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Blog Post

Instagram Stories Ads: Surprise Secret Weapon

September 21, 2018
Table of Contents

Instagram has easily become a platform in which users and businesses alike can share important highlights with their followers. With more than 1 billion active accounts each month, it has become a hub of visual expression for people and brands around the world. To put into light just how prevalent Instagram is in our daily lives, Instagram has found that there are over 500 million active users worldwide every day and 80% of those users are following at least one business.

Along with the most important Instagram updates for brands in 2018, there are Instagram Stories, which makes it even easier to share behind-the-scenes, highlights, and everything in between. There are more than 400 million Instagram accounts that are using Stories every day, and businesses can utilize this format to achieve a range of objectives from brand awareness to driving conversions. You can even make your Instagram Story into an ad, much like the ads that run in your Facebook and Instagram feed.

According to Instagram:

  • People are definitely watching Stories; ⅓ of the most viewed Instagram Stories are from businesses.
  • Businesses are using Stories; 50% of businesses worldwide made at least one story in a month.
  • The usage of Story ads are only going to increase; 96% of US marketers surveyed said that they were planning on using Stories ads within the next 6 months.
  • 1 in 5 Stories gets a direct message from its viewers.

So, what exactly are Instagram Stories ads, and how can businesses utilize them to achieve their goals? Here we will dive into the benefits of this ad, the design specs and tips for creating an effective Instagram Story ad.

Related: Understanding Facebook and Instagram Ad Types

What are Instagram Stories Ads?

Organic Instagram Stories can be posted from the business’ profile, and stays up for 24 hours, much like any user’s Story. Story ads, on the other hand, do not disappear after 24 hours and run the same way as for feed ads. Businesses can create photo or video ads up to 15 seconds that will appear as a full-screen story in between user’s organic Stories. These will have a sponsored label below the handle on the top-left of the Story. These Story ads have the same functionalities as organic stories, and therefore users can interact with it the same way one would with other stories (IE: Direct messaging).

Instagram Story ads are a great way to showcase various things such as product launches, promos, how-tos, behind the scenes, limited-time opportunities such as sales, seasonal items, and more.

Related: 5 Brands Leveraging Instagram Story Ads

Instagram Stories are also capable of deep-linking so that advertisers can provide users with an engaging full-screen experience, and then seamlessly send them to the products or content that the Story is advertising. This will allow advertisers to achieve their various objectives including traffic or conversions.


Story ads use the same targeting and measurement tools as Facebook and Instagram.  You can utilize the same targeting capabilities such as retargeting users who are already familiar with your brand, or even targeting users with specific interests or lookalike audiences. You can even retarget users who have seen a Facebook or Instagram feed ad with a story ad, or vice versa.

You are able to check on the performance of your Story ad in Ads Manager, the same way you would see your newsfeed ad. These metrics include reach, impressions, video views, conversions, etc. You are also able to see the performance in the insights section of your business profile in the app itself.

Here are some additional ideas for how advertisers can utilize Stories:

  • Behind-the-scenes footage
  • New Releases/Lookbook
  • Product promos
  • Limited-time sales
  • Teasers/Sneak Peeks
  • How-tos (demonstrations or recipes)
  • Interviews
  • Real-time news

Related: New Instagram Story Advertising Types: Canvas, Collections, and Carousels Roll Out

Design Specs

    • Aspect Ratio: all Instagram feed photo and video dimensions are accepted (from 1:91 to 4:5)
  • Resolution:
    • Minimum: 600 x 1067 px
    • Recommended: 1080 x 1920 px
  • Video length:
    • No minimum
    • Maximum: 15 seconds
  • Photo content:
    • Plays for 5 seconds by default
  • File type:
    • Video: .mp4 or .mov
    • Photo: .jpg or .png
  • Max file size:
    • Video: 4GB
    • Photo: 30 MB
  • Supported codecs:
    • Video: H.264, VP8
    • Audio: AAC, Vorbisx
  • Available objectives: Reach, Brand Awareness, Lead Generation, Video Views, Traffic, Conversions, and App Installs objective
  • Call-to-Action options: Apply Now, Book Now, Call Now, Contact Us, Download, Get Directions, Learn More, Send Message, Request Time, Save, See Menu, Shop Now, Sign Up, Watch More

It is possible to extend your existing Facebook and Instagram feed campaigns to include Stories. You can click the Instagram Stories placement, and either upload full-screen creative or Facebook will automatically create the full-screen creative from the already-existing feed ad.

Related: 5 Brands Leveraging Instagram Story Ads

Creative Tips and Tricks

  • Speed
    • Users move through the content in Stories faster than they do in the feed. They can easily skip from Story to Story with the tap of one finger. With this in mind, make sure that you use speed to your advantage and that you are able to get your message across.
  • Include sound
    • 60% of Stories are viewed with the sound on. Make sure that your Story sounds as good as it looks, and that it adds to the message that you are trying to get across to the user.
  • Create multiple scenes
    • Creating multiple scenes will catch the user’s attention. Keep each scene on the shorter side, about 2.8 seconds per each scene. Quick, multiple scenes will be more effective in keeping the user’s attention and catching their eye.
  • End the Story with your brand logo
    • This helps your brand or product stick to the user’s mind after they watch the Story. Of course it’s recommended to make your brand and product clear early on and throughout the video, but for those users who actually watch the Story ad in its entirety, it’s great to have the logo reinforced at the end as well.
  • Test, test, test!
    • Since there are no real rules for success on Story ads, it’s critical to continue testing and experimenting! What works for one brand, does not necessarily mean that it will work for all brands.

Related: 3 Tips for Measuring the Success of Your Social Ads

All in all, it’s critical to capture the viewer’s attention immediately. That way, the user won’t click-through the Story right away. Make sure you use high-quality content whether it be a photo or a video. Since Stories only last up to 15 seconds, get your message and branding across in the ad in the first few seconds.

Related: Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Instagram Story Ads?

Wrapping Up

Instagram Story ads give businesses a new way to connect with potential and existing customers. People are interacting more and more with brands on their mobile devices – and Instagram Stories are a convenient, engaging way to do it. Full-screen, eye-catching content is a great way to keep your brand top-of-mind and can be extremely profitable if done right.

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