If you have Instagram, you have Stories.
Stories are available on every Instagram account and the number of users using this feature has been increasing exponentially.
More than 500 million accounts on Instagram were using stories as of January 2019, according to data from Statista.
Today, we're excited to share our first Instagram Stories research with you as well as proven best tactics on how to create strong, engaging content for Instagram Stories and increase their viewership.
Within this study, almost 135,976 Instagram Stories were analyzed from a total of 2,548 business accounts (different profile sizes) to understand how brands are using Stories to promote their business, drive conversations, and generate leads.
Let's dive in ⇣
Table of contents:
B. Key findings
1. Half of brands are using videos in Stories
2. Brands are publishing Stories 7 days within a month
3. The optimal number of Stories within a day is up to 6 Stories
4. Brands with a small audience reach more than 9% of their followers with Stories
5. Impressions and reach are influenced by the Stories posting length
6. Images underperform videos by having a higher tap-forwards rate of 5.65% than videos on Stories
7. Brands with a small following don’t succeed at retaining their audience's attention with Stories
8. Pictures in Stories get more drop offs compared with videos
9. The highest drop in Stories happens between 2 and 3 stories within a day
10. 6 people out of 10,000 Stories viewers reply to Stories
Reading this study, you’ll discover:
- What type of content increases the Stories' viewership - we reveal what type of content brands are creating for Instagram Stories that both engages, and converts.
- How many days per month brands are publishing Stories - we discover how many days within a month brands post Stories.
- What's the retention rate across all profile sizes - we unveil what's the optimal Stories length within a day.
- What's the reach rate for brands on Instagram - we explore what profile size succeeds at keeping their audience engaged with Stories.
- When people drop off in Stories - this section reveals when people tend to leave the Stories within a day.
- How many people reply to Stories - we explore if people reply to Stories and if it's a key metric to measure as opposed to retention rate.
Here’s what you learn reading this report:
- The future lies in video Stories. 51% of brands are using video in Stories. Brands created more video content in Stories over the past nine months. Videos create authenticity, which ultimately results in better retention as compared to photos. People spend a longer time on it which influences Instagram’s algorithm on how many people your story is shown to. Videos generates better tap-forward rates and exit rates.
- On average, brands are publishing Stories 7 days within a month. Even though the Stories are increasing, only Instagram handles with more than 100,000 followers are posting Stories every two days, while brands with less than 1,000 followers are publishing every four days.
- The optimal number of Stories within a day is up to 6 Stories where brands are keeping more than 70% of their Stories viewers engaged. There is a strong correlation between number of Stories per day and the reach and impressions. The more Stories you publish, the more viewers you get.
- Brands with less than 10,000 Instagram followers succeed at reaching more than 9% of their followers with Stories. Engaging with people in Stories is becoming a challenging for handles with more than 100,000 followers which have a median reach around 5%.
- People tend to drop off more on photos than video Stories. The highest drop in Stories happens between 2 and 3 stories within a day.
- 6 people out of 10,000 Stories viewers reply to Stories. Brands should focus more on increasing the retention rate as opposed to the reply rate.
No time? Here's a PDF version of this study so you can read the Instagram Stories metrics later on.
If you have Instagram, you have Stories. If you have Stories, you have video.
Brands have adopted video as a key component in Instagram Stories over the past 9 months.
There are several reasons for the success of Instagram video stories. Depending on the type of content created, video Stories have better authenticity, which ultimately results in better retention as compared to photos.
Moreover, the video story could be up to 15 seconds while the photo is only visible for no more than 7 seconds.
Based on our Instagram stats - more than 135,000 Stories were analyzed - we observed that 51% of brands are using video Stories across all profile sizes in the past nine months.
However, there is a difference between brands with bigger followings on Instagram.
Brands with more than 100,000 followers posted 60% more photos as compared to 40% for video.
On the other side, brands with less than 100k followers had the same posting pattern.
If you haven’t used videos in Stories, the following tips could come in handy:
- Users view Instagram Stories in the vertical position – The most successful videos for Stories are created in the vertical format.
- 9:16 is the standard aspect ratio for Instagram Stories – Otherwise known as full portrait, they are usually wider than a video shot from the mobile phone or regular photos. Since videos may be cropped when uploaded, it is important to keep that in mind while shooting.
- Keep in mind the Stories interface – Video stories should not have any text at the bottom or at the top as they may overlap the video.
- The video length is limited to 15 seconds – Users get to make videos of no longer than 15 seconds. Nonetheless, Stories will chop videos longer than 15 seconds into 15-second pieces.
- Stories expire after 24 hours – Content needs to be kept fresh through timely updates at least every 24 hours.
The Instagram feed is highly curated and high quality - while stories are meant for more real time, authentic, less polished content.
Because everything disappears, you don’t have to perfect.
Given the timely nature of most stories and the amazing engagement stickers that Instagram continues to add - it is a place where people are comfortable to interact with you which helps you start a conversation and build community.
Sue B. Zimmerman, Instagram Expert & Business Coach
Our Stories database shows that the average brand regardless of the audience size is posting about seven days within a month, which averages to about one every four days.
A deeper analysis of the data reveals that brands with more than 100k in followings are recording an average of Stories every two days as compared to four days for brands with at least 10k followers.
We know that Instagram accounts with more than 10k followers have more Stories features such as link in Stories which can be a driver to create stories at a higher pace.
However, one of the three most viewed Instagram Stories are from businesses and you shouldn’t miss this opportunity. Posting a story every few days can be an effective way to ensure you keep your community engaged.
One of the most important metrics for marketers using Stories is the retention rate.
The more of a brand’s Stories are viewed by a viewer, the higher the chance that there will be engagement and connection. As such, the marketer needs to focus their attention on their Stories.
The retention rate is computed as a percentage of the impressions of the last Story divided by the impressions of the first Story within the given 24-hour time period.
According to our Stories insights, we noticed that brands are losing about 15% of their audience moving into the second Story of the day.
The optimal number of Stories within a day is up to 6 Stories where brands are keeping more than 70% of their Stories viewers engaged.
After six Stories, the completion rate drops to below 70 percent.
However, if you decide to post longer Story lengths of up to 15 a day, you still succeed at engaging with more than 50% with your viewers.
As long as the stories are uploaded at different times of the day rather than in bulk, they still manage to get some good engagement.
As such, it is important for marketers to experiment with different time of postings and Story lengths.
We calculated the reach rate as a percentage of the Story viewers on any given day divided by total followers.
Handles with less than 10,000 followers have a reach rate of about 9%, which is almost double than of accounts with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers that get no more than 5% average reach rate.
Accounts with relatively more followers tend to reach a lower percentage of their followers with their Stories. Instagram is increasingly becoming a pay to play business model for them.
Brands that have more than 100,000 followers have a lower reach rate on their video Stories on any given day. Their reach rate is around 5% with 4% lower than Instagram accounts with fewer than 10,000 followers.
But Stories is increasingly becoming the most popular way of sharing on social media.
In fact, Mark Zuckerberg speaking to Business Insider asserted “that Stories should overtake posts in the feed as the most popular ways of sharing on all social apps in the near future.”
Make your instagram stories interactive.
Make them social. Make them fun.
How? Use polls, ask questions (especially “AMAs”) and quizzes.
Also, experiment with the rating bar function and ask people how beautiful, yummy, awesome, fun etc. something is. My audience seems to love such insta stories.
Dr. Natalia Wiechowski, LinkedIn Expert
Digging deeper, we wanted to correlate the Stories posting length with the reach rate and the impressions rate across all profile sizes.
Data on Instagram Stories indicates that a brand stands to increase its reach by posting more content to Stories. Regardless of profile size, it appears that audiences have a higher threshold for consuming content posted in Stories.
Posting more Stories within a day influence the reach and impression metrics and you get more people engaged with your Stories.
Based on the graph below, you can see that posting more Stories tends to a higher reach rate in Stories.
The trend line is pretty much similar when Story length in a given day is correlated to the impressions rate.
My recommendation is that if you want to establish the ideal Story length for your brand on Instagram, make sure you correlate these metrics with the retention rate.
Once you have aggregated the data, you’ll get a better understanding of your audience’s behavior within Stories.
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.
Based on our Stories data, images have a forward rate by about 5.65% higher than videos across all profile sizes which can be both good or bad for retain your audience's attention.
Profiles with less than 10k followers have a 5.16% average tap forward rate.
Accounts which have an audience between 10k and 100k followers have a 5.79% average tap forward rate.
Accounts with followings greater than 100k register 6% average tap forward rates.
Since videos stay on the screen for 15 seconds as compared to the seven seconds for images, coupled with the fact that they are more dynamic as compared to static photos, videos tend to do better in Stories as people are more likely to tap to move forward on video.
Keep in mind that a higher tap-forward rate indicates that people are not so interested into your Stories so keep an eye on this metric too.
Another important metric for the marketer is the exit rate, which indicates the engagement levels of the audience with the content posted in Stories.
Instagram calculates the exits rate as a percentage of the impressions that leave the Story by closing out of Stories in Instagram.
Take into account that users have three ways to close out stories. They can either hit the “x”, swipe right or swipe down to go back to the post feed on Instagram.
According to our Instagram Stories stats, brands with less than 10,000 followers which we classify as small have less success creating Stories that result in engagement. Small brands recorded a 7.43% exit rate which is nearly two times the median rate.
Moreover, brands that have profiles with more than 10,000 followers tend to have exit rates near the median.
To improve the exit rate in Stories, you can invite your audience to:
- Spend more time watching.
- Watch the Story all the way to the end without exiting stories or swiping right on it.
- Reply to Stories by using these Stories features: questions, quiz, polls, countdown or gifs.
These are some of the most critical factors that Instagram tracks to determine how many people it will show your Stories too.
Luckily for brands, there are several ways to improve the viewership of Instagram Stories. By taking advantage of the features on the Instagram platform consistently, it is possible to add a lot of personality to Stories, which helps to build brand loyalty and authority.
One of my fave pieces of advice for Stories right now is to use the location tag on Stories. BUT, the key is to use the smallest possible location.
Tag the actual building, business, venue, or other small area.
Instagram knows that the specific location is in a certain neighborhood, in a certain city, near other places, and within a larger geographic area.
As a result, tagging the small location could land you in multiple search results for various locations. But if you tag something large (like a whole city), you will not show up in locations for smaller areas.
Jenn Herman, Social Media Strategist, Jenn's Trends
Our analysis was aimed at determining what type of Stories users on Instagram loved.
We found that people tended to drop off more on photos as compared to video Stories across all profile sizes.
This insight is quite understandable because videos are more dynamic, and people spend a longer time on it which influences Instagram’s algorithm on how many people your story is shown to.
For profiles with more than 10,000 in following, exit rates of 10% are common on days when the brand posts single Stories. Profiles with less than 10,000 followers have exit rates of about 17% for single Stories posted in a single day.
The highest drop happens around 3 and 4 Stories per days. The decline is relatively flat with 6 Stories or more per day.
We computed the reply rate as a percentage of your Story viewers who reply to your Story on any given day. Instagram provides this metrics as people who send a direct message - no comments, quick reactions, interactions are included here.
6 people out of 10,000 Stories viewers reply to Stories which is a small metric compared with the retention rate.
Therefore, it is more important for brands to increase Story viewership rather than the replies.
To identify the best content strategies for Instagram Stories and how to increase your viewers, we analyzed more than 135,976 Instagram Stories from a total of 2,548 business profiles.
Within this report, we provide a representative Instagram handles, which had an active presence on Instagram between August 2018 to April 2019. These business profiles had more than 1,000 Instagram followers as of the same date.
We used Socialinsider to find out the retention rate, the reach rate, the impressions rate, the post types, Stories posting length, exit rates, and tap-forward rate, and much more Stories metrics.
We chose to follow the Instagram API guidelines and defined Story - as a type of content: photo or video which brands can upload it.
To conclude what’s the optimal Stories length within a day we used Stories within a day, Stories per day or number of Stories per day as definitions.