How to Create Instagram Stories That Sell

Is your business using Instagram Stories? Better question: are you using them well? This article is dedicated to helping you give your followers the best Instagram Story experience possible, thereby helping you sell more.

Because ultimately, when we marketers are trying to get people to buy something, we should be making it as user-friendly as possible to do so.

I’ve managed social media for numerous brands, and I pride myself on designing high-quality Instagram experiences for all of them. Stories should almost be thought of as a separate social media channel in themselves, given that the experience of tapping through one is so different than scrolling through the Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or a Pinterest feed.

Based on my experience using Stories to promote clients’ business goals, below are my starter tips for improving the user experience of your Stories.

Tip #1: Use Stories’ Vertical Format Wisely!

The most obvious difference between Stories and the Instagram feed is that Stories fill up a follower’s entire phone screen VERTICALLY. Thus, it’s important to optimize your Story content for the entire screen as often as you can.

Your Stories should prioritize vertical photos and videos. If you’re sharing a square image to your Story, try zooming in on it so it fills more of the screen (unless this pixelates the image and makes it look bad). The ideal dimensions for Story images and video are 1080×1920 pixels. You don’t have to hit this exactly with everything you share, but know that videos and images close to this aspect ratio will look best in the Story format.

When you share a wide image or video to your Story, it will be shrunk to fit the width of the vertical screen, making it hard to see the beautiful content you’re sharing, and probably less convincing to potential buyers about whatever it is you’re selling.

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NOT Optimized for Vertical Viewing

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Optimized for Vertical Viewing

Tip #2: Think Ahead About the Readability of Your Story Slides

Your followers are busy. They’re tapping through your Story among many others, relatively quickly. That means you have a few seconds to get your message across, whether that’s your latest retail promo, an event you’re promoting, or a new product you’re offering. People can’t easily digest a screen full of text in the Story format – especially if it’s plastered over an image, making it difficult to read the characters. Instead, think about how you can use text size, colors, and lines to draw people’s eyes where you want them to go, without cluttering the page. If you have a lot to say, don’t be afraid to spread your message out amongst multiple, more easily-digested slides of images and text.

Giphy stickers are a really great way to add motion to your Stories – but when used in excess, they can be really distracting. Try to think like an outsider when you look at a Story slide you’ve created: will your followers’ eyes be driven to the most important message your text conveys, based on the colors, fonts, sizing, image, and GIFs you’ve used? Or have you created an illegible hodge podge of stickers and text? Your would-be customers shouldn’t have to strain their eyes to understand what you’re selling.

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Cluttered Example

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Clean Example

Tip #3: They’re Called STORIES, So Use Them to Tell One!

Remember what I said about treating Stories like a separate social media channel? That means your content there should look a little different than it does on your Instagram feed. Just because Instagram gives us the option to share a feed post to our Stories, doesn’t mean that your brand should do this all the time. This is the kind of Story I skip over very quickly whenever I’m browsing my own Instagram. I’m checking out your Stories because I want to see something different than your feed: something behind the scenes at your business, a video of your interior, or a pan-over of your workspace.

Your business should be using Stories to create a narrative, however short that may be. One slide that shares one of your static feed posts about an upcoming event with no additional context added is not exciting, and probably isn’t doing much to entice your followers to buy a ticket. Instead, think ahead about how you can promote that winery event over 3-5 slides in your Story, using different (VERTICAL) videos and images to illustrate how fun the event will be. How will you hook people in with the first slide? How will you interest them enough to keep tapping? How can they purchase a ticket once they’ve reached the end of your Story?


Slide 1 – Intro


Slide 2 – show the fun of tours

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Slide 3 – Call to action

Which brings me to my last tip for this blog…

Tip #4: Include a Call to Action for Promotional Stories

After you’ve done the work of designing a beautiful, multi-slide, vertically optimized Story about your latest promotion, the final step is to make it as clear and easy as possible for your followers to do what you want them to. Promoting a product they can buy online? Tell followers to find it at your link in bio. Selling tickets to an event? Explain how they can get to the page to buy tickets. Encouraging them to inquire about your private events? Make it obvious how they can learn more and contact you.

You might think these “calls to action” are obvious and don’t need to be said – but sometimes, it’s that extra explanation of the steps that make it sound too-easy-not-to-purchase that will help you make the sale.

Don’t build up excitement about the wine or event you’re promoting with a Story (or any social post) and then forget to include specific information about how your followers can take action.


How to drive to your link in bio when you can’t use a Swipe Up link

Alright, that’s it for now. More Stories tips coming in the future!

Meaghan Webster is an experienced photographer and marketing manager in the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California. She helps clients with everything from social media, to email marketing, websites, and content creation. Learn more about her work at or see her latest updates at

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