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[IG Stories Study 2020] 726,135 Instagram Stories and Story Ads Show How To Drive Results

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[IG Stories Study 2020] 726,135 Instagram Stories and Story Ads Show How To Drive Results

Instagram Stories are an increasingly important part of social media marketing, especially in 2020, when people spend more time indoors and glued to their phones.

In fact, even before the pandemic, one-third of the most-viewed stories were coming from businesses, according to Instagram, a number that is only expected to increase in the current climate.

That’s why we decided to look at how audience behavior regarding stories has changed since mid-2019, since the previous stories research.

Together with the video experts from Wave.video, we looked at new data from 661,565 stories and 64,571 story ads published between April 2019 and September 2020.

Continue reading to find out how to create the most engaging stories, how powerful is the video format for stories, and how many stories to post daily.⇣

Instagram Stories Study 2020



A. Summary

B. Key Insights

1. Brands post a median of 7 to 8 stories per month, but posting up to 5 stories per day ensures a retention rate of over 70%
2. Most exits happen within the first 3 stories
3. 52% of stories are video and they outperform image stories on both tap forward and exit rates
4.Video stories also spark more conversations, as the reply rate is higher across the board.
5. Despite recording high reach rates, brands with under 10,000 followers can’t retain their story viewers
6. Link clicks are the main objective brands set for story ads
7. Story ads with videos have a higher CTR than story ads with images: 0.59% vs. 0.29%

C. Methodology

No time? Here's a PDF version of this study so you can read the Instagram Stories insights later on 👇

A. Summary


In this study, we’ll dig into:

  • How many stories to post per day - we look 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.
  • Which profile sizes have a leg up - we look at how the number of followers can have an impact on how the audience interacts with a brand’s story.
  • How effective are ads in stories - we’ll unveil what story ads can offer in terms of CTR, and whether choosing between images or videos will return different results.

B. Key Insights


  • The optimal number of brand stories to publish per day is 5.

Brands post a median of 7 to 8 stories per month, but posting up to 5 stories per day ensures a retention rate of over 70%.

  • Most exits happen within the first 3 stories.

Viewers tend to drop off during the first stories, but once they reach a brand’s fourth or fifth story, they’re more likely to stay until the end.

  • 52% of stories are video and they outperform image stories on both tap forward and exit rates

While the split between images and videos in stories is fairly equal, video stories seem to keep viewers more interested in the content.

  • Video stories also spark more conversations, as the reply rate is higher across the board.

Regardless of the number of followers a brand’s Instagram profile has, using videos in their stories leads to more comments.

  • Despite recording high reach rates, brands with under 10,000 followers can’t retain their story viewers -  average 6.37% exit rate.

Smaller Instagram profiles have a harder time keeping their followers tuned in to their stories.

  • Link clicks are the main objective brands set for story ads.

When posting story ads, brands are mainly interested in having people access the links to their websites.

  • Story ads with videos have a higher CTR than story ads with images: 0.59% vs. 0.29%.

Even when it comes to ads, video stories seems to drive more actions from the audience.



1. Brands post a median of 7 to 8 stories per month, but posting up to 5 stories per day ensures a retention rate of over 70%

Typically, brands are posting between 7 and 8 stories per month, where brands with larger profiles post almost 5 times more stories than smaller profiles.

While brands with large Instagram accounts post on overage 14 to 15 stories per month, brands with less than 5,000 followers only post about 3 stories per month.

Number of stories

In fact, the size of a brand highly influences their resources and capabilities to post more stories.

According to our data, this is the posting frequency:

  • brands with over 100,000 followers are posting on average 14 - 15 stories per month
  • brands with 50k to 100k followers post around 10-11 stories per month
  • brands with 10k to 50k followers post 7-8 stories per month
  • brands with fewer than 5,000 followers post on average 3 stories per month

However, posting several stories per day drives better results.

  • Posting up to 5 stories per day ensures a retention rate of over 70%

In fact, over 70% of people who watch a brand’s daily stories will be tuned in to the first 5 stories, which offers an advantage to brands that invest in stories more.

Retention rate of stories

This 5 story mark is actually one story less than last year’s story data, meaning viewers’ attention span is slightly declining.

Nevertheless, creating a successful Instagram marketing strategy nowadays must include posting multiple stories per day, and not just using stories sporadically.

2. Most exits happen within the first 3 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 3 stories, after which considerably fewer viewers drop off.

Exit rates on stories

The highest drop off is 12.99%, which happens during the first story, followed by 9.75% during the second one and 8.12% during the third. After that, the exist rate declines from 6.70% all the way to 4.07%.

This means that once a viewer reaches a brand’s fourth or fifth 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, who 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.

Reach and Impression rates

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.

3. 52% of stories are video and they outperform image stories on both tap forward and exit rates

Much like in 2018-2019, brands divide their stories’ creative type almost equally.

Half of the stories are video and half are image stories, with a marginal difference of approximately 2% in favour of video.

Types of stories



While video format is quite popular, larger brands with over 100,000 followers are especially fond of it, as it amounts to 55% of their story content.

Stories by profile size



  • Video stories outperform image stories on both tap forward and exit rates

Despite this rather even division, using the video format in stories is proving to be more productive.

Images have a higher tap-forward rate, regardless of the number of stories brands publish. This could be interpreted as videos being more engaging, as they have the power to keep viewers watching for longer.

Tap forward rates

The tap-forward rate represents the percentage of your users who saw your Story and they are ready to move to the next one.

This metric is calculated as a percentage of your impressions that have a tap forward to see the next photo or video in your Story.

Exit rates for video stories are lower as well. Overall, stories with images have an average exit rate of 5.64%, compared to 5.54% average exit rate for video stories.

Exit rates of stories

The exit rate indicates the engagement levels of the audience with the content posted in stories, showing how many people drop off a brand’s story before it finished playing.

One can exit a story by swiping down to exit completely, or hitting the “X” button to return to Instagram's feed.

4. Video stories also spark more conversations, as the reply rate is higher across the board.

One of the main goals of any post - story or otherwise - is to drive engagement and, especially, start conversations with the audience.

And the video format seems to be successful at it, driving higher reply rate than images regardless of the size of a brand’s instagram handle.

Reply rates

Video stories have average reply rates of between 0.02% and 0.18%, while stories with images obtain rates of 0.01% to 0.14%, depending on the size of the profile.

It is also notable that the smaller the brands, the more engaged the audience is.

While large brands have more followers, most of them can be latent, not keen on engaging with the content.

On the other side of the spectrum, smaller brands have an equally smaller audience, but most of their followers are genuinely interested and engaged in the content.

As an overall picture, the median reply rate to stories across all profiles and both formts is 0.05%.

5. Despite recording high reach rates, brands with under 10,000 followers can’t retain their story viewers - 6.37% average exit rate

These smaller profiles also reach most of their audience with their stories, but that does not mean they always succeed in keeping people watching until the end.

Small brand profiles with under 5,000 followers have the highest reach rates: 9.54% average reach rate, with a median of 7.84%.

On the other hand, large profiles with over 100,000 followers only reach an average of 3.92% of their audience.

Reach by profile size

Despite the high reach, smaller brands with under 10,000 followers have a harder time avoiding people dropping off from their stories, recording exit rates of 6% to 7.32%, with an average of 6.37%, while larger profiles record drop off rates of around 4% - 5%.

Exit rates by profile size



The good news, however, is that the exit rate has improved for these smaller profiles, as up until April 2019 their average exit rate was 7.43%.

6. Link clicks are the main objective brands set for story ads

Apart from regular stories, the placement of ads in stories is a great way to boost IG results.

In fact, a third of all Instagram ads (33.6%) are placed in stories, and their primary goal is to obtain link clicks.

Running story ads

From our data, 39.58% of story ads have set link clicks as an objective, and 30.66% ads aim for conversions, which makes the click-through rate especially important.

Story ads objectives

Other campaigns objectives such as reach, and lead generation are far behind,  each making up for less than 10% of the ads.

7. Story ads with videos have a higher CTR than story ads with images: 0.59% vs. 0.29%


Unlike with regular stories, video is the prominent creative type in story ads, amounting to 74.6% of story ads.

Image vs video story ads

The reason for this choice is quite simple: click-through rates.

The average click-through rate of video stories is 0.59%, surpassing the 0.29% CTR of image stories.

CTR of story ads

Since the main objective brands want to accomplish with story ads is to get as many link clicks as possible, the CTR becomes the only metric that matters.

C. Methodology


To identify the best content strategies for Instagram Stories, we analyzed more than 661,565 Instagram Stories from a total of 6,602 business profiles, and 64,571 story ads published between April 2019 and September 2020.

The profile segmentation is as follows:

  • profiles with under 5,000 followers: 3908 accounts
  • profiles with between 5K and 10K followers: 806 accounts
  • profiles with between 10K and 50K followers: 1223 accounts
  • profiles with between 50K and 100K followers: 271 accounts
  • profiles with over 100,000 followers: 394 accounts

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.

Click-through rate (CTR) shows the percentage of people who clicked on an story ad, and is calculated by dividing the number of link click on a story, by the number of impressions.

We calculated the reach rate as a percentage of the story viewers on any given day divided by total followers.

The impression rate is calculated as a percentage of the number of times a story was shown to users, divided by total followers.

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.

The tap-forward rate represents the percentage of a story’s impressions that tap forward to see the next story before the previous one finishes playing.

Instagram calculates the exit rate as a percentage of the impressions that leave the story by closing stories in Instagram.

Measure your Instagram stories' performance ❤️ and create impressive video stories! 🤳

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Teodora Lozan

Teodora Lozan

SaaS Marketer @ Socialinsider

I like to let curiosity lead the way both professionally and personally. In love with stories and facts, so I always try to get the best of both worlds.

[IG Stories Study 2020] 726,135 Instagram Stories and Story Ads Show How To Drive Results
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