The Rotor Blog

7 Tips on Designing Videos for Instagram Stories

Find out how to design effective, engaging videos for your Instagram Stories with these key tips.

If you're on Instagram, you can guarantee that you’ve found yourself down an addictive rabbit hole of endless swiping through Instagram stories. They’re short and fast clips that appear online for a fleeting 24 hours. With 500 million users watching Instagram Stories every day, they are not to be underestimated. Instagram Stories is one of the most powerful tools for promoting yourself on social media and should be a primary part of your music marketing strategy. Here are our tips on how to make your Stories work harder for you and get you better engagement.

1. Lead with action

The key with Stories is to grab your fans’ attention right away, so it’s smart to have an action-filled first scene. We don’t necessarily mean high-octane action like car chases and explosions (though you could do that, too!). But there needs to be motion in the first few seconds to get noticed by the fans doing the high-speed swiping. We recommend combining movement with static images that feature the important stuff (like your release date). Or if you can animate your screen text, that can work great too. Just don’t fall into the trap of spending less effort on your Stories because they aren’t permanent fixtures on your profile. Want thumb-stopping videos? Then high quality, motion filled content is for you.

2. Work your music’s hook

According to Instagram themselves, 60% of Instagram Stories users watch videos with the sound on, so including audio is important. But did you know that you should always lead with your hook or chorus? (Actually, we recommend doing this on every short promo video you make, not just on videos for Stories). Use the section of your track that has the most earworminess. After all, it’s called a hook for a reason, right? Use it to reel fans in and make them want to listen to more. Including audio is also a great way to stand out from other brands on Stories and engage users on another sensory level. As a musician with original music to share, you have a leg up on the competition so make sure you use it right! 

3. Tell them what to do next

Sometimes all you want a video on Stories to do is help you stay connected to followers and keep you and your music on their mind. Other times, though, you want your video to do a specific job, like increase your followers, sell your latest single, drive traffic to your official music video, get fans to come to your next gig, etc. And when that’s the case, your video will be more successful when it tells your followers exactly what you want them to do next. In marketing, this is called a call-to-action and it does just that. It’s a short instruction to act using short phrases such as “Buy Now”, “Subscribe”, or “Stream Now”, usually at the end of your video. Try not to make your fans work hard to find links to the next step or give them too many actions to follow. Carve a clear path for them and make it an easy journey! 

Pro Tip - If you have an Instagram Business profile with 10,000 followers or you’re a verified account, use the “Swipe Up” feature as your call to action to bring fans straight to your music video. 

4. Stay short and sweet

A single Instagram Story lasts for 15 seconds and any longer will be split into separate stories in chronological order. This can give you extra time for details you just can’t squeeze into 15 seconds. Be wary, though, if your video is split into three stories or more—IG Stories is all about quick, bite-sized portions of content. It can be hard to keep fans watching when they have the option to swipe on. Too many splits in your video can also be a problem if your call to action doesn’t appear until Story five! The same applies when adding text. Keep it short and straight to the point. Use Instagram Stories for promo videos, not full music videos or lyric videos. Get to the focal point quickly and don’t overwhelm your audience.

5. Keep your brand consistent

Keeping to a consistent brand on your social media channels is a hallmark of a great social media strategy. Besides the fact that it looks good, it means your fans know what to expect from you. This can be super useful on Instagram Stories when fans are swiping past with speed. Using the same logo or colour theme can help fans identify you immediately. A great way to make sure your brand is staying consistent is to schedule your social media in advance. That way, you can make sure your feeds aren’t too repetitive, different or sparse. Next time you’re swiping through Instagram Stories, see for yourself. We bet there are musicians, influencers, and products you follow that you recognise right away. Take some inspiration from them and build that consistency in what you create, too.

Pro Tip: Use our free social media planner to get into the swing of scheduling social media. 

6. Crop your videos for Instagram Stories

It won’t matter how awesome your video content is if the shape of the video is all wrong, shrunken to fit in the screen, or cropped badly. That’s why creating your video in the right size can make all the difference. The optimal aspect ratio for Instagram stories is 9:16 (better known as a vertical video). This size will fully fill the screen and give you the most room to play with. It also gives your text the greatest visibility.

When you post to Instagram Stories, you can make any horizontal video look like a vertical video by relying on their auto-crop functionality. But the drawback here is that it assumes the most important space in your video is the centre, and it creates your ‘vertical’ video by zooming in on the central portion of your horizontal video until the vertical space is filled. This means visuals and action to the left and right in your original video get chopped off, and any text on screen can also get chopped off. That’s why we recommend creating your promo videos in Rotor Videos.

Control your crop in Rotor

Crop videos in Rotor

You can quickly resize a horizontal promo you created in the tool (for example for YouTube) to a vertical video for Instagram Stories using its simple controls. Best of all, you’re not limited to presenting only the centre of your video. You can drag your vertical crop window to the left or to the right to make sure you’re keeping the important action in the frame, and you can also change where your screen text’s size and position to make sure it’s fully readable in your vertical layout. (With a few extra seconds of effort, you can then turn your vertical video into a square version for Instagram grid and Facebook!). 

7. Show off your authentic self

Instagram Stories don’t have to be strictly business. In fact, Stories are the perfect place to show off the personal side to you. Mixing your authentic self with your business side allows you to engage with your online fanbase and lets them know your sole aim isn’t just selling your music. Design your Instagram Stories with this in mind by filming behind the scene messages, personal messages thanking fans, or using Instagram polls to get to know your fans better.