storyboard instagram stories
Image via Startup Stock Photos under CC0

How to Storyboard Your Instagram Stories in 5 Easy Steps (Free Template)

Why storyboard your Instagram stories?

Since its debut, Instagram Stories has been a place where casual content thrives. But with an audience that’s swelled from 100 million to 500 million daily users in less than three years, a little primp and polish may be in order.

That’s especially true for brands since one in every three of the most viewed stories come from businesses. As the name implies, Instagram Stories are a place for storytelling. And the brands that have mastered the ephemeral, 15-second clip format know that good storytelling starts with a storyboard.

Storyboarding ensures you deliver your message in the best way possible—even if you’re shooting on-the-go. With a storyboard, you won’t forget to include all your Story’s key details, from hashtags to logos and geotags.

Bonus: Unlock our free, customizable Instagram storyboard template to start planning all your Stories content in advance.

When should you storyboard your Instagram Stories?

A storyboard is a frame-by-frame outline for your social narrative. A typical storyboard will consist of a sequence of squares—or in this case vertical rectangles—that depict the content for each post.

Another way to think of a storyboard is as a story strategy. For that reason, it’s good practice to always have at least a rough sketch for every post. There are a lot of free tools, such as Canva, that can help with storyboarding. But really, all you need is a pen and paper or a Google sheet.

There are some occasions that call for an Instagram storyboard more than others. These include:

Q&As

Instagram Stories offer a great format for a question and answer, whether that’s a traditional interview or ask-me-anything using the questions sticker. A storyboard will help you decide the best way to parse questions and answers across a series of 15-second clips.

Contest announcements

If you’re announcing a contest on Instagram, a storyboard will help ensure entry requirements, terms and prizes are clearly communicated.

National Geographic Instagram Stories contest National Geographic Instagram Stories contest National Geographic Instagram Stories contest National Geographic Instagram Stories contest National Geographic Instagram Stories contest

Multi-part narratives

According to Instagram, two or more scenes are better than one. Even a single 15-second video post can contain multiple frames. And the more frames you plan to have, the more useful a storyboard will be.

Event coverage

Without a game plan for event coverage viewer interest can wane. Go into events with a strategy in mind, and apply that mindset to a flexible storyboard for your event-specific stories.

Your plan could be as simple as planning to ask different attendees a question, as Vogue did in its coverage of the Met Gala.

Vogue Instagram Story for the Met Gala Vogue Instagram Story for the Met Gala Vogue Instagram Story for the Met Gala

Influencer takeovers

A storyboard can be a great collaboration tool when working with Instagram influencers. You may ask the influencer to provide an outline of the Stories content they will provide, or you may share a storyboard as a loose template for the content you’re expecting.

How to storyboard your Instagram Stories

Here’s how to storyboard Instagram stories, in five steps.

Step 1. Start with a concept

Before putting pen to paper, decide on a concept or format for your Instagram Story. Ideally your concept should be closely tied to at least one of your social marketing objectives.

Bonus: Unlock our free, customizable Instagram storyboard template to start planning all your Stories content in advance.

Get the template now!

For example, Sephora’s Foundation Poll likely accomplished two social objectives: obtaining feedback from Sephora’s customers, and promoting the sales of its foundation products.

Instagram Story from Sephora Instagram Story from Sephora Instagram Story from Sephora

Get inspired by these brands that have mastered the art of Instagram Story storytelling.

Step 2. Pick your theme and style

Stories should have a cohesive look and tone. Decide on what templates, fonts, and colours you plan to use so that you can apply them to your storyboard.

After sketching things out you may come back to this step and make some changes, but it’s good to at least start with a general theme.

This example from Bon Appetit shows that the team had a consistent template and colour palette in mind for its Highly Recommend series. Templates can make it easier for viewers to follow stories and understand how to engage. For Bon Appetit, it’s simple and consistent: Swipe up.

Need some help? We’ve got some free Instagram Stories templates (plus tips on how to use them).

Step 3. Storyboard your scenes

Now that you have your concept and theme, it’s time to apply them to a storyboard. Here’s where you’ll fill in your squares (or rectangles) one frame at a time.

Each frame should roughly illustrate the scene, whether it’s a graphic, image, poll, boomerang, or video. Make sure to label each frame in successive order (e.g., Scene 1, Scene 2) to avoid confusion down the line.

Other details you may wish to include under the frame are:

  • Brief description: What’s happening in this frame?
  • Media: Is this a boomerang, image, or illustration, etc.?
  • Copy: The text that will be included. This may be a poll question, caption, or call-to-action.

Remember, the Instagram Stories channel isn’t the place for epic narratives. Completion rates are highest for 10 frames or less.

Step 4. Add the extras

Storyboarding safeguards you from overlooking important social details. If you plan to include logos, hashtags, geotags, or stickers in your Story, be sure to include them in your storyboard.

This is particularly important if you’re working with a large team and someone else will be responsible for creating or publishing the content. A good storyboard leaves little room for confusion or misinterpretation.

Step 5. Conclude with a branded call-to-action

Plan to leave viewers with a concluding call-to-action, whether that’s swipe up, visit our profile, or buy now. In fact, Instagram recommends that businesses bookend their stories with their product or brand message for extra reinforcement.

The Instagram Story for Sex Education’s premiere teaser does this well, opening and closing the story with the show title and logo.

Instagram Story from Sex Education Tv Show Instagram Story from Sex Education Tv Show Instagram Story from Sex Education Tv Show

Pro tip: Make sure to archive all your Stories so you can refer to them later.

Learn the basics of creating Instagram Stories here.

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