How to Increase Instagram Story Engagement
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How to Increase Instagram Story Engagement

Since launching in 2016, Instagram Stories has become more than just a popular sharing feature. It’s now also an effective marketing tool.

The Snapchat-inspired feature offers brands a fun and free way to actively engage with their followers and target audience.

More than 500 million people watch Instagram Stories every day. 500 million. That’s a lot of potential customers that could be engaging with your business. Of course, your brand isn’t the only one on the market vying for attention, so it’s important to stand out. That’s where we come in…

Below are just a few tried and true strategies for harnessing brand awareness and increasing viewer engagement on Instagram stories.

Remember, with great social strategy comes great responsibility… that’s how the saying goes, right?

Tell a Story

This Nat Geo Instagram Story uses a story to increase engagement

It’s right there in the name, an engaging Instagram Story must first and foremost—tell a story.

Seems like a no brainer, we know, but you’d be surprised at the difference a cohesive narrative makes when it comes to keeping your audience’s attention.

A bunch of random photos thrown together leaves the viewer feeling confused and disconnected which means they’re most likely clicking through as fast as they can to get to the next account.

Even the slightest amount of context lets the audience “in” on your story, which in turn makes them aware of your purpose and helps them understand your brand as a whole.

That being said, we’ve found that using a story board is a great way to visualize your Instagram Stories ahead of time. Pre-scheduling and preparation are key.

Use Hashtags

This Later Media Instagram Story uses hashtags to increase engagement

Adding hashtags to your Instagram Stories is a super easy way to increase your reach and engagement. It allows new audiences to discover your content and start following you.

If a hashtag is popular enough, users can actually search for it and view live stories on a curated hashtag page where they may come across your account.

This is why it’s so important to use words and phrases you think might be top of mind for your target customers.

Add Stickers

Starbucks uses a choice sticker to increase engagement on their Instagram Story

One of the most effective ways to increase social engagement is by using stickers. You’ve likely seen these on a friend’s account or maybe being used by another popular brand.

Whether it’s a playful emoji or a poll prompting responses to the outfit of the day, there are a number of different ways to make stickers engaging.

These are a few sticker options we’ve seen work well for brand marketing:

  • Countdown stickers are great for creating anticipation around a product launch or event.
    • Polls and question stickers are useful for learning more about your followers and their opinions.
    • Gif stickers allow you to get creative with your CTA’s and they let your followers know you’re not a regular brand, you’re a cool brand.
    • Quiz stickers are a fun feature that allow users to participate with your stories and provides entertainment in addition to brand awareness.

Caption Your Videos

AOC has captions on her Instagram Story to help with engagement

If you’ve ever been tapping through Instagram Stories while at work (or in another locale which doesn’t welcome sudden, blaring audio) you know how frustrating it can be when you want to watch an account’s video content and it doesn’t have captions.

That’s one reason why it’s so important as a brand to make sure you include captions for videos that can be watched without audio.

More importantly, you don’t want to alienate your audience members that may be hard of hearing.

Users are far more likely to stay engaged when they can enjoy content from anywhere regardless of sound capability.

If captions are not an option for certain videos, then a “sound on” cue is a good way to let the viewer know they have to turn their sound on for that particular piece of content. Otherwise, they will most likely get annoyed and move on to the next account.

Keep them around by giving them the convenience of enjoying your content no matter where they are.

Clipomatic is a video editing app available on the Apple Store that allows you to record captions using speech recognition. 

Find Peak Engagement Times

Insights on story engagement from the Instagram Insights tab

Knowing your audience is key to increasing engagement on social media.

That means doing a deep dive into your analytics to find out when your followers are typically most engaged with you. Once you’ve nailed that down, you can plan your stories around those peak engagement periods to ensure you’re maximizing audience attention with your best content.

Every Instagram business account is equipped with an Insights tab which allows access to Instagram’s native analytics.

These metrics include anything from demographic factors like age range, gender, and location to peak activity times, most popular posts, and more. They will be an invaluable piece of your social strategy.

(RELATED: Facebook’s NEW Instagram Capabilities in Creator Studio)

Cross Promote Within Your Feed

An Instagram post with a mention to "Head to our Instagram Stories" to help with engagement

Another way to send more eyes to your brand’s Instagram Stories is by cross-promoting them within your regular feed.

This is especially helpful if you already have significant engagement with your posts and need to diversify audience attention.

The popular social media scheduler platform Later does a great job of organically directing people to their Instagram Stories from their feed, as you can see from the post above.

Reshare User Content

Reshared content on the fellaswim Instagram Story increases engagement

Perhaps one of the best ways to fill your stories with engaging content is by re-sharing user posts.

Not only does it make your followers feel like they’re part of your brand, but it also creates valuable consumer trust.

According to Business 2 Community, User Generated Content (UGC) is 50% more trustworthy than any other type of media. Hence why there’s such a wildly successful influencer market on Instagram.

The swim brand Fella Swim, for example, did an entire “As Seen On” series which co-branded user content with their own. Check it out above.

Use the “Swipe Up” Feature

The last of these three Converse Instagram Stories has a "see more" or "swipe up" option that will take you to more information.

You’ve likely seen popular brand accounts use Instagram’s “Swipe Up” feature in their stories. This feature is only available for accounts with 10,000 or more followers, so if your brand hasn’t hit that mark yet, it’s a great goal to strive for.

The Swipe Up tool encourages followers to engage with a specific landing page on your website or inspires them to purchase a new product. They can easily swipe up from your story and be taken to a new page without experiencing a complete disruption to their normal social activity.

For example, the Converse Instagram account does a great job of prompting their followers to check out new collections without being too “in your face.”

Respond to Direct Messages

Later Media responding to an Instagram DM will help increase story engagement

One of the biggest things every brand should be doing is responding to audience direct messages.

If you want people to engage with you, then it only makes sense that you engage with them in return.

Obviously, when you get to a certain point it becomes difficult to respond to everyone, but at least making the effort shows your audience that you are an authentic and genuine brand.

If you are receiving a lot of similar questions in your DM’s, it’s also useful to post responses in your Instagram Stories. This way all of your followers can feel as though they’ve been acknowledged. 

Collaborate with Other Brands/Try Takeovers

Anthropologie and The Good Hive collaborated on their Instagram Story for Earth Day

Collaborating with new brands is another good way to grab audience attention, especially if you’re in a creative rut.

Whether you have an influencer take over your story for a day, or maybe host an Instagram Live video with another brand, there are endless ways to change up your content while also building meaningful relationships.

Check out the collaboration above that Anthropologie did with The Good Hive for Earth Day.

This kind of project not only looks good for your brand, but it also shows you’re capable of expanding the type of content you do.

Give Your Audience Something to Share

Bangs created an "Instagrammable" moment to help increase their story engagement

Last, but certainly not least, it’s important to remember that you want your audience to share the content you create.

Yes, it seems obvious, but sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of this when you’re thinking as a brand and not a user. Always put yourself in the audience’s perspective.

What kind of content would you want to share as a follower? How can you create this content for your fans?

Everyone loves a good Instagrammable moment, especially influencers who are even more likely to take advantage of a photo op.

The local Austin shoe brand BANGS knocks it out of the park when it comes to creating Instagram moments with a message. Check their content here.

With these engagement strategies, you’ll be on your way to creating a killer social media presence and building a more active audience for your brand. Then, it’s just a matter of continuing them through the Customer Journey to become customers.

Shannon Goodell

Shannon Goodell

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