Like it's the case with Instagram Reels these days, Instagram stories were also a top feature that won over the Instagram users in the blink of an eye since their first integration into the platform.
For the time being, Instagram stories are the most converting ad type on Instagram, as our study related to Instagram vs. Facebook ads' performance.
So, there's no wonder more and more brands have shifted their strategy and started getting more proactive and creative with their Instagram story creation process.
As for organic Instagram stories, this post type is great for increasing brand awareness and helping brands create stronger relationships with their customers.
But how many stories should brands post to achieve that?
What format should they have - image or video?
Answers for these questions and many others are to be found in the analysis of 962,402 Instagram stories and their performance through January 2020 - October 2021.
Let's dive in!
Instagram stories data for 2021
- How many stories to post per day - we examine at average exit rates, tap forward rates, reach, and impressions to see how they fluctuate depending on the number of stories published per day.
- What creative types to use - we find out whether to use videos or images in stories to achieve the desired performance.
- How do Instagram stories perform compared to posts in feed: we look at the average reach rate of Instagram posts compared to stories to see which type of content better helps brands connect with their Instagram audiences.
- As the following of a brand increases, so is the number of Instagram stories per month a business publishes.
- While smaller brands (under 10K followers) have increased the average number of stories posted per month only by one, bigger accounts (with over 100K followers) have doubled the average number of stories posted per month on Instagram.
- The tap-forward rate has greater values for Instagram stories made of images.
- In the case of smaller Instagram accounts (up to 5K followers), the Instagram story's viewers will watch up to 11 stories before exiting. In contrast, brands with more than 100K followers will have an average of only seven stories watched before exiting.
- Regular posts in the feed bring double reach for brands compared to Instagram stories. So despite creating more regular content for stories, brands should not underestimate their feed's posts' contribution to their reach.
1. Major brands have doubled their Instagram story's usage in the last year
Given that Instagram is one of the social media platforms of the hour, with the highest engagement levels, according to our social media benchmarks study, it is only normal for brands to orient their marketing efforts towards it. Covering all the essential aspects - both paid advertising and organic content usage.
Over the last year, brands have seemed to understand the importance of diversity in their Instagram content strategy, starting to use more stories, directing the median number of stories posted per month towards 15-16 Instagram stories.
Which is double compared to 2020.
Smaller brands have just a slight increase in the average number of stories posted per month, adding just one more compared to 2020.
But for a more in-depth understanding of how various brands use Instagram stories in 2021, let's have a quick overview:
- brands under 5K followers post on average 5-6 Instagram stories per month (just with one more compared to last year)
- brands between 5-10K followers post on average 7-8 Instagram stories per month (just with one more compared to last year)
- brands between 10-50K followers have an average posting of 15-16 Instagram stories per month
- brands between 50-100K followers have an average posting of 28-29 Instagram stories per month
- brands between 50-100K post on average 49-50 Instagram stories per month
Especially noticeable is the increase in the number of Instagram stories published per month that applies to the larger businesses, who have nonetheless doubled their Instagram story posting throughout 2021.
But it's somehow understandable.
The bigger the brand, the bigger the budget invested into marketing initiatives - from hiring creative social media specialists to the production costs involved in the case of highly professional videos created for stories.
However, even if smaller accounts have lower increases in the average number of Instagram stories published, the tendency of posting more stories on Instagram is still obvious.
That is great!
Because this can only mean that smaller businesses understand how important Instagram stories are in creating engaging communities.
They may use less polished content that can have a more humanized and authentic vibe.
2. Posting up to five stories per day ensures a retention rate of over 70%
One of the reasons for which Instagram stories are such a success among Instagram users worldwide is their - as the name suggests - strong storytelling characteristic.
Through Instagram, it's easier for customers to get to know the brands better since they often present behind-the-scenes moments, Q&A sessions, and so on.
Besides, thanks to the many creative features the platform have enabled for an Instagram story, the interaction between brand and customers has become much more fun and interesting.
But still, as much as Instagram users love stories, posting too many of them can be seen as spammy, driving away your audiences.
That's why, if you want to keep your community hooked into viewing your Instagram stories, you have to keep in mind that posting up to five stories per day ensures a retention rate of over 70%.
Story retention rate refers to a percentage of the impressions of the last story divided by the impressions of the first story within the given 24-hour time period.
With every Instagram story added to the last one posted, your retention rate is expected to decrease.
So while you use this type of post to tell your brand's story, you must also be careful not to let your customers get bored. Offer them just enough to make them want more!
3. Instagram users are more likely to tap forward sooner for image stories
Speaking of diversity earlier, it seems brands use it in similar proportions when it comes to Instagram stories, mixing image stories with video stories.
The tap-forward rate represents the percentage of people who have tapped forward to see the next piece of content posted in your Instagram story sequence.
When it comes to the user's habit of viewing Instagram stories, most brands struggle with finding interesting content enough for their audiences not to tap forward or exit after viewing just the first story.
Interesting to mention, the tap forward rate for Instagram stories was 68% in 2020.
Given the fact that 2021 was a year with massive consumption of video content, its great impact on the engagement, not to mention that it counts for half of the content posted in Instagram stories, it's more than interesting to analyze how successful video stories are in keeping the viewers hooked.
According to our Instagram stories data, video Instagram stories have a tap-forward rate of 0,80% lower than image stories, which means they are more successful in getting the viewer's attention and keeping the interest more alive.
4. Instagram users exit faster from video stories, and most of the exits happen within the first three stories
People who are not interested in a brand's content will show it immediately, which is not necessarily a negative.
The highest exit rates happen within the first three stories, after which considerably fewer viewers drop off.
Instagram calculates the exit rate as a percentage of the impressions that leave the story by closing stories on Instagram.
In 2021, 16.94% of your audience drop-off during the first story, 12.35% exist during the second one, and 10.49% of your audience exist during the third.
After that, the exit rate declines from 9.10% all the way to 5.02%.
This means that once a viewer reaches a brand's fourth story, they're less likely to drop off until they watch all of the daily stories.
You also have to take into account that not everyone who will end up in your story roll is necessarily interested in your company, products or is even part of your core target audience.
With that in mind, the numbers also prove that the core audience, which truly resonates with a company's offer, does watch all the daily stories.
Reach, and impression rates also confirm this, showing a continuous growth from story to story.
Both reach and impression rates increase to over 50% once viewers reach the 8th story per day mark up, growing several percentages with each story.
The impression rate is calculated as a percentage of the number of times a story was shown to users, divided by the number of total followers.
When it comes to the Instagram story format, users tend to exit faster from video.
Especially middle-sized accounts (between 10-50K followers) seem to have a hard time keeping their audiences from exiting, primarily in the case of video Instagram stories.
This is rather odd, compared to small accounts, for example, where the lack of budget put into production may lead to less professional videos, hence a higher exits rate, which is understandable.
On the other side, the biggest accounts (with over 100K followers) are more successful in preventing their audiences from exiting their Instagram stories, which may result from having a more unified strategy for creating content and a bigger budget for experienced social media managers.
5. Image stories slightly outperform video stories in terms of reach
There are those Instagram users who appreciate a clear and easy-to-understand image story, and there are, of course, those users who like to be surprised by immersive and creative video stories.
Although there's no doubt that video is a powerful type of content in today's social media, in 2021, image stories seem to outperform video stories in terms of gaining a greater reach.
We define reach rate as the percentage of Instagram followers that saw a brand’s story.
Of course, smaller profiles reach a bigger part of their followers with the Instagram stories posted, having the highest reach rates - 10.40% with image stories and 9.37% with video stories.
At the other end of the line, the situation looks different for the biggest accounts (with a following of over 100K followers) succeed in reaching a smaller part of its fanbase through Instagram stories - having an average reach rate of 5.03% for video stories and 4.95% for image stories.
6. Instagram stories have lower reach rates compared to posts in the feed
Over the years, we've seen how users' behavior has changed on social media, especially on Instagram, with the platform's uprising popularity. As a result, the brand's content strategy for Instagram has shifted.
These days, Instagram stories are indeed a popular type of content. Many brands are trying to create regular content for their Instagram stories, which may lead to some changes for the in-feed posting strategy.
We've already talked about how in 2021, brands have doubled the median number of stories they post on Instagram.
And as seen earlier, posting more stories increases a brand's reach rate, but there's a fine line juggling with the content feed.
Although the need for more stories is justified by its ephemeral nature, given the fact they are available only for 24 hours, social media managers must not neglect a brand's Instagram feed.
By comparing the average reach rate of Instagram stories with posts in feed, we found out that most of the time, Instagram stories reach only half the people regular posts do within a brand's fanbase in 2021.
What's most curious is that especially middle-sized accounts (those between 10-100K followers) struggle to have a good reach with Instagram stories despite posting around 22 stories per month on average.
In their case, the performance difference between feed posts and Instagram stories is more noticeable, which means the best strategy is to still focus primarily on the posts in the feed, for being the ones that can guarantee them higher reach rates.
Compared to 2020, when smaller accounts could reach more people through stories, and the reach differences between these types of content were not so major, 2021's trends have shed some light on the feed's importance for reaching more people.
So, as for the applicable insight that can be drawn from here: brands, regardless of the many benefits of using stories, do not neglect your feed and try to create quality content for it.
To identify the best strategy for using Instagram stories, we analyzed 962,402 stories from a total of 6,014 business accounts posted between January 2020 and October 2021.
The profile segmentation is as follows:
- profiles with under 5,000 followers: 3465 accounts
- profiles with between 5K and 10K followers: 765 accounts
- profiles with between 10K and 50K followers: 1,112 accounts
- profiles with between 50K and 100K followers: 271 accounts
- profiles with over 100,000 followers: 401 accounts
The comparison between the Instagram story's average reach rate and one of the posts in the feed was based on the Instagram story data already mentioned and the analysis of 148,328,654 Instagram in-feed posts published in the same timeframe.
The reach values presented for Instagram feed posts are both organic and boosted posts.
We chose to follow the Instagram API guidelines in regards to all data.
We used Socialinsider data to find out the average rates that show retention, reach, and impressions obtained by stories. The app's data also provided insights on the post types, exit rates, and tap-forward rates.
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