Launched in 2016, Instagram Stories were initially seen only as a rip-off sourced from Snapchat and were largely ignored by the userbase as such.
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Fast-forward to 2019, and we see most large brands leveraging this feature on a daily basis to grab the attention of the 500 Million+ Instagram users that interact with them regularly.
With >75.3% of businesses projected to use Instagram for marketing purposes in 2020, it is vital now more than ever to utilize this feature effectively for your brand.
So, here are a few ways to help you increase your Instagram engagement with stories:
The visuals game
With Stories, there is an added sense of urgency for accessing content as the first thing any user sees upon opening Instagram is the Stories Section on top of their home page.
The purple circle that stays until the story is seen makes it then even more unlikely for any user to ignore any followed account’s story for the 24 hours that it remains active.
That visual combined with every fourth story and feed post being sponsored makes this platform optimal for short-form video content and static images that are eye-catching and informative.
Considering Instagram is fundamentally a platform made for graphic content, let’s start by discussing what goes into making a visually appealing post that will keep your audience engaged.
First up, contrast and simplicity
You need both of these to ensure that users pause to look at your post. Also, stories with similar colors tend to blend into each other, this means that users can’t make out the text at all or don’t make an effort to try reading ill-designed graphics.
Take the example of this post from McDonald’s that has no captioned text and only displays the logo for their McDelivery Service with a See More link attached.
This is the perfect example of how less can be more as the lack of text not only creates a sharp message, but the information gap entices customers to find out more about the post and whether there is any underlying offer/promo attached in the link.
On the other hand, this Story from P.F Chang’s has an attached caption and some overlaid text, but the keywords (990 and Lunch) are enlarged to keep the focus on them.
These two serve different purposes as McDonald’s posted this on their Story for followers while P.F added this to their Sponsored Stories, which don’t self-destruct in 24 hours.
This is why the sponsored and regular stories have to be different as they are catering to different audiences; one of the existing followers versus one attracting potential customers.
Scheduling and consistency
As with all other social media platforms, uploading content in a routine and consistent manner is promoted by the algorithm, appreciated by users looking forward to it, and steadily boosts Instagram engagement rates.
But what time and occasions do you choose to post?
A valid question that many don’t know the answer to, this can only be answered by your own page’s analytics in the Audience Insights section that will be able to show you the times/days in which your audience is most active. Such as 1 PM during their lunch hour or 11 PM when they’re about to go to bed.
This will be the timing of your posts, and you can also choose to base the upload schedule of additional posts based on certain occasions, milestones, or events that are relevant to your brand.
The consistency of your Instagram content can also be in imagery as you begin to apply colors, fonts, and messages in particular formats that become part of your digital persona.
These two slides from Forbes illustrate this concept as they apply the same yellow tone to all the slides from this event and keep it visually consistent.
Yet, the subtle differences in the color coding and captions keep them from becoming boring.
Many effective social media managers choose to create sets of their content in advance and use tools to schedule the content.
With a tool such as SocialBu, for example, you can set up posts consistent in message, tone, and color codes, weeks or months before posting.
The platform does this by enabling you to upload, create and schedule Instagram stories in bulk according to a timetable of your choosing, for all your social media accounts.
This will eliminate the chance of a spontaneous post being out of line and have them be visually consistent to keep Instagram engagement steadily increasing.
Modifying stories based on analytics
To tweak your content, posting schedule, and formats, you must first begin to understand the statistics that are involved in measuring the performance of your Stories.
As seen below, the Discovery section tells you the number of people that your story has reached and how exactly they interacted with it.
For any brand, these are vital metrics because, for example, a high number of tap forwards on video content will mean that users are skipping through your slides before they end.
You will then probably need to completely change the format or make them more engaging.
A tap backward can mean the opposite and tells you that the audience is interested in the content and is making an effort to read it, so be sure to prioritize this type of content for future campaigns.
Storyboarding and crowdsourcing stories
If you’ve never come across this term before, storyboarding is the process of creating a graphical representation that will simulate exactly what your content will look like, slide by slide in the case of stories.
This is just one example of how you can take this process step-by-step to create a coherent and engaging story that consists of a narrative.
The alternative to this process is to tap into user-generated content by crowdsourcing content.
Reposting media from your followers will build trust for your brand, providing you extended reach within their social circles and give an organic vibe to your content.
If you don’t wish to take that avenue, there is always the RSS Scheduling method, which serves to automatically post content from your RSS Feed or other renowned sources such as Engadget or Mashable.
Having these scheduled throughout the day will give a reason for users to interact with your informational/entertaining posts and increase your overall following and engagement.
Hashtags and stickers for boosted reach
While many older users might not understand or utilize hashtags, 75.3% of the younger U.S uses the #xyz function routinely.
To access this market, knowing how and when to use Instagram’s various features is key to producing appealing content that reaches a broad audience.
As an example, if you’re a dance club that is looking to attract foot traffic and tourists, one possible strategy is to utilize the location stickers and hashtags to target the city at large.
This will have your story show up every time that anyone taps on any of the included hashtags in the next 24 hours while looking for something to do.
Alternatively, this will work even better for holidays and occasions such as #BlackFriday, where users are actively using hashtags to scout for activities and deals, facilitating the engagement even more!
Other stickers that can help your engagement rates are Questions and Polls, which will naturally solicit the responses of users and make their opinions feel validated.
Questions have a broader scope of subjects available and are more open-ended for the purpose of generating useful user feedback, whereas Polls are narrower in scope, but they can serve various purposes.
This is just one example of how stories content can be interactive and engaging. Not only does this fashion post relate directly to the trending Duchess and Fashion, presumably two favorite topics for followers of this page, but the next slide feeds into their curiosity by directing them to their website with a Swipe Up. Increasing their Instagram engagement all at once!
In summary, keep your Posts and Stories clean in design, concise in message and consistent in terms of theme and time, while modifying the content in view of the Insights that you get from Instagram’s Analytics.
In order to efficiently use the story feature to its full potential, you should start to use the tips mentioned above in your routine posting schedule so that with patience and consistency, comes the engagement that your brand needs to achieve Insta Fame in 2020!
Guest author: Julian Scott is a Tech, Gaming, and Netflix Enthusiast with a proclivity for writing. Has a sharp eye for style, flow, and grammar. Compulsive editing is one of my biggest strengths and flaws (Obsessive Compulsive Editing is real; look It up!). Currently, a Business Management Student, working for a Social Media Management Company (SocialBu) as Content Manager, with hopes to run his own entrepreneurial venture one day.