Written by Michael Keenan

April 28, 2021

Stand out from the crowd and get ahead of your competition with attention-grabbing, engaging digital ads: Instagram Story ads. 

With so many platforms to advertise on, marketers are turning to Instagram Story ads more so than ever before. 

In fact, according to Facebook, 96% of U.S. marketers surveyed plan to continue using Stories ads over the next six months, and even though Instagram Stories launched less than four years ago, over 70% of Instagram accounts now use them. 

As the way people share stories and information continues to grow, there’s never been a better time to launch your first Instagram Story ads campaign. Factor in Instagram’s powerful ability to help shoppers make buying decisions, it’s clear why so many big brands regularly use Story ads to reach new customers. 

If you’re not familiar with Instagram Story ads, don’t sweat it. This beginners guide will walk you through how these ads work, how to set them up, and what you can do to get the most out of your Instagram marketing. 

Are Instagram Story Ads right for your business?

While Instagram Stories have only been around for about three years, it’s become a big part of what makes the social media platform popular. When considering over 500 million people use Instagram stories each day, it’s clear Stories are a good opportunity to get in front of the right audience.

Instagram Story Ads generally work well for businesses who have an active presence on Instagram to begin with:

  • eCommerce 
  • Fitness
  • Restaurants
  • Marketing and design agencies
  • Beauty
  • Fashion
  • Home decor

Of course, these aren’t the only industries that launched an Instagram marketing campaign and see incredible results. It just may require a new creative approach and refined targeting to reach people who will buy your products or services. 

Are Instagram Story ads effective?

More than half of people surveyed who use Instagram Stories said they are making more online purchases as a result. 

In fact, of the 500 million accounts using Instagram Stories, one-third of the most viewed stories come from businesses, and one in five stories gets a direct message from its viewers. 

“Any business whose strategy is to provide value on Instagram is perfect for Story Ads. You can effectively tap into a viewer’s interests and inspire them to take action on an offer.”

Cady Marsh, CEO of Cadydid Social Marketing

From building brand awareness to driving action through installs and purchases, you can reach your audience in a full screen environment where they’re already engaged and interacting with content. Stories are immersive, authentic, and are becoming increasingly popular across different types of social media. Some 68% of people surveyed said they use Stories on three or more apps at least once a week.

Businesses using Instagram Story Ads have access to Facebook’s targeting, audience reach and analytics solutions to help create contextual, targeted ads that get results. However, your results may vary depending on your audience, your products and how you approach Instagram advertising.

How Instagram Story ads work

Instagram Story ads are a part of Facebook’s ad system, but are different from Instagram newsfeed ads. 

Instagram Story ads cannot run under the same ad set as newsfeed ads on Instagram, or with other non-story placement types because they have different creative and technical requirements. However, you can still choose targeting, budgeting, bidding and scheduling. 

 Story ads on Instagram:

  • Show up between people’s Stories as a sponsored story.
  • Continue to appear in Instagram users Stories for as long as your campaign runs.
  • Can display videos up to 15 seconds, and photos for five seconds.
  • Use a call-to-action (CTA) to send people to a chosen destination.
  • Can be skipped by swiping or tapped to progress. They can also pause when a viewer presses and holds. 

“At Qantas, we’re constantly innovating to tell our brand story in new, creative ways on mobile. Instagram was a natural fit to launch the first brand campaign for AWOL because it resonates with the millennial audience and allows us to tell really impactful visual stories that move brand metrics.” — Clarabella Burley, Digital Communications Manager at Qantas

How to set up Instagram Story ads

In order to create Instagram Story ads, you must connect your Instagram account to your Business Manager. Once you do, head over to Ads Manager and click +Create to get started. 

Choosing an objective 

The first thing you’ll do is choose your campaign objective. These help define what your goals are for the campaign and how much you’ll get charged. 

Creating a campaign objective in Facebook ad manager

For Instagram story ads, you have a few options:

  • Reach. The goal here is to show your ad to as many people as possible. 
  • Video views.  This is tied in with how to increase brand awareness, and has the goal of getting as many people as possible to view your video ad. 
  • Traffic. This objective seeks to drive traffic to your site. You’ll end up paying per click or per view.
  • Conversions. When the goal is to drive a specific action like email or Messenger signups, sales or registrations
  • Mobile App installs. Encourages people to download your app
  • Lead generation. These campaigns open up a lead generation form that auto-populates with the person’s information

Aim to choose Traffic, Conversion, Lead generation, or Mobile App installs over Reach and Video Views. With the first four objectives, you can add a Messenger Ref URL to your Story Ad on Instagram and send people into a Messenger conversation. 

Setting your audience for the ad

In step two of creating an Instagram Story ad, you’ll choose the audience you want to target. 

Creating your audience

When it comes to targeting, you have a few different options:

You can create a New Audience by filling in the audience details in the dashboard as seen above. You can also build a Custom Audience based on a variety of different sources including your Messenger bot subscriber list.

Creating a custom audience

Or you can create a Lookalike Audience according to the source you provide.

Creating a lookalike audience

Select your placement and budget

The next step is to choose where you want to run your ad. You can run an automatic placement across Facebook’s family of apps, or in this case, only run them through Instagram Stories. 

To do this, click Edit Placements, then deselect each option besides Instagram Stories. If you want to place your ad in Facebook Stories and Messenger Stories, you can select those placements also.  

Choose your ad placement

Last, you’ll want to send the Budget & Schedule for your ad before heading on to your ad creative.

Creating your Instagram Story ad

The next step is to choose the Facebook Page and Instagram Account for your business.

Select your Instagram account

Choose Carousel or Single Video as the ad format. If your ad format is carousel, you can add up to three carousel cards to your Instagram Story ad. Carousel ads in Stories require 9:16 creative and must run in a standalone, Stories-only campaign.

Next, add your images or videos. Then choose the call-to-action and URL you want to add.

Preview ad

Finally, complete the remaining details and select Confirm to publish your ad.

Instagram Story ads best practices

If you want to get the most out of your Instagram Story ads, here are some best practices to follow so you can create ads that immerse your viewer and make people take action. 

Set up keyword replies 

Did you know you could chat with viewers from your Story ad inside Instagram Messenger, automatically? In ManyChat, you can set keyword triggers that launch a Messenger experience from a Story ad. 

Keywords are any word or phrase that people message you in an Instagram DM. Viewers just need to input the keyword from your ad, then a conversation opens up in Instagram Messenger with your business. 

Say you’re running an ad to get ebook downloads. You set the keyword trigger ‘ebook’ in your ManyChat account. 

Keyword replies for Instagram story ad

When someone sends one of those keywords, they’ll land in an Instagram Messenger experience with your brand. And they can download your ebook. 

You can use keyword triggers in a number of ways. You could invite viewers on Instagram to text a keyword to:

  • Run a giveaway or contest 
  • Offer a coupon or discount 
  • Receive a free download

Additionally, you can set up autoresponders in your follow-up message to keep the conversation going, offer exclusive promos, or just say thank you for their participation. 

You can also collect and store information an Instagram user sends you using User Inputs. You can grab people’s names, phone numbers, and emails to follow up with personalized promotions in the future. 

Have a live chat agent ready

If you’re running any type of Instagram ad, you’ll want to have live support available to chat. Live chat in Instagram Messenger helps close the gap between in-store and online shopping. 

You could offer support for viewers, start a conversation, and get to know the person behind the phone. 

ManyChat Live chat

Instagram users can choose to get help from a human. If they do, ManyChat will automatically notify an administrator and connect your support team right away. 

Grab your viewers attention right away

Facebook found that people consume Stories content quickly, so speed is essential to keep viewers’ attention.

The big question you want to ask when creating an Instagram Story ad is: how can I create an ad that’s not intruding, but makes a viewer stop scrolling? Unlink newsfeed ads, once someone swipes away from your ad, they won’t see it again. Ultimately, you want to create an ad that is memorable and grab’s a viewer’s attention in the first frame.

Take this Instagram Story ad from Purple, for example. 

Instagram Story best practice

The mattress brand uses an image to make viewers stop in their Stories and check out the ad. Then adds other clues such as a clear call to action, product photos, and a bit of humor to convey what they are selling. 

Use sound

Your Story ad will be what captures a viewer’s attention, but adding sound helps you stand out from the crowd right away. 60% of Stories are viewed with sound on, so an early hook can help stop users in their scroll and make all the difference. 

On top of that, 80% of Stories ads with sound showed better lower funnel results than ads without sound. You can use music, voice-over, or sound effects in your Instagram Story ad to enhance creative, make your ad more relevant, and empathize with your viewer. 

You’ll find “add your logo” in the best practices for tons of different blogs talking about social media advertising, and the same is true for Instagram Story ads. You have to make a memorable impression, fast, because viewers can’t click back on your ad. 

Considering 39% of people become more interested in a brand after seeing it on Instagram Stories, you want to make sure your brand sticks. In addition to your brand appearing at the top left of the ad, include your name or logo in your creative within the first few seconds of your story. This will help viewers recognize your brand if they don’t click the ad fast enough and want to find you elsewhere online. 

Enhance your Story with motion

Motion can help add detail and texture to the message you want to get across. According to Facebook, Stories with motion have shown:

  • 83% chance of outperforming static images for view content
  • 88% chance of outperforming static images for add to cart
  • 76% chance of outperforming static images for purchase

In addition to motion, you want to include consistent branding and bold headline to emphasize your product. Keep text lower than 24 characters to let viewers focus on the ad’s movement. 

Use multiple scenes

If your Story ad is more complex, you can separate scenes into short “chapters”. Top performing Story ads tend to have more concise scenes — at about 2.8 seconds per scene on average. 

For example, Argos Home created a holiday Story over five scenes in a 10-second spot. 

People interact with Stories quickly. To create an effective Story ad, experiment with shorter, fast-paced narratives that get your message across in a fun way.  

Instagram Story Ad Specs and Requirements

Instagram Stories Image Ad specs:

  • Caption: not currently available. Any text must be part of the image file
  • Format: Full screen vertical ad (9:16)
  • Recommended Resolution: 1080 x 1920
  • File types: .jpg or .png
  • Max. image size: 30MB
  • Content: visible for 5 seconds

Instagram Stories Video Ad specs:

  • Caption: not currently available. Any text must be part of the image file
  • Format: Full screen vertical ad (9:16)
  • Recommended Resolution: 1080 x 1920
  • File types: mp4 or .mov
  • Max. video size: 4GB
  • Max. video length: 15 seconds
  • Recommended Video Codecs: h.264, VP8
  • Recommended Audio Codecs: AAC, Vorbis

Instagram Story Ads: Connecting with your target audience

If you’re still unsure if Instagram Story ads are for you, there’s no harm in running a few campaigns to test it out. Armed with this guide above, you’ll be able to create powerful Story ads that get engagement and conversions, and of course, new customers from your Instagram marketing efforts. 

Grow your Instagram following and make sales with Instagram Automation by ManyChat. See if your business is eligible by applying below.

The contents of this blog were independently prepared and are for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ManyChat or any other party. Individual results may vary.