Opinions and Insights

Using Sound to Create Better Instagram Stories

As advertisers, we know that most people view their Facebook and Instagram feeds on mute. Our industry has adapted to that fact, retooling content to make an impact in the first three seconds before the user scrolls right past. Audio is not much of a consideration when it comes to in-feed videos.

But Instagram Stories is a completely different ball game. Here, unlike the feed, 70% of users watch content with the sound on. Users are also more engaged when it comes to Stories as opposed to typical in-feed content. 

If you’re simply converting content that works in-feed to publish on Stories, you may fail. It’s wise to consider them as totally different platforms and adapt like our industry has before. In the days of early digital video, we learned you can’t run a long broadcast spot on Facebook and expect the same ROI. People interact in the digital space differently than broadcast. So it’s no surprise that users also interact differently across digital mediums.

One key factor that some advertisers overlook is audio. The easy route is to take content produced for another platform, slap on some royalty-free music, publish it to Stories and call it a day. While this is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough. Audio needs to be just as purposeful as visuals. 

This not only means exploring music, but exploring sound design as a whole, whether with internal teams or externally with an audio studio. Sound is a powerful device that can trigger emotion, transport the viewer and set the pace of the video.

Some inspiring examples:

Go Hawaii

The travel industry has the best examples of audio for IG Stories. Using sound, travel brands promote the experience for a variety of destinations and suck the viewer in. Go Hawaii has some of my favorite examples, as it weaves beautiful sound and sound effects with stunning visuals that immerse you in the Hawaiian islands. The example below uses sound design to transport you to a beach paradise.

Starbucks Social Impact

This is a great example of taking content that may traditionally be on Youtube and adapting if for the Instagram Story platform. Rich interviews and storytelling with music guide the tone of this multi-panel story.


While this is a movie example, it’s a great way to demonstrate the power of sound. I would put the entire Arrival movie in this category, as the use of sound guides you emotionally through the story. This scene in particular is well thought out and triggers uneasiness. The visuals are relatively simple, just overhead aerials. If you watch it on mute, you don’t get the same feeling of suspense as you do with the drone of the helicopter blades and the eerie soundtrack.

Audio is all about creating illusions. Our brain strives to put meaning to sounds. Filmmakers deeply understand this, and it’s why there are Oscar awards for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. It’s a craft that takes time and dedication—just like visual design. However, sound gives us even more freedom than we have with visual restrictions. We can be creative with not only what people do hear, but also what they don’t. Like these examples: 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

This was a very controversial scene when The Last Jedi came out. Many viewers were confused and thought the theater broke because of the sudden silence. The filmmakers used the absence of sound to their advantage, changing the viewers’ expectations. This made the sacrifice of the scene memorable and profound.

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

As Gandalf falls and the Fellowship mourns, you don’t hear their footsteps, you don’t hear their cries or the clatter of their packs. Instead, a melancholy voice carries over the visuals, and you as the viewer are just as stunned as the characters in the story are. I love this scene because it really puts you in the characters’ shoes of surprise and grief.

We’re not making full-fledged cinematic masterpieces in an Instagram Story. But it’s important to learn from these movie examples. What do you want your users to feel when they interact with your brand?

When you only have 15 seconds to tell your story in an Instagram Stories ad, every moment counts. Sound taps into our emotional memory. Sound design for Stories opens up a whole new language of possibilities that otherwise wouldn’t work in-feed or even on broadcast, and it is a powerful tool to encourage action.

So if you’re searching for ways to make your Stories more successful, take the time to carefully craft your sound design.