How to Create the Perfect Instagram Story

Did you know that over 300 million people use Instagram stories on a daily basis and that many of these users view stories immediately upon opening the app? With this in mind, Instagram stories are a great tool for destination marketers.  When used properly, Instagram Stories can help promote a destination’s most unique experiences and events – all while providing an opportunity to inspire travel.

This all sounds great, but what makes a good story? Here are a few things to remember as you embark on crafting your own.

First, we want to emphasize that it is a story. Each time you tell a story, you need to have a consistent narrative that has a start and a finish. Having an end goal in mind from the very beginning can help you create compelling content. Instagram Stories are way more than just a few photos that are stitched together. They should be a compilation of images and/or video that complement each other to take users through an experiential journey. This is extremely important to remember and often missed.

1. Determine the story you are going to tell and why. It’s really important to have an idea in mind before you create a story just for the sake of creating a story. You want to make sure that you know what you are going to share with your viewers and why. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kind of story are you making? (event promo, partner feature, etc.)
  • What is your goal in creating this story?
  • What call-to-action will your story include?

2. Create a storyboard. Yes, that’s right. It may sound simple, but it works! In order to create a successful story, you must plan out the process from start to finish. Even if you are covering a live event, you should have an idea of the content that you want to gather. Knowing what you need can save you valuable time and will give your stories a clear purpose. Your storyboard should include the number of images/videos that you want to include, the text that you will include on each slide, the creative aspects of each piece (GIFs, paint, location tags, hashtags, links) and most importantly: your call-to-action. Here are a few things to keep in mind as start laying out your story:

  • Focus on stories that are between 5 to 8 panels long
  • Keep the pace up!
  • Stick to a single visual theme throughout the entire story
  • Include text features that guide the user

Need a little help to get started with storyboards? Check out this storyboard maker.

Storyboard Example:

An easy way to plan out your stories is simply by hand. This story highlights an event over 4 different stories. The first one a month prior, followed by 2 weeks, week-of and day-of the event. Each of the stories is planned out slide by slide in order to make you fully prepared for creation, including CTAs, specific words to use, and contents of the slide. 


3. Create your story. It’s now time to create your story by following your storyboard.  Let your storyboard guide you, but be flexible enough to have some spontaneous creativity in the process as well. There’s no shortage of tools you can use to make your Instagram Story sizzle.

As a best practice, be sure to include the following:

  • Use stickers (People love those darn emojis!)
  • Tag locations
  • Promote your hashtag
  • Use video when possible
  • Use UGC and mention other accounts
  • If you’re eligible, use “Swipe up” to drive traffic

4. Post-story distribution. Stories only stay live for 24 hours, so we need to do everything we can do to maximize the time and effort we have put forth to create the story. If it’s filled with important information regarding an annual event, it is a good idea for you to post it as a highlight on your profile so that anyone who visits your profile will see the event at the top of your page. Adding stories as highlights is a no-brainer but what else can we do? To maximize the reach and usefulness of your Instagram Stories try a couple of the following tactics:

  • Create a playlist on YouTube to feature your Instagram Stories
  • Share your story to Facebook (learn how here.)
  • Cross promote your story highlights via other social media channels
  • Encourage users to share your stories

Creative Tips

  • Make sure your story represents your brand with colors, voice etc.
  • Be versatile with your media- mix up your use of videos, pictures, boomerangs etc. to keep your audience interested
  • Don’t get too crazy. Yes, it’s fun to add GIFs, text etc. but make sure it’s not hindering your story-telling Your main goal is to inform!
  • If you’re using the “swipe up” feature, be sure to update your landing page on your website so users are brought to a page that is associated with the story content.


Visit Stockton: Beer Week

Experience Grand Rapids: Restaurant Week

As you can see, Visit Stockton and Experience Grand Rapids do great jobs of promoting their events prior to the event dates. Then periodically before the event happens, they encourage viewers to use the hashtag, swipe up etc., which are all great calls-to-action.

In the Experience Grand Rapids example, they are highlighting their restaurant week coming up, and do a great job of preparing visitors of what to expect when they visit during restaurant week.

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