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Episode 16:  How to Use Instagram Stories

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In today’s episode, we’re talking about Instagram Stories. I’m going to give you the nuts and bolts of how to create an Instagram Story, with real life examples and step by step instructions! 

Don’t worry, you’re not alone if you’ve never heard of Instagram Stories, much less posted one!  They’re a great way to engage with your audience and keep up your nonprofit organization’s social media presence.  And Instagram Stories are FUN!  By the end of this episode, you’re going to feel confident about creating your Instagram Stories!

Today, we’re digging in deeper about Instagram.  Back in Episode 8: Instagram 101, we talked about the basics of Instagram.  But in this episode, you’ll learn step by step how to use Instagram Stories to make your nonprofit organization’s social media presence relevant and how you can reach more people in your local area.

So, first of all, what are Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories are pictures or video posts that are available for 24 hours on your profile. Then, they disappear. The picture or video is shown as a short clip that lasts 15 seconds max.

You can have just one little piece to your story – one image, or one little video – or you can string together multiple pieces of a story and have them play through in order so it’s like a little mini video lasting more than 15 seconds.

Where can you see these Stories?  You have to be using the Instagram app on your phone to access them.  When you log on to Instagram, the first thing you see is your Feed, and at the very top of the Feed – there are little orange and pink circular pictures of the people you follow.  That’s where Instagram Stories live.

If you tap one of those circles, you will see that person’s Story. It will automatically play through the entire story and move on to the next person’s story until you hit the little X to exit.

What’s neat about Instagram Stories is, whatever is most recent shows up at the front of the line of Stories. If you add something to your story, you get to go to the front of the line, which is why it’s important to update your stories!

What’s FUN about Instagram Stories is that they are more casual, and you can use them to give a little fun peek into your nonprofit organization.

So now that you know WHAT a story is, let’s talk about how to use it.

Use your phone to create a story – here are two ways you can do this…

  • Tap the little camera in the top left corner of your Instagram app. Your phone’s camera will open – you can either take a picture or hold down the circle button at the bottom to take a video and – boom! You have a story!
  • You can import a picture from your phone by tapping the little picture icon on the bottom left. You can post the picture right from there.

If you want to fancy it up a little bit, try these tricks.  They aren’t necessary, but they are a fun way to experiment and make your story more lighthearted and off-the-cuff.

  • Try swiping left or right to add a filter – it’ll change the lighting and mood of your picture or video.
  • You can add fun stickers – experiment with the options that come up when you tap the little square smiley face at the top right.
  • Try searching a word like “Clapping” or “confetti” or “alarm clock” or some other word in the search bar of the menu that pops up to add fun little animations or emojis to your story.
  • Adding a location helps people in your area to see your story – even if they’re not following you.

Stories are also great for engaging with your followers and you can customize some things to engage with your audience

  • Tap that square, smiley face to add things like a countdown, a poll, a quiz.
  • You can add a message to your story by tapping the two little A’s in the top right corner.
  • To move something around - a sticker, text, anything like that – just hold down on it with your finger and you can move it around the screen.
  • If you accidentally added an element that you don’t like, just hold it down with your finger and drag it into the trash can that appears.

Again, there’s a lot of room for experimentation – and the best part about it is that you can be creative and fun because it’s not a long-term commitment – your Instagram story is going to vanish in 24 hours. 

Don’t like what you posted?  Delete it by viewing your story (just tap on your own circle picture) and then while your story is playing, tap the three little dots in the bottom right corner. You can delete it from there.

The bottom line is, Instagram Stories are a fun and casual way to keep up your nonprofit’s social media presence.

Here are some ideas for how to use those Stories you created!

  • Use the Instagram Story to introduce your team… Just open up the Stories camera like we talked about, start filming, and have one of your staff or volunteers say hi, what they do and what they like about working with your nonprofit organization. Keep it short – stories are meant to be brief and casual.
  • If video isn’t jiving with one of your team members, just post a picture of them (with their permission of course!) and type in a little fun fact and introduction about them.

PRO-TIP for you – when you’re taking pictures or video, use your phone VERTICALLY. Not horizontally. Instagram Stories play in vertical – up and down – mode only.

More ideas for using your Stories:

  • If you have an event, or something where it would be fun to take a look “behind the scenes” snap some photos or a video and add them to your story – add a little bit of text or a location to let people know what exactly is going on so they can understand what’s happening!
  • If you want to better explain something about your organization – to give people a peek inside your nonprofit’s facility, or what you can do for them – Instagram Stories are a GREAT place to do that!


A great feature about Instagram Stories is that you CAN SAVE them to your profile if you want to keep them longer than 24 hours. For example, if you gave a tour of your facility and it’s something you want people to be able to see permanently…

You can HIGHLIGHT it: 

  • Go to your nonprofit’s Instagram profile
  • Tap the PLUS SIGN circle that says “HIGHLIGHT” underneath it. That will bring up an archive of your stories – past and present – yes, you’ll see the ones that aren’t even alive on Instagram anymore.
  • Then, select in order segments from your archive – remember, choose a theme – like a tour of your facility, or pictures and videos from a specific event, or staff introductions – and then tap NEXT…
  • Choose a cover photo, add a short title – it has to be REALLY SHORT – between 11 and 13 characters – and then tap ADD in the top right corner.

You’ve created your first Story Highlight!

This will appear just below your bio and above your image gallery on your nonprofit organization’s Instagram profile. If you want to delete a highlight, just hold down on it with your finger and select Delete Highlight.

Really, I encourage you to experiment! Instagram Stories and Highlights are meant to be casual and the more you play around with it, the more fun it is, and the more confident you’ll be come. And if you mess up, it’s ok! If it’s truly something you don’t want on your Instagram profile, you can always delete it.

One last fast fact about Instagram Stories – if your nonprofit organization’s Facebook is linked to your Instagram, your Instagram Story will show up on your Facebook Story too!

So, there you have it – the nuts and bolts of how to create an Instagram Story! I hope you feel more confident trying out this fun and helpful feature that will help you build relationships with your social media audience.

As always, remember WHY YOU ARE DOING THIS! Remember your mission! Remember that you are making a difference in your community.

Celebrate your wins, no matter how small they are, and keep taking little steps forward with your social media and they’ll turn into bigger things!

Links mentioned in this episode:

Episode 8 - Instagram 101:

Free Guide: What Makes a Good Facebook and Instagram Post 

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