Instagram Stories has over 400 MILLION daily viewers - 2x+ the entire user base of Snapchat! If Stories aren’t already part of your social media strategy, keep reading - they should be! Here’s why: the Instagram algorithm that ranks your content and decides where, when and to whom your content is shown across the platform is heavily influenced by Stories.
When a user watches your Stories, they are more likely to see your content in their home feed, discover feed, and in search results for locations and hashtags - whether or not they engage with your stories or reply. The best part? Stories autoplay, introducing users to content they might otherwise not see. Take a look in your own account for a sense of how this works - you can play your Stories feed from the accounts you follow on the home page.
If you do NOT regularly post Stories, you are missing out on a key opportunity to connect with new users, and expand your reach! The analogy I like to use - imagine you’re bowling. Having an Instagram strategy without Stories is like skipping several of your turns in bowling, and hoping for a top score - which isn’t going to happen.
Social Media Social Hour with Tyler Anderson put together an incredible explanation of how the algorithm works across channels (Feed posts and Stories), which can be found here, line 33 (“Instagram Algorithm: 5 Things Marketers Need To Know“). This is a must listen podcast for all Instagrammers, and a great way to get insight into the mechanics of the Instagram algorithm. Personally, I love listening to podcasts like this while on a walk - it’s a great way to get some reflective, uninterrupted time to think and learn!
Content + Planning
Stories are known for being spontaneous - and some of your stories should be! (We’ll get into that in a minute). As is the case with everything social, planning is key to get the results you want, and a “big picture” perspective of how all the pieces come together is key! Here’s a breakdown of how you should approach planned v. spontaneous Stories:
While putting together your social media schedule for the month, include a number of Stories about your featured products, events, or experiences. Keep in mind the priority you’re giving to each service that you defined earlier in Content Selection + Frequency.
Stories work well in slides of 3-10 slides, should be related to one another, and tell a story. Keep in mind that Stories autoplay - this is your chance to put a mini-slideshow in front of your followers that leads them to a call-to-action. Compelling imagery + narrative will get users to watch your story end-to-end, improving your content’s ranking and where it’s shown across the platform.
Include interactive features where they make sense, like polls, question, and the love slider! (See Interactive / Voting below for more details.
Spontaneous Stories and Live Stories taken in the app are equally important to your content’s ranking and account growth! Users love content that gives them a peak behind the scenes into the creative process. Stories are the perfect opportunity to bring the experience of your brand to people in a way that’s compelling and tangible.
Some ideas for your spontaneous stories: behind-the-scenes at a photo shoot, a Live Story from an event or gathering, and behind-the-scenes with busy hands at work creating your product or experience!
Stories and Live Stories taken in app are treated preferentially by the Instagram algorithm - so be sure to have a high-level game plan about when and how you’re going to integrate in this live content into your social media strategy. For example, if you’re having a photoshoot, make a note to yourself to post some Stories from the experience, or a Live Story of the shoot in progress. Another option - assign this task to someone on your team!
Metadata - like hashtags, location, and user tags - work differently in Stories, but as just as essential to getting your content a worthwhile audience! Take some time to research your hashtags for stories. Often, a commonly-used hashtag will not have a lot of Stories in search results. This means that not many people are using this hashtag in Stories.
Ideally, you want to include a hashtag that has strong traffic in Stories in your own Stories - remember, the more people using a hashtag, the more likely people are tuning in and watching top stories for that hashtag! For many businesses, the best and most effective hashtag is geographic - for example, #philadelphia or #philly. Using these geographic hashtags will connect you locally.
To connect more with your industry, find the most frequently used Stories hashtags for what you do! For example, #photoshoot tends to have a strong use in Stories, and more users opt to include this tag in Stories. By comparison, #fashion has much less activity on Stories - even though it has been used almost five times more often than #photoshoot! This is the one case when choosing the most frequently used hashtag will not serve you well!
Hashtags and Locations are added to Stories with Stickers via the smiley face in square icon in the upper right of the screen. Like Feed Posts, Stories will appear in search results for locations and hashtags. You should include a location and hashtag for each story you post. If you want your story to look “clean” and uncluttered by stickers, tap your location and hashtag sticker once to make it transparent, and then pinch to make it tiny. Then, tuck the sticker away in the lower right-hand corner. When users see your story, this area is more or less obscured by the reply box.
User Name Tags
Any users you tag in your stories will be sent a copy of the Story in messages. You can also link to your own account in your Call To Action (CTA) so viewers can easily click through to your profile, and take an action like clicking link in bio, or clicking any action buttons like contact or booking.
If you have a business account with 10k followers or greater, you will see the option to add a hyperlink to your Stories (chain link icon, upper right-hand corner). If you have the ability to do so - use it! Adding a link enables users to swipe up on your story to go to link without leaving the Instagram app. Your link should take users to the page on your website where they can learn more and take action. The more relevant your link, the more likely you are to see some solid returns. Remember - people desire simplicity, so the less they have to do on their end, the better!
If you have a business account, you have the option to add a link to your IG.tv episodes. This ability is not based on your total number of followers. Linking to your IG.tv episodes is a great way to drive traffic to this content. Our personal favorite use for this feature: Take a short clip from an IG.tv episode (15 seconds or less), and post in Stories with a link to the full episode on IG.tv.
Interactive / Voting
Interactive features like Poll, Emoji Slider, and Questions give you the opportunity to get feedback from your followers! Think of this as a free focus group, and a way to engage your followers in the creative process! Some uses for this that we love:
Ask your followers to vote between options while working on creative campaigns with Polls.
Get a sense of how much your followers like a specific option or look using the Emoji slider.
Ask your followers for feedback or their opinions using Questions.
These features do not replace the need for solid market research - but they are a great way to get a feel for the market, and involve your users in your creative process! You can see the results of interactive voting on Stories (and who participated!) by going to the Story, and sliding upwards from the bottom of the screen.
Instagram includes a number of different text options, markers, color overlays and animated gifs that make composing downright fun! If you’re new to Stories, take some time to orient yourself on where design controls are located! This may take a minute to learn - but it will pay off when it comes to viewership and engagement! As is the case with any kind of flair, balance and a light touch are suggested.
There are number of text styles that can use in your stories: Classic, Modern, Neon, Typewriter, and Strong. You can toggle between the styles by tapping the text style button at the top center of the screen. You can also highlight your text in the Classic, Typewriter, and Strong styles by tapping the A in a square icon in the upper-left of the screen. Highlighted text is great for busy images where a solid background behind text is needed for ease of reading. To align your text - left, right, or center - swipe right and left in the text editor.
Color Overlays + Gifs
As far as design goes, color overlays and animated gifs are some of our favorite ways to add a little extra flair to your Stories! You can apply a solid or semi-transparent overlay on your story using the Marker tool. This tool can also be used to “write” on your Story. Animated gifs can also be added to your Story, and are a light-hearted and eye-catching way to add dimension and movement to still images.
The marker lets you write on your Stories - but one of its lesser known applications is the color overlay! For a solid color overlay on your Story, select the Pen style, click and hold story. For a semi-transparent overlay, choose the Marker style, click and hold on Story.
Animated Gifs are a great way to add a little extra flair to your stories! Once you’ve selected your gif, you can pull outwards to enlarge, pinch to make smaller, and tap once to make gif a mirror image of the original.