Marketing Series: How to create an Instagram Stories Style Guide

No matter how dedicated you are to running your company’s Instagram account, you can not be there all of the time.  There will be times when you are on holiday, away from Wi-Fi, or just simply are unable to post.  There are even times when it is difficult to post for your personal or blog profiles.

If you can pass responsibility over to another team member, or are looking to get some consistent brand identity to your page, an Instagram Story Style Guide will help you with this.

Instagram on phone by a laptop

Why do I need a Style Guide for my Instagram stories?

Theoretically, you should have a Style Guide for all of your social media channels, making sure they match the look and feel of your website, so visitors can put you and your brand together.  It strengthens your brand and your relationships with your followers.  You work hard on your grid, so why is this not consistent for your stories too?

It also means if you do enlist the help of a co-worker, they know what needs to be done and can focus on creating great stories rather than worrying that they are using the wrong fonts or hashtags.  With this in mind, your Style Guide should cover:

10 things to include in your Instagram Story Style Guide

  1. Fonts

Whether you prefer one of the five standard fonts (Classic, Modern, Neon, Typewriter or Strong) or if you use a third-party app such as Hype Type to expand your options, your font says a lot about you. The font does change the tone of your story.  Specify sizes, weights, exceptions and special situations.  Do you use all caps for headlines, or prefer to stick an all lower-case vibe?

Instagram Story Style Guide - Are you using the right font

  1. List of approved and branded hashtags

Adding hashtags to your Instagram Stories can help you reach a wider audience, but it can work against you if you accidentally miswrite something.  Create a list of hashtags you regularly use for your brand as well as any branded hashtags for your campaigns, adverts or promotions, and when to include them.  Do not make assumptions about how familiar people are with hashtags too, not everyone knows what #TBT means (Throwback Thursday), so it does not hurt to be precise.

Instagram Story Style Guide - use approved hashtags

  1. List of approved GIFs

A GIF is now a universal language of the internet.  GIF’s can be a fun and improved addition to your Instagram Story.  You can create your own by using Photoshop or mobile apps like GIPHY Cam or pull some of your favourites through GIF, your Style Guide should cover their usage.  For example, do you always use the same Link in Bio or Swipe Up?

  1. Image sources and guidelines

Just like coffee is part of your morning routine, visuals are essential to your Instagram strategy.  Do you have a folder of approved stock images, campaign visuals or products?  If you or co-workers are taking live photos or videos, it is helpful to have guidelines about best picture practises too.  As with your grid, remember to use regular filters or edits to keep these images on brand.

  1. Colour and logo

Colour is the key to your brands signature.  Using the same colour consistently on your website and social media, and tying this into your Instagram Stories will help you build brand identity and recognition, as well as establishing a distinctive style.  Starbucks is known for its green, Coca Cola for their red, etc.  Your Style Guide should include a list of your brand colours and how to and where to use them; a primary palette, secondary colours and perhaps your logo.  Tools like Canva allows you to store presets, which makes them easy to document and share.

Instagram Story Style Guide - Use useful apps like Canva

  1. Apps and tools

What else can you use to make your Instagram Stories look amazing?  Popular apps include VSCO for enhancing your videos, or Life Lapse for motion-style stories.  If you use a photo editor such as Light Room, Be Funky or even Boomerang, your Style Guide should include how to’s on these tools too.

  1. Instagram Stories Templates

Specific apps will help achieve an on-brand look and feel every time, but will also ensure perfect alignment.  If multiple members are uploading Stories, the template will create polished, consistent content.  Alongside Canva, there is Adobe Spark and Unfold.

  1. Content calendar

Maybe you like to take a spontaneous approach to Instagram Stories, capturing what inspires you each day.  This is fine, as long as you post regularly, you are going to see results.  However, it is strongly recommended to plan your posts, especially when you are working on a campaign or promotion.  Use templates to create images for your product launches and other special occasions.  Again, include this information in your Style Guide.

  1. Evergreen content ideas

Whether you are mapping out day by day or week by week, it can be helpful to include your brand’s evergreen content too.  What is evergreen content?  It is information or posts that are always relevant for your audience.  It can be repurposed to fill gaps in your posting schedule, or if you are drawing a blank on what to share.  It could be your ‘best’ blog posts, your most popular interviews, funny antidotes or the photos or videos that have had the highest engagement.  Your Style Guide should include suggestions and links here for guidance, as well as tips on what types of Stories perform best with your audience.

Instagram Story Style Guide - creating evergreen copy

  1. Posting times and frequencies

There are no best practices for how often to post to your Instagram Stories, or what times of day, unlike your other social media.  The key to success is consistency and not the number of stories per day.  For you, that might mean a few Stories a day, or a few days a week.  If you track your Stories analytics, you’ll figure out what works best for your audience.  Remember to space them out, if you post 3 Stories a day, for example, you do not want to post them all at once.

Your assembled Style Guide

Once you know this is complete, you can take a break from your brand’s Instagram account with confidence, or it can give you the motivation to keep on top of it.  It might take a little effort to bring together, but it will save you and your team time in the long run.  Most importantly, it will let you all enjoy the process of creating fun and exciting Stories for sharing.

TIP: Hootsuite has created a FREE Instagram Stories Style Guide template which you can download and edit.


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