This article was originally posted in the Canva blog
You already know that if you want to connect with your audience, Instagram is one of the best places to do it. Since launching in 2016, Instagram Stories has become one of the biggest weapons brands have in their marketing arsenal; the feature is an amazing way to tell stories, strengthen your branding on social media, and ultimately connect with your audience and drive recognition, engagement, and sales.
But what, exactly, is Instagram Stories? Why are they so popular? And, most importantly, how can you use Instagram Stories to stand out on the increasingly saturated social media platform and take your brand to the next level?
Let’s take a look at all-things Instagram Stories (including plenty of Canva Instagram Stories templates!):
What are Instagram Stories?
Instagram Stories is a feature introduced by the platform in 2016 that allows users (including brands!) to post videos and photos on their story feeds, and then have those videos and photos disappear 24 hours later.
When you post something on Instagram Stories, it won’t appear on your Instagram profile grid. Instead, the photos and videos accumulate in your Stories feed, which your followers can access by tapping your Instagram profile picture. Once they tap your photo, your followers can watch all your content, in chronological order, for 24 hours after they were posted. And then they disappear.
Why Instagram Stories are having such a moment
Instagram Stories are definitely having a moment. Of the 1 billion active Instagram users, 500 million of them use Instagram Stories every day—and one-third of the most viewed Instagram Stories come directly from businesses.
But what is it about Instagram Stories that makes the feature such a go-to for brands?
Instagram Stories allows you to…well, tell stories
It’s nearly impossible to tell a full story in a single photo. But with Instagram Stories, you don’t have to.
Because you can post multiple photos and videos in chronological order, Instagram Stories opens up a whole new world of storytelling opportunities on the platform. And thanks to the platform’s variety of features (like the ability to poll your followers), you can make the storytelling experience an interactive one—which can forge a deeper, more meaningful connection with your audience.
Instagram Stories give you creative opportunities without the risk
Another huge benefit of Instagram Stories is it allows you to put yourself out there, get creative, and try new things without the risk of a traditional marketing campaign.
A lot of brands have big ideas of things they’d like to try to market their brand and reach their audience. But rolling those ideas out on a large level can be a huge risk. If it falls flat, that’s a lot of time, energy, and money wasted.
But with Instagram Stories, you can experiment with new ideas, messaging, and design elements with very little risk. If the new idea, messaging, or design works, great! You can roll it out on a larger level. If it doesn’t? No worries! The posts are deleted in 24 hours anyway—so no harm done.
Instagram Stories gives brands the opportunity to flex their creative muscles without the risk of rolling out new, innovative, or untested ideas on a larger scale.
Instagram Stories drive results
Bottom line, the Instagram Stories feature is having a moment because it works. 20% of Stories posted by brands result in a direct message from their followers and Story Ads have been shown to have a positive impact on everything from ad recall to message association to click-through rates.
Instagram stories in action
Alright, so now that you know what Instagram Stories are—and why they’re having such a moment—let’s take a look at some brand Stories in action.
New York Public Library
The New York Public Library has started using Instagram Stories to publish full-length novels (!!), one chapter at a time.
Why it works: NYPL’s Stories strategy works from every angle possible. From a branding perspective, what’s more on-brand for one of the largest libraries in the US than using the Instagram Stories platform to literally share a story? By sharing books in their entirety, NYPL is staying true to its brand mission of getting more people to read. But because most people don’t want to read an entire book on Instagram Stories, chances are, it will drive people to actually check the book out of the library.
It also works from a design perspective. NYPL keeps most of its Instagram Story designs simple with text on a neutral background. While this allows the content to take center stage, it can get a little boring, so NYPL wisely adds visual interest by breaking up each chapter with a well-designed graphic introduction.
Converse took to Instagram Stories to share product images and hype up the launch of their new sneaker collection, One Star x Golf le Fleur.
Why it works: You can tell people about an upcoming product launch, but that will never be as effective as showing them. Converse used Instagram Stories as a way to give their followers a sneak preview of their new sneaker line. By sharing colorful (but otherwise simple) product shots, Converse was able to get people excited about their new kicks in the days leading up to the launch. This is an awesome strategy for building buzz around a new product and ultimately, driving sales.
Forget carousel ads. Women’s clothing retailer SHEIN used Instagram Stories as an opportunity to showcase a variety of their colorful swimsuit options—and as a way to drive people straight to their “Shop Now” feature.
Why it works: Instagram Stories offer a great opportunity to tell a longer, more in-depth story about your brand, but it also offers a great opportunity to show off your products. By using Stories to create a visually impactful display of their products (just look at those pops of color!)—and then directly linking the Story to their shop—SHEIN was able to directly tie their Stories strategy to their sales strategy (and likely sell a gaggle of bathing suits in the process).
Making it work for you with free Instagram Stories templates
All right, now that we’ve seen some brand Instagram Stories in action, let’s get to the good stuff—how to design impactful Instagram Stories of your own. And the best part! There is no reason to start from scratch. You can create a visually impactful story that connects with readers (and with minimal effort!) using an Instagram Stories template.
Let’s take a look at some of Canva’s best Instagram Stories templates including why they work and how you can make them work for your brand:
If you want to showcase a new product, try a photo-centric Instagram Stories template
If you want to use Instagram Stories to build buzz around a new product, you need to put that product front and center. And the best way to do that? With a photo-centric Instagram Stories template.
Templates that have a photo as the main focal point allow you to bring attention to your product photos and then use other design accents (like text or graphics) to add visual interest.
Here are a few photo-centric Instagram Stories templates that let your product take center stage:
Cream Vintage Handdrawn Flower Instagram Story
Why it works: A photo is (literally) front and center with this template, but the other design accents (like the hand-drawn flowers and textured paper elements) keep this from looking like other, more generic story feeds.
Who it works for: This template would be a great fit for a trendy apparel brand looking to showcase new items.
Teal and Peach Summer Instagram Story template
Why it works: Sometimes, it’s not enough to just include a photo, you also want to include some product information. This template splits the screen in half, showcasing the photo on top and a bright, colored block on the bottom—perfect for key details like product name, price, or other information your audience will want to know.
Who it works for: Because you can easily swap in your own photos and brand colors, this universal Instagram Stories template works for just about every brand under the sun.
Yellow Flower Spring Instagram Story
Why it works: Sometimes, one photo just isn’t enough to get the look and feel of your product across—and in those cases, you need a template that’s designed to showcase multiple shots. With this template, you can feature multiple product shots—but thanks to the layout (which includes different photo sizes and a white border to create contrast), they’ll all get equal attention.
Who it works for: If you want to showcase a photo of both your product and your product in action, this is a great template to do so. So, for example, let’s say you’re a sneaker brand and you want to showcase a new shoe. You could put a simple product photo in the smaller photo window on the left and then use the larger photo window on the right to incorporate a photo of someone actually wearing the sneaker.
Pink Simple Bordered Flowers Story
Why it works: Part of the charm behind Instagram Stories template is that it creates a more casual, approachable connection between brands and their audiences. And this template—which keeps things simple with a photo, pop of background color, and laid-back sans serif font—is the definition of casual and approachable.
Who it works for: If you want to keep things simple on your Instagram Stories and present your product without a ton of bells and whistles, this template should be your go-to.
If you’re having a sale, go for an announcement-centric Instagram Stories template
One of Instagram Story’s best features is the ability to link your story feed to a website—and drive people from your Instagram Story straight to a sale. Cha-ching! Get the word out with one of these templates:
Red Purple Shape Announcement Story template
Why it works: If you’re having a sale, you need to tell people—and this template allows you to do that in a simple, straightforward way. The color blocking adds visual interest (and allows your Instagram Story to feel on-brand) while the white block highlights any pertinent sale information (like “50% off all dresses today only!” or “Sale ends 5/21”).
Who it works for: Switch out the colors and font to match your brand, and this universal template works for just about everyone!
Pink and Blue Kids Stuff Sale Story
Why it works: Even though Instagram Stories offer brands the chance to flex their creative muscles, you’ll still see a lot of the same old, same old design elements—especially when it comes to typography. This template uses a fun graphic font—which will help your sale jump off the screen and grab your audience’s attention.
Who it works for: Because the typography in this template is more on the whimsical font, this template is perfect for children’s brands looking to leverage Instagram Stories to drive people to their sales.
Red Kids Fashion Teddy Bear Instagram Story template
Why it works: We talked about photo-centric Instagram Story templates. We talked about announcement-centric Instagram Story templates. But this template? It combines the best of both worlds, allowing you to use Instagram Stories to announce a major sale but still sneak a product photo into the background. Win!
Who it works for: This is another universal template options—if you’re having a sale and you have a product (which is kind of necessary in order to have the sale), this template is a go.
If you want to build a relationship with your audience, try a people-centric Instagram Story template
At its core, social media is all about building relationships—and that includes relationships between brands and their audiences. And if you want to use Instagram Stories to strengthen the relationship with your followers or customers, every story can’t be all about your product—it has to also be about your people.
Featuring real people on your Instagram Story, whether it’s a photo of your executive team having fun in the office or a quick video interview with one of your customers raving about your products, is a way to (literally) put a face to your brand—which can help to create a more personal relationship with your followers.
Forge a more personal connection with your Instagram followers with these templates:
Gray Torn Paper Your Story template
Why it works: With space for two photos, the black-and-white color palette lends a sophisticated look to both the images and the template as a whole—while the blurred edges of each photo add visual interest (and keep the final story from veering into “boring” territory).
Who it works for: Featuring people in your Instagram Story is a slam dunk for any brand, any time. No matter who you are or what you’re about, this template will work for you!
Black Dynamic Horizontal Your Story
Why it works: This template design is simple but impactful; instead of crowding too many design details into one space, it allows the photos (of people) to take center stage.
Who it works for: The asymmetrical layout of this template lends an edgier feel to the overall design, making this template a solid choice for edgier brands.
Here's To Friendship Instagram Story template
Why it works: Not only does this Instagram Story template put people front and center, but it also does so in bold, bright colors—perfect for Instagram’s majority millennial audience.
Who it works for: Going bold is a great way to grab people’s attention on Instagram Stories—so just swap out the teal and purple for your brand colors (and the photos for people-centric photos of your own!), and this template is a universal option for brands wanting to make an impact and building a connection on their Story feed.
Polaroid Minimalist Modern Your Story template
Why it works: Back in the day, Polaroids were a great way to capture moments as they happened. With this template, you can capture that sense of nostalgia and share photos of your people on your Instagram Story feed—Polaroid style. It’s like flipping through an old-school photo album—except it’s Instagram Stories!
Who it works for: If you’re going for a vintage or retro feel with your brand or Instagram Story feed, this template is a definite winner.
If you want to tell a story, try a text-centric Instagram Story template
You know the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Well, sometimes a thousand words is worth a thousand words—and if you have a story that’s better told through words, a text-centric Instagram Story template is the way to do it.
Here are a few templates to help you deliver your message effectively (and in a well-designed way):
Colorful International Children’s Book Day Instagram Story template
Why it works: Bright, bold colors. Fun patterns. 80s-inspired design. This template is LOUD—and can be just what you need to jump off the screen and get your audience hooked on your story.
Who it works for: Again, this template is bold—so if you’re not afraid to let loose and have fun with your brand, this template is a solid choice.
Black and White Forest Minimalist Instagram Story
Why it works: Sometimes, bright and bold is the way to go with storytelling—but sometimes, subtle and subdued can be just as impactful! This template uses subtle design elements (like the faded leaf pattern background) and a neutral color palette that’s visually impactful—but lets the story/text take center stage.
Who it works for: If you have a more traditional or subdued brand—and going too bold or colorful in your Instagram Stories makes you nervous—this is the template for you.
Pink Flower Background Spring Instagram Story
Why it works: This template is a great way to create a text-heavy Instagram Story in a new and interesting way; the list format—which has two separate columns that are perfect for bullet points or other story elements—adds an unexpected element to an otherwise standard text box.
Who it works for: With the floral background and pink color palette, this template is best suited to more feminine brands—but you can easily switch out the background image and change the color palette to suit more masculine-focused brands.
Blue and Pink Modern Instagram Story template
Why it works: This template cleverly uses text, color, and shapes to create a fill-in-the-blank survey style Instagram Story—perfect if you want to create a more interactive story experience with your audience.
Who it works for: Have a few questions you want to ask your audience? Want to create an interactive story for your audience? Then this template is for you—no royal wedding necessary.
Get out there and tell your story!
Instagram Stories is the ultimate platform for connecting with your audience. And now that you know how Instagram Stories works (and have plenty of templates to get your creative juices flowing), all that’s left to do is get out there and tell your story!