"We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories." — Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal. Storytelling is a universal element that makes us uniquely human. Stories spark curiosity, touch emotions, and create lasting impressions that help us understand ourselves, others, and the external world. Above all, Instagram stories are engaging.
Storytelling has become a crucial component of marketing, as the industry looks to capitalize on the power of stories. Instagram, the social networking application designed for sharing visual content, is a powerful visual storytelling platform. Unsurprisingly, Instagram has the highest levels of engagement, easily outperforming all other leading social media channels. Instagram has evolved into a prodigious digital marketing channel, with 200 million users visiting at least one business profile daily, and 80% of users decide whether to purchase a product or service on the platform.
Introduced in 2016, Instagram Stories revolutionized brand storytelling. An Instagram Story is a full-screen vertical format consisting of photos, videos, or graphics that disappear 24 hours. Displayed chronologically, Stories appear after they are posted in the top bar above your feed or on the profile photo of a followed or public account. Stories provide an authentic and transparent medium for real-time communication.
Due to compounding consumer expectations for genuine connections with brands, businesses are more frequently utilizing Stories to immerse users in content — accounting for one-third of the most viewed Stories. Instagram Stories is a powerful tool for promoting your business, broadening your reach, and building deep, meaningful connections with your existing audience.
As businesses continue to report 2-3x more engagement with Stories than with feed content, nearly all internal Instagram updates focus on improving Stories. As implementing Stories into your Instagram marketing strategy gains prominence, staying up-to-date with continually modifying features and formats can be frustrating. To adequately build awareness, boost engagement, and drive sales on Instagram, we've compiled some of the best practices you can implement to optimize your Instagram Stories in 2020.
Best Instagram Story Length
Instagram Story frames are each displayed for a maximum of 7 seconds for photos and 15 seconds for videos. To lengthen Stories, you can post multiple frames in a sequence. Highly-engaging Story content can be any length; however, to maximize the completion rate of your Instagram Stories, one to five frames is ideal. For businesses, optimal is up to 5 Story frames where 75% of story viewers stay engaged.
Regardless of the duration, Stories must capture your audience's attention early on — 20% of audiences drop before the second frame. Instagram features change rapidly, so statistics from prior years will not always predict the current best practices. While these statistics serve as useful benchmarks, experimenting with your brand's various tactics is necessary for determining effective strategies. Tap into your creativity.
Optimize your Photos and Videos for the Instagram Story Format
High-quality, properly formatted content is pivotal to the success of an Instagram Story. Viewed in a vertical, full-portrait orientation, Instagram Story dimension requirements are 1080px by 1920px, and a 9:16 aspect ratio. Instagram resizes or crops photos or videos that do not meet the formatting guidelines, resulting in a loss of quality, content, and engagement. In the context of Instagram's visual nature, image and video quality is everything. Don't compromise your marketing strategy with visuals that do not stimulate and engage your audience.
Use Instagram Story Features
An Instagram Story can be enhanced with unique features. Instagram's wide range of features provides various opportunities to interact with your audience in a unique, creative, and branded style. Use these tools to facilitate brand engagement, gather customer insights, and rank your dynamic content higher in their feeds. Here are some ways to make your Stories original to your brand:
Stickers: Add a GIF, quiz, countdown, donation, chat, poll, slider, or question sticker to Stories. Stickers serve various unique purposes; keep your audience engaged, enhance the user experience, and provide feedback and insight opportunities.
Hashtags: Use the hashtag sticker to join a community hashtag page. You are limited to one hashtag per frame. Include trending and relevant hashtags to increase the chances of appearing on the corresponding hashtag search page, making your post discoverable to a broader audience.
Locations: Use the location sticker to join a community location page. Similar to hashtags, including a location sticker expands the potential reach of your Stories and furthers brand awareness.
Re-shares and Mentions: Re-share and mention your audience's posts. Recognize your audience and show appreciation by uploading user-generated content to your story. Sharing this content goes a long way in building loyalty and trust with your audience.
Swipe-up: Accounts over 10k followers or verified users can attach links to Stories. The swipe-up feature is a fluid method for redirecting your audience to external links, thus driving traffic and sales with a personal touch.
Go Live: Live allows you to connect with your followers in real-time through video broadcasting. You can go live for up to an hour, and after, you can add it to your story. Going live allows you to maintain visibility through personal and genuine conversations with your audience.
Keep In Mind
Don't let content vanish after 24 hours. Featuring your top-performing, branded content from Stories in your profile highlights ensures you showcase your best angles.
Figure when your audience is most active and post consistently during these peak hours — automated tools, like Buffer, can efficiently plan and schedule your stories for optimized posting times and campaigns.
Text overlays and subtitles can add clarity to your stories. Simultaneously, too much text can become an information overload that may spike your story's drop rate.
Although the time-stamp is a large factor in deciding the order stories appear in your feed (newest to oldest), the Instagram Story algorithm also ranks Stories based on the profiles most liked, re-shared, commented on saved.
People want access to exclusive content or sneak peeks behind the scenes of your brand. Stories with over promotional content will produce negative results on Instagram. Be cool.
Instagram Stories is a powerful visual storytelling channel with a profound influence on social media. Leveraging Instagram Stories is not only an opportunity to promote your business but also survives as a way to engage and connect with your audience authentically. The various storytelling capabilities empower cost-efficient tools that immensely add to your brand's content strategy and visibility on Instagram. As you develop your Instagram marketing campaign, be sure to track innovations within the platform.