Tales of a Social Media Failure: AKA, I Don’t Understand Instagram Stories

Posted October 23, 2019 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Let's Discuss / 65 Comments

Confession: I’m pretty much a social media failure.

I mean, I’m on Twitter and Instagram, and I’m fine with them for the most part, but I’m not doing anything spectacular on either platform. I often end up feeling awkward on Twitter when I try to engage with people in any meaningful way, and I’ve realized that the ins and outs of Instagram just baffle me.

What hashtags should I actually be using? Should I be tagging authors and publishers or just using hashtags for them? How the heck do I make my pictures look cool instead of boring? (I’ve realized that I don’t have a truly artistic eye, so I might just be a lost cause when it comes to that last one—which is why I’m at least glad I have my rainbow bookshelves as a simple background).

I’m currently running a giveaway on Instagram, but I’ve realized that I just don’t know how to go about an Instagram giveaway because almost no one’s entered. That’s a sad tale for another day, though. See, recently I’ve been more baffled than usual when it comes to Instagram because of … Stories.

Suddenly everyone is talking about their Instagram Stories. Giveaways tell you to add them to your story as part of your entry. And I’ve learned that when I click on someone’s Instagram icon, the little pink circle means that I won’t get to see the person’s latest pic, but instead I’ll have to click through a bunch of random images that I can’t seem to interact with? (On my computer, I seem to only have a short time to look and then the person’s account will just disappear–it doesn’t work that way on my phone though.)

Someone, help, please! I just don’t get this popular feature. Pretty pictures, I know what to do with: If I like it, I click the little heart thingy (see how Instagram-savvy I am?). If I want to say something, I comment. But I can’t do any of that with stories, right? I’m just supposed to look at them and then ignore them? What are they for? Everyone seems to love them, so I must be missing something vital!

Okay, so I did finally break down tonight and I did a quick search and found that Instagram Stories are nice because they’re temporary–they don’t have to be pretty because they don’t show up in your actual feed and they disappear in 24 hours. That explains it at least a little (yes, I am so clueless that I didn’t even understand that basic fact about them). But I’m still sort of lost about what people are using them for and how I’m supposed to be interacting with them.

Basically, this is me pleading with those of you who aren’t as social-media-backwards as I am to tell me your secrets in the comments. Enlighten me!


Do you understand Instagram Stories or are you as lost as I am? I want to know!




65 responses to “Tales of a Social Media Failure: AKA, I Don’t Understand Instagram Stories

  1. It took me FOREVER to figure out stories, and even now, I hardly use them ?. It depends on the person on how they use them, but I notice that authors tend to give advice or updates in their stories via video. Bloggers use video as well to show book hauls and I boxings. It’s really for in-the-moment updates…I think ?

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t get them right away. I always feel so behind when it comes to social media trends.

      Unboxings seem like a good use for them—hadn’t thought of that. I understood it a little better when I saw that it was something you want to share, but isn’t nice enough to want it to stay in your feed. But I can’t DO anything to interact with a story, correct? There’s no way to like or comment or anything?

      • That’s something I forgot to mention! You can! But it’s not like a regular comment where everyone sees it. Instead, if you comment at the bottom of a story, it will send a DM to the person whose story it is. There are other ways to help others interact as well, like polls, music recommendations, and questions.

        • Ah, thank you! That makes sense now. When I was checking this out the other night, I was doing it on my computer, and that field to reply doesn’t show up (at least for my browser), but now I looked at it again on my phone and saw the message field you’re referring to. 🙂

  2. I’ll admit, I stopped using Instagram because they started doing things I didn’t like, such as Stories. If I’m adding a picture, I want it added to my feed. If someone else adds a picture, I want to be able to view it again later. I didn’t like Instagram trying to be like Snap Chat, so I stopped using Instagram. (Which means I can’t give you any tips or tricks. Sorry.)

  3. Interacting with Instagram stories is going to be either a private response via a comment to someone’s story, or if you want everyone to see it (like for extra entries for giveaways) then you basically make your own story and tag them in it.

    I have some stories that I save to my profile, organized by folders. For example, when I put a mini review up on my story, I go back to it, click Highlight in the bottom right corner, and put it in my Mini Reviews highlight “folder.” Then the story isn’t temporary.

    Stories definitely take some getting used to. For a loooooong time I avoided them because I just didn’t get it. You’re not alone!

  4. I struggle to figure out what makes a good Instagram story, too. Most of the folks I follow use them for little slices of life like showing off candles on a birthday cake, jumping into a pond, etc. Using them for more formal stuff like promotions or business-y stuff is a mystery.

    I’m subscribing to the comments on this post to see if anyone can enlighten us.

  5. It really depends on every one and how they choose to us instagram stories. Most of the time and most book bloggers I see happen to share quick videos of unboxing, pictures of what they’re currently reading etc. Stories are made for more “spur of the moment” kind of things, brands and publishers sometimes share live shows where they’re chatting or showing off some “behind the scenes”. It’s a way of being, somehow, more real with your audience and to be closer to them, it feels more, instant than the photography, if that makes any kind of sense. You can do tons of things with stories, if you’re a little creative and have loads of patience and time, too, share regularly “spur of the moment pictures of your life and videos, unboxings and currently readings, there are tons of apps that exist, as well, to make your stories “prettier” with some pre-made templates you just have to fill out with pictures or videos etc…. but it gets pretty complicated haha.
    As for the interaction part, you can react on a story directly when you’re watching it, at the bottom of your screen you can send a message to the person and it will be sent as a Direct Message to their account 🙂 You can also share others’ posts in your own stories if you wish, by clicking at the bottom of the publication you’re seeing, on the little paper plane 🙂
    I kind of rambled on, but I really hope this helped a little bit, too! 🙂

    • Ah, so that’s what that paper plane is! See, you’ve already like quadrupled my knowledge of stories in this one reply. Thank you!! (P.S. Apparently, I somehow wasn’t following you on Instagram—probably because your account is private and I didn’t know it was you—I just followed now!)

  6. Hi! I’m loving the explanations in the comments because we all use the IG stories in different ways. In my case, I snap quick pics of something interesting I could be doing at the moment, like food that looks extra yummy, or a book I’m currently reading. It’s useful for announcing things too, because sometimes more people get to see your stories than your actual feed.

    As for the giveaway you’re running, I might have just a tiny piece of input 🙂 When you don’t have thousands of followers, it’s tricky to get the word out beyond using the right hashtags. It’s not like we can go spamming people about the giveaway. Which is why usually commenting and tagging friends/or reposting the giveaway pic is usually how you enter, and are not an extra entry. Because that’s how ideally, more people would find out about it who may not be following you. 😉

    I hope this helped too!

  7. Danielle Hammelef

    You are definitely not alone, my friend. I have tried stories, but really I prefer the quick interaction of Twitter better. I don’t snap chat which isn’t a surprise either. I will hope to be enlightened here.

  8. It can definitely get confusing! I use stories for quick things like book mail or what I’m currently reading right then in the moment. I like them because they don’t last and don’t have to be as pretty as the pictures that show up on my regular feed. And like Monika mentioned, if it’s a story I want to keep around, I’ll create a folder on my profile. For example, I have a folder for Book Mail where I keep all the stories about new book mail I’ve received. For whether to use hashtags or just tag the author/publisher, I tend to tag the author or publisher if they have an account and hashtag the name of the book. But you can do either or all. It’s just a matter of preference, I guess. What’s fun about tagging the authors and publishers is sometimes they will share or respond to your post or story. I was lost when I started bookstagramming, but I started following some well-established accounts and slowly learning from them. Have fun and good luck!

  9. I just started an Instagram account in September. I am having fun with it and am enjoying taking pictures but I do not get stories at all. I don’t know if I will ever use them. I will be following this post and feeling just a bit of comfort that I am not alone in my confusion.

  10. Sam@wlabb

    See, you need to ask your kids to help you. I used to be up to date on all this stuff, when my kid was home and I worked in a high school. I don’t really do much social media, so I am of no help, but good for you for giving it the old college try.

    • This sounds like a super logical suggestion, except that I have the ONLY teenagers on the planet who are NOT AT ALL INTERESTED IN SOCIAL MEDIA. Danielle (who’s a sophomore) finally broke down and created a Snapchat account because she realized the swim team was using it to talk about details about meets. But that’s it. None of them are on Instagram at all. So much for learning from my teens. (My oldest would be happy to teach me about gaming platforms, though.)

  11. Oh boy, I am so with you, Nicole. I am a social media failure but the thing is: I don’t really care. LOL Twitter seems fairly easy but it overwhelms me. The sheer volume of it. There’s just So Much. I dip my toes in here and there, immediately realize why it overwhelms me, and run away. I like *looking* at Instagram but I rarely post. It seems over the last few years it’s morphed from just sharing photos to being expected to create ART. Props and lighting and filters… yeah, I don’t have the time or inclination. And the Stories… I don’t really get it either. Am I expected to respond in some way? There’s no way to “like” them, soooo… *shrugs*

    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books recently posted: WWW Wednesday #66 | October 23, 2019
    • Yeah, I would say I’m a relatively casual social media user. Like, I use Twitter, but I’m not on it ALL THE TIME like some people are. And I definitely like looking at all the prettiness on Instagram, but I can’t produce that quality of photos (and I definitely don’t have time to deal with a myriad of props and everything). Still, stories have gotten so huge lately that I figured I’d avoided understanding them for longer than I should. LOL!

  12. RO

    Thanks for taking a peek over at my blog. I just adore this post because it reminds me that I’m not alone when it comes to certain pieces of Social Media.(lol) Occasionally a notification will pop up telling me that someone has just done a story. I have to be honest and say that 95% of the time I never even look(lol), but I will look at pics 100% of the time. I like entering contests, in fact, it’s a hobby, but I mostly stick with on-line sweeps and some Facebook entries, then I’ll share that I entered on Twitter. There sure is a lot going on with Social Media, right?(lol) By the way, I did follow you because I have a grand daughter who’s in middle school, and some of those books look great! Hugs and Happy Friyay! RO

    • Exactly! There’s SO much going on on social media that it can seem impossible to keep track of it all.

      If you like contests, you should definitely keep an eye on my Sunday Posts—I always list a ton of bookish giveaways from around the blogosphere there. Thanks for following! 🙂

  13. I avoid Instagram/Bookstagram because (whisper it) …once you’ve seen one picture of books, you’ve kind of seen them all… #JustSaying #OpinionOnly

    I also find it kind of… superficial. I’m sure not every account is like that! Liv (from Olivia’s Catastrophe,) I know, has a really interesting and artistic account. But most are… the same thing. Rinse & repeat. All shiny, no substance. (Obv. I don’t care if people like Instagram and don’t wanna ruin their enjoyment! Enjoy away!!!)

    If you want to figure out Twitter, though, I recommend checking out badredheadmedia.com/blog – cos Rachel really knows what she’s doing! 🙂

    • I can totally understand why you feel that way. I enjoy looking at bookish prettiness, I’ll confess, but I agree that much of it is the same. And honestly, my feed is definitely on the boring side because I don’t have a million props (or the eye to arrange them beautifully) or time to do fancy edits. I agree that Liv’s feed is unique, though!!

      Thanks for the rec for Twitter. I’ll definitely check it out—my knowledge is pretty shallow when it comes to ALL social media!

  14. I mean, I have Instagram. I have used the stories. I still find them stupid. I know some people seem to like the temporariness of them, but I find that to be the worst part! Like why post something if not to keep it? Maybe if you’re an oversharer it’s good because you aren’t like, swamping people? Idk, I don’t like them. I feel like I miss stuff all the time too, because if I don’t check the stupid app every day, bam, story’s gone! Idk Nicole I guess it’s time for us to buy some wicker furniture and become the Golden Girls ?‍♀️

  15. I’m pretty big on Instagram stories and the only way I can think to describe it is as a twitter updates but not permanent, and also more like snapshots of daily life caught in a quick photo with a caption if explanation is necessary? It’s so tricky. It’s something I do so automatically I have never thought about explaining it!

    Olivia Roach recently posted: Some Places More Than Others [Book Review]
  16. You already got a lot of feedback, but I started using Stories as a way to “live blog” what I have going on. If I’m out taking the dog for a walk, or something cool is happening RIGHT THEN, I put it in my stories. My feed is more for evergreen content. I watch people’s stories and I respond when I want to. By swiping up on a Story, you can quick react to a story with an emoji or send a message. I often do both. I like the personal nature of Stories that way. Also, once you get big enough, IG lets you put links on your Stories so you can upload an image and link it to something. That’s nice if you have a blog post you want to get the word out about or a product.

  17. Siran

    I don’t get Instagram stories either, like why they are called stories to begin with.

    At least the odds of winning are higher for those who entered your Instagram giveaway, compared to if there were say hundreds of entries.

  18. I also feel very awkward on social media. I want to talk to strangers on the internet, but I usually delete my posts without sending them because I feel like I’m being annoying. I don’t understand Insta Stories. I rarely watch them because most of them seem to be random boring stuff. I made one once! I think it was 2 years ago. Only a few people watched it, and I was thrilled when it disappeared forever.

  19. Instagram is one of the things I don’t have for my blog.. even for my personal I rarely use it xD I just scroll and like pictures. It seems like every social media wanna be like snapchat and include little “story” pictures now (Fb does that too, as of which – erh.)

    Basically it’s like a snapchat feature ??‍♀️ dissapearing after so much time and you can’t directly “reply” to them — I’ve only used it once xd and I rarely even check them as I end up with SO MANY on my feed. Like.. at this point, why don’t you just post the pictures instead of doing that ? I don’t know .. i’m not a instagram connoiseur ?

  20. Don’t worry, I find stories confusing too although I think I’m slowly figuring them out. I have no idea how some people make them look so wonderful as mine have always taken forever and not great. I’ve seen people share what their doing and unboxings in them but I’ve mostly noticed a lot of different tags within them. Some are questions, some are this or that, others are bingo cards. I don’t know exactly how you’re meant to do them – I think some people download them – but I screenshot and share them as I can’t figure out how else to use them. Although tbh I haven’t used Instagram in ages and need to start up again.

  21. Hey Nicole! Haha don’t worry – Twitter still confuses the heck out of me and the only reason I get instagram is because I’m a teen whose friends all have instas and I’ve been in one too many dog-filter selfies! ?

  22. I don’t think desktop is easy for stories. You really only can watch them (though if you click & hold on it I think it at least pauses it). On the phone though, I like replying if its something I have a comment about, it creates convo in DM’s. I usually use them to just show what I’m doing or share something a little more life/personal related since I don’t post those kind of photos on my bookstagram. There’s different ways to utilize them depending on what you want.

    Molly @ Molly's Book Nook recently posted: The NaNoWriMo 20 Questions Tag
  23. Stories on any platform aren’t really my thing, but I did promotion for a company and they encouraged using stories so I tried it to see if it had any impact. I think it was good to send out a reminder about the giveaway that went with the promotion. Now I use stories to announce that day’s blog post. I use Buffer.com to send the post banner to my Instagram. I’m not sure of the ROI of using stories so I don’t spend much time with it.

  24. Hhahaha I totally relate to this Nicole!! I had to google how to do a story. I still don’t get the point except I use them to share about other people’s instagrams. I love it for a form of blogger love. ❤️ I actually learned a lot about what others use them from reading your comments so that was really neat!!

  25. I often wind up feeling uncomfortable on Twitter when I try to engage with people in any meaningful way, and I’ve realized that the ins and outs of Instagram baffle me. How the heck do I make my pictures look cool instead of annoying?Giveaways let you add them to your narrative as part of your entry.

  26. Rufus McDufus

    It’s very simple really. There’s an app called Snapchat. The current owner and CEO of Instagram (Zuckerberg and Mosseri) are very jealous of it. They copied it, called it “Stories” and put it into Instagram in the hope of stealing Snapchat’s users. They have tried this before many times (WhatsApp-IG messages, YouTube-IGTV, TikTok-Reels, Twitter-Threads). That’s all there is to it. Greed and avarice.

  27. Although I’m not a big fan of stories on any platform, I gave it a go when I was doing promotion for a business and they said using stories could help. I believe it was a wonderful idea to remind them about the promotion’s gift. These days, I employ stories to reveal the blog post for that day. I send the post banner to my Instagram using Buffer.com. I don’t spend a lot of time using stories since I’m unsure of their return on investment.

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