It takes effort to stay on top of social media trends and best practices. The Instagram algorithm, in particular, is an ever-evolving beast to be reckoned with. Just the other day, I was chatting with a fellow industry professional about some of the nuances of Instagram Stories. “Oh yeah, I don’t really keep up with that stuff,” he said, smirking like the “not keeping up” was meant as a badge of honor. You owe it to yourself to not be that guy.
As the algorithm continues to change, you might rely more on Instagram Stories to connect with your audience. Five hundred million people now use Instagram Stories daily, up from 300 million in 2017. It’s essential your brand knows how to tap into this market.
Whatever your role and no matter your years of experience, we can all use a little refresher course now and then. Here, a quick run-down on Instagram Stories and eight top ways you can use them to engage your audience.
1) Share Instagram Stories Regularly
The more consistently you post to Instagram Stories, the more likely your audience is to see and engage with your content. This also signals to Instagram you’re a “quality account,” which in turn helps your engagement.
But what’s the magic number? A study by Buffer and Delmondo, in which 15,000 Stories from 200 top brands were analyzed, found one to seven stories is the optimum posting length. Brands which posted more than seven stories saw their completion rate drop below 70 percent.
More stories = more chances throughout the day to engage your audience – to a certain point.
2) Use All Available Features
Your Instagram Stories strategy should incorporate the abundant features Instagram offers its users. Here are some tips:
Swipe along the bottom of your screen to view additional camera options.
Rather than taking a photo with the Normal option and layering on GIFs and text, use the Music option to share your new favorite song or the Superzoom option to create a meme-worthy piece of content.
Use the type option and encourage people to send you a DM.
Variety is the spice of life, after all, and your followers will thank you for it.
3) Take Advantage of Stickers
If you do nothing else, at least experiment with Instagram Stories stickers and discover which ones resonate with your audience.
Poll Sticker. Ask a “yes” or “no” question, like “Do you read blogs regularly?” or “Should I post more videos on my feed?” You might end up adjusting your social strategy based on your findings.
Location + Mention Stickers. As a best practice, use these stickers simultaneously. The Location Sticker is clickable, letting users view a map and see other posts tagged with the location. By tagging your location with the Mention Sticker, there’s a chance the account might share your story, meaning greater reach on your part.
Countdown Sticker. Remind your followers about a contest launch or grand opening.
Quiz Sticker. Build a series of stories and tailor questions to resonate with your audience or align with your business interests.
Question Sticker. Prompt your followers to ask you a question, and share their answers to your own Stories. When you share someone’s answer, that person will receive a notification, giving you an automatic view to your story.
Hashtag Sticker. This sticker is clickable and can help a wider audience discover your content + help you engage with the larger Instagram community. Stick to one or two key hashtags.
Bottom line: any interaction on your story will give you an advantage in Instagram’s book.
4) Leverage Story Highlights
Story highlights are low-hanging fruit and allow you to save stories into different categories for your users to watch at their convenience. Maintain cohesive branding with customized highlights covers (check out this article for some helpful tips), and your page will instantly become more visually appealing.
As a bonus, consider creating custom content housed in your story highlights for added value to your followers.
5) Share Each Post to Your Stories (And Add a Little Extra)
Share an underperforming post to your stories for greater reach and to drive traffic back to your feed. To do so, just touch the paper plane icon under your post and choose “add post to your story.” But don’t simply share the post—add a call-to-action and incorporate GIFs, stickers and some generally eye-catching material.
The goal is for your followers to click on the original post shared in the story and like it or leave a comment.
6) Think About Story Takeovers
Allow someone who doesn’t usually have access to your account—like an employee, friend or influencer—to post to your stories. This is a simple way to help humanize your brand and provide interesting, diverse content. It’s a given, but the person who takes over your stories should post content that aligns with your brand and values.
When choosing who to partner with in an Instagram takeover, consider your goals for the takeover and what you hope to achieve.
7) Go Live
This is a simple way to boost engagement, as your followers will be notified with a push notification when you go live. Instagram Live lets your viewers ask you questions, comment on your video and provide engagement in real-time.
Go live for at least a couple of minutes to give your followers time to join the conversation and share it with their friends.
When you’ve finished, create a “Live Videos” story highlight so people who might’ve missed it can check it out later.
Authenticity is key. Consider this a chance to have a candid conservation with your followers.
8) Utilize IGTV
Think of IGTV as Instagram’s integrated version of YouTube. Instagram is a packed platform, so effectively utilizing IGTV could help you stand out from the crowd.
IGTV allows your audience to view a one-minute preview of a video up to 15 minutes long; they will then be prompted to watch more on your IGTV channel. You can only upload vertical videos to IGTV, and the app will automatically cut you off after 15 minutes, so write yourself a script if need be to stay within that window.
Internet video traffic is said to encompass over 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2021
95% of U.S. Instagrammers use YouTube