audience for your ad - make sure you select the demographic very carefully since you want your Instagram story ad to reach those who are likely to become customers.
Step 5: It’s now time to choose your ad placements. Placements are the areas in which you want your ad to appear - so you’ll need to select Instagram stories. Select Edit Placements and choose Instagram. Make sure you check the Stories box.
Optional: You can also select Automatic Placements, which will run your Story ad across several Facebook Placements, including Instagram. This option will give you the most value, featuring your ad on Instagram and Facebook based on Facebook’s marketing algorithm.
You may do this but we suggest creating custom-sized ads for each placement to avoid sloppy or blurry images.
Step 6: Complete your ad by including details about your ad’s identity, format, and any related links.
Step 7: Preview your ad before submitting it to Instagram for review.
Once your ad has been approved, confirm it appears in Instagram Stories. Your ad must comply with Facebook’s advertising policies to be approved and run on Instagram.
Facebook Ads manager is very good if you want to create a new ad format from a new image/video creative or need to use advanced settings to promote your business.
For a simpler approach, consider just boosting your Instagram ad stories.
Boosting your Instagram stories is a great way to quickly promote your business and increase traffic to your page or website. What’s more you can re-use existing posts when doing this - which saves you time and effort!
Step 1: To start, you’ll have to share your Story organically first. Once your Story has been shared, view it and tap the three dots in the lower right corner to promote it.
Step 2: Decide where you want to send people who view your story. With story promotions you can direct viewers to your profile, your website, or your direct messages (DMs).
Step 3: Now select who you’d like to watch your ad. Choose your target audience based on location, interest, age, and/or gender.
Step 4: Select an ad budget and choose how long you’d like to run your ad. You can adjust your daily spend using the scroll option. Note that unlike stories, promoted story ads can run for longer than 24 hours.
Note: Stories with any of the clickable elements such as poll or question stickers cannot be promoted at present. You need to keep your stories simple – images or videos – if you want to turn them into an ad.
That’s it! Now you’re ready to give your organic Instagram stories that extra boost! To take your Instagram story advertising to the next level you should also check out this amazing guide on how to grow your business with Instagram stories.
Instagram sponsored stories are really about how to maximize your brand's visibility and sell products on Instagram. In order to help you create highly effective ads that will give your conversions a nice boost, here are a few Instagram story ad best practices all marketers should follow.
#1 - Tailor your designs to the Instagram Story format
Facebook Ads Manager allows you to easily place a single ad across all it’s platforms in multiple formats. As we’ve seen earlier, a single creative graphic can be used to advertise on stories, posts, reels and even Facebook.
While this is super convenient — you need to make sure that your designs look great on all the types of ads. Nothing is worse than a blurry image, or key text being cropped because the ad was designed for a vertical screen and then used on an Instagram post.
As Instagram Stories ads have a vertical layout, you’ll want to maximize this space and use it to your advantage by creating an ad that uses all the space available.
If you do choose to repurpose an existing asset, make sure that you don't remove important information through cropping or zooming. Ideally, you should design separately for each ad format, keeping their unique specifications in mind and using the entire ad space like this:
The option to use a generic Instagram ad might look like the easy way out, but it has some important limitations - you won’t have any creative control over the colors or additional graphic elements, and you won’t be able to use the full range of options available for ads on Instagram stories.
Don’t worry too much about spending hours reformatting your creatives. With Invideo’s Instagram ad templates, you can easily customize your video ads to different specifications within minutes - so there’s no excuse!
#2 - Put your brand front and center on Instagram ad stories
Make sure people know who you are by putting your logos and brand elements right at the start of your Instagram story ad. Since the main point of creating Instagram Story ads is to introduce more people to your brand and its products - if people see your ad but don’t know which brand it’s from, you’ll have failed.
Make sure your brand logo is prominently visible and try to find as many ways as possible to incorporate your brand logo, icon and color scheme into your ad to ensure easy recognition.
Think this sounds like too much? Instagram story ads show for just 5 seconds - if you’re lucky and users don’t tap through - so if you wait around to say who you are or don’t boldly reinforce your brand identity, viewers will miss it.
Here are a few more tips to keep in mind when designing your ad:
- Always include your brand logo and feature it as soon as you can on a video.
- Try placing your logo at the center of the ad so it’s easy to spot (drawing the eye to the center of the ad also serves to divert users away from the ‘sponsored’ tag on top which is great because users tend to click away when they realize they’re looking at an ad)
- Focus on products that have your brand name or logo on it
- Don’t go the other extreme and make your logo too big - just make sure it’s easily visible and there aren’t any design elements obstructing or distracting from it
MeUndies, an inclusive underwear brand, is a great example of how a brand can create a consistent look and feel across all their creatives. Their logos are prominently placed without taking away from the product - and their message of inclusivity also comes out super clearly.
#3 - Make the first few seconds count
Instagram Stories are consumed faster than any other mobile format. So getting people’s attention within the 5 second limit of Instagram story ads isn’t easy. Sure, you’re technically allowed 60 seconds for an ad - but in order to get people watching all 60 seconds you’ll need something that really gets them in the first few seconds alone.
Here’s a few ways you can make sure those first seconds count:
1. Add sound to your Story ad - With 60 percent of Stories being viewed with the sound on, a silent ad on Instagram is a missed opportunity. Does your brand already have a brand theme song or audio tag line you can include? Consider how to use music, sound effects, or voice-over to capture viewers' attention in a new way. An audio hook is a great way to grab attention with some great tunes. If you're unsure which types of sound work best in your ad, experiment with A/B testing to learn what types of music your audience prefers.
2. Introduce your product with a bang - Instagram stories are not the place for a subtle build up. Don’t bother doing a product reveal or save your main message for the end because viewers are going to tap away if they don’t get what your ad is about. Put your product front and center and feature it as as quickly as you can so viewers know exactly what you’re selling.
3. Draw attention with speed - People consume Stories content much faster than other social media, which is why faster paced ads do really well here. Experiment with bite-sized and fast-paced narratives since they’re easier for viewers to consume. Ads with short, concise scenes tend to perform better than long, slow scenes. You could also consider increasing the speed of your gif or video - the faster playback speeds get users attention and will make them stop tapping ahead and rewatch the video to see what it’s actually about. Take a look at this gif from Daily Harvest which goes super fast and prompts users to tap to see what the ad is about.
#4 - Pay attention to your images
90 percent of Instagram story advertising is about the image. The photos and graphics you use are critical to the success of your ad. So here are a few pointers to keep in mind when using images on your Instagram ad template.
- Keep your images focused on the concept: When selecting images or setting up a shot ask yourself what you want your message to be. How do you want people to think or feel when they see your ad? If someone was describing the images would this include the same qualities as your brand? Your ads tell a story about your business and images help reinforce your brand ethos more than anything else. If your images don’t connect with your brand, chances are viewers won’t either.
- Use well-crafted images: By well-crafted we don’t mean you have to use professionally shot photos or photos with high-production value - but make sure your photos have a strong focal point, good lighting and the images taken are clear.
- Mix and match video and images: Campaigns with multiple ad sets tend to perform better. So to keep things interesting, experiment with a mix of video, stop-motion animation and static images during your ad.
Check out this great carousel ad by HelloFresh that uses a mix of static images, video and stop-motion to create a super interesting ad. Also note how they’ve created a coherent narrative for the 3 screens so that they all flow together.
#5 - Position text strategically
There isn’t a lot of time or space for text on Instagram stories. With viewers having only 5 seconds to read and visuals dominating the space, how and where you position your text is super important.
Here are a few key things to keep in mind when adding text to your story ads:
- Since there isn’t a lot of space to work with and even more limited reading time, keep your messages short and punchy with just enough information to intrigue users to “Swipe up.” Try to keep text to no more than ten words.
- Text positioning is also super important - the best Instagram story ads have their key messages front and center. Also make sure your text is visible and doesn’t unintentionally obstruct other elements
- Don’t use very small text as viewers might have to squint and most likely just won’t read it. Instead, use easy-to-read fonts and bold text in larger sizes that conveys your message in a few seconds - because that’s all you have! You could also try and add your text over white space where possible, to make it hard to miss.
- Add bold text in the middle of the screen or towards your “Swipe Up” link if you want to draw people away from the “Sponsored” tag at the top.
Take a look at this Instagram story ads example by Overstock. They used a mixture of text and video cards that compelled the audience to ‘think again.’ The text card below is a great example of how to use text in an ad - there are only a few words, a very punchy line (‘think again’) and you get the message in a second.
Batch Organics also uses text in a great way in their ad, which first highlighted their products with no text, then added text overlays to the images and finally ended with the text front and center (as this was the most important takeaway and viewers would have already seen the images twice now), with an offer at the bottom of the screen just above the “Shop Now” link.
#6 - Don’t overdo it with stickers
Stickers are a great way to draw attention to your product and let your ad feel more natural and organic. But they can also feel out of place, inconsistent and like you’re just using stickers for the sake of it. Don't use unnecessary stickers that look unnatural or clutter your creative graphic.
And if adding stickers (whether static or interactive ones) doesn’t feel like a natural part of your brand - don’t do it! In general avoid using too many emojis and GIFs and keep it to 1-2 stickers per story, unless your brand personality demands the overuse of emojis and a lot of GIFs.
Take a look at how Macy’s used a snowman sticker and a link to their shop very subtly in their Christmas ad - since it fits perfectly with the vibe of their story. The shop link is placed towards the end so as not to take away from the overall feel of the ad, it’s just giving those interested the opportunity to purchase without taking away from the overall feel of the ad as cozy and Christmassy.
Interactive stickers are also a great way of connecting with your audience and seeing what they think. You can ask questions, include quick polls, include links to your shop or use countdown stickers to announce the launch of a new product or event. These are all great stickers to use in your organic stories but should be avoided with ads because people who don’t follow you are very unlikely to want to interact with you the first time your ad pops up in their feed.
#7 - Advertise to a custom audience
What’s the best way to avoid tap-throughs from people unfamiliar with your brand? Don’t do it! The advertising capabilities Facebook offers allow you to customize your audience to a high degree - so make sure you use these segments to send your ads to people most likely to be interested in your brand. For example, sending an ad for hearing aids to people within the age range of 18-35 isn’t going to bring in many customers at all.
A great way to get even more targeted with your ads is to build an audience segment based on existing customers or people who have already interacted with your brand. Study the demographics and characteristics of existing customers and then select a custom audience based on some of these parameters.
For example, this ad by Michael Kors yielded a 20 percent higher return on ad spend, because they marketed it to an audience similar to their already existing customers. The campaign also yielded a 3 percent higher click-through rate.
Leveraging custom audiences can help you achieve similar results by getting your Story ads in front of more qualified leads.
#8 - Use Carousel ads on your stories
Carousel ads on Instagram offer a distinct competitive advantage over other types of ads as they present an opportunity to offer viewers a more in-depth and compelling glimpse into your brand. In a space where air time is extremely coveted, that’s invaluable.
As mentioned earlier, carousels contain up to 3 panels, with each panel using up to 5 seconds of video (for a total of 15 seconds). What’s really great about carousel ads is that they give you the chance to link to different landing pages with each card. You can also learn more about what your audience wants to see since they support metric reporting on a by-card basis. You’ll be able to find out which cards people are viewing most, how long they stay on individual cards, and which links they’re swiping up on. All this information is easily accessible within Ads Manager.
Note: Carousel ads for Instagram Stories can’t run with any other placement, so you’ll have to build them and add them as a separate campaign.
Carousels are also a great way to tell short, compelling stories or include a tiny narrative within your ad. Since you have 3 cards it’s a good idea to find a way to connect them together and compel the viewer to move to the next card. Take a look at how The North Face used carousels to brilliantly tell a story, while also selling a different product (each with it’s custom landing page), on each card. Look at how they use really simple text to keep user’s engaged and wanting to know more.
#9 - Include a crystal clear call-to-action
Story ads allow you to set a call-to-action (or CTA) which gives you a chance to direct users to your website, landing page or sign up form. On Instagram CTAs can be ‘Swipe ups’ or branded buttons that can be seamlessly integrated into your story ads without coming across as distracting or flashy.
CTAs are a key engagement tool for any ad and cannot be ignored. They boost the number of clicks and sales like nothing else, so don’t forget to use them with every ad you publish or your Instagram Stories ad won't be effective.
A few things to remember about CTAs:
- Use different CTAs for different goals to send a clear message to viewers about what they’re expected to do. For example, if your goal is brand awareness a ‘Learn more’ CTA will signal to users that you want to educate them more about your brand, whereas if you’re selling a product, saying ‘Shop now’ is the best option.
- Make sure you use a CTA as clearly as possible since if you say ‘Learn more’ but direct viewers to a shop - this will leave them feeling frustrated and they might never return.
- In general, it’s a good idea to direct users to visit your website or another external page where you do most of your business. Since Instagram story ads allow you only limited information, make sure the place you’re directing users to has more.
Take a look at how California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) uses different CTAs to signal their intent. You’d assume that CPK would want viewers to always be buying or shopping for pizzas so every ad would have a ‘Shop now’ CTA. But in the ad below, their objective is clearly to raise more brand awareness and educate users to learn more about their ingredients which is why they’ve included the ‘Learn more’ CTA instead. Viewers immediately know that they’re not going to be taken to a site that asks them to buy a pizza.
Pro-tip: While it’s great to advertise large discounts, if you want users to click-through on your ads, don’t include specific prices of products. Ads that do this perform better as they invite viewers to tap on the CTAs to learn about the products and prices.
#10 - Don’t use overly polished ads on your Stories
When publishing Instagram story ads, it’s a good idea to match the style and tone of more organic stories that people are already viewing so it looks like a part of their natural feed.
Instagram users are more likely to tap away from something that screams ‘advertisement’ to them - especially if your ads are professionally shot and highly produced. While there is a place for these sorts of story ads, if you want your brand to integrate with the other stories your viewers are seeing, don’t overdo it.
Here are a few more pointers to keep in mind:
- The best Instagram story ads appear authentic and organic as opposed to polished and produced. Authentic-looking ads also tend to have more staying power.
- You could consider adding some personality with your messaging and style to help you stand out even further (and seem more ‘real’)
- Think about shooting your ad with a mobile phone instead of a professional camera. While studio shots work for posts, stories are more casual and ads shot on a mobile can convey this perfectly.
- Facebook reported that mobile shots outperform studio shots for ad recall and intent, while studio shots tend to drive higher brand awareness - so choose your camera depending on your overall ad objective.
A good example of how to do this is the sponsored Instagram stories by the fitness brand GymShark. They’ve casually thrown in their logo and branding by featuring it on the clothing of the model. This is a really clever way to showcase your brand without drawing too much attention to it and making it fit in with other stories.
One important thing to remember here is to be consistent. If your brand is very high-end and always has very produced visuals, sticking to this is fine. But if your brand ethos is more natural and friendly, deviating away from this vibe and creating something very polished could be jarring for viewers when they click through to your page or website and cause them to leave.
And we’re done! Now you’ve got all you need to know about Instagram stories ad best practices.
It’s a wrap!
People are more engaged with brands online than ever before. Designing videos for your Instagram stories is probably one of the best tools in your advertising arsenal that will help you engage more meaningfully with potential customers and stand out - so make sure you use it.
And if you’re looking for more info on how you can leverage Instagram, check out this super-detailed guide to Instagram for business.
1. How do you advertise on Instagram stories?
1. Go to Ads manager in your Settings and select Create ad
2. Pick an advertising objective that aligns with your marketing goal (traffic, engagement, lead generation etc.)
3. Set your budget and the duration for which you want the ad to run
4. Choose an audience for your ad
5. Select Instagram Stories in the ad placement column
6. Upload your ad, add links and text
7. Preview your ad and publish it!
2. Why do Instagram stories have ads?
Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms today - and a great way for brands to engage with potential customers. Since 80 percent of Instagram users follow at least one business, ads are one way for them to learn more about brands and their products.
3. How long is a story ad on Instagram?
If you’re wondering how long can a story ad be - Instagram story ads last for 5 seconds each. Instagram Stories will play video ads that are 10 seconds or less for the full duration of the video. But video ads that are ten seconds or longer will be split into separate Stories cards of 5 seconds each. If you’re using a carousel ad format you can add up to 3 cards for a total of 15 seconds.
4. How do you promote 3 stories on Instagram?
If you want to promote multiple stories on Instagram, you’ll need to run a carousel ad. This feature allows you to promote 3-10 cards on your Instagram story ad.