Recently, Buffer analyzed 15,000 Instagram stories from 200 of the world’s top brands. Did you know that 400 million people around the world use Instagram Stories on a daily basis? Instagram Stories offer businesses a unique opportunity to capture the direct attention of audiences and potential customers. Instagram Stories content is incredibly engaging but what are the best practices for an entrepreneur? This blog post will show you these best practices, but it will first show you the main findings of Buffer’s research.
Instagram Stories: the main findings of Buffer’s research
Buffer’s question in November 2018 was: how are Instagram Stories performing for brands and businesses heading into 2019? Below is what they found.
1. One to seven stories is the optimal posting length
Buffer researched how many individual stories produce the highest completion rate. Completion rate is determined by calculating the number of times your stories were watched from the first story frame all the way to the last story frame within the given 24-hour time period. What they found is that one to seven stories is the optimal posting length. After seven stories, the completion rate drops to below 70 percent.
However, it is important to note here that this is more of a guide than a hard limit on the best time to post to Instagram Stories. It is crucial to experiment with various story lengths and use your data to determine what works for you.
Even if your brand or business posts a longer story length, say 12 to 20 story frames, the results are still phenomenal. There is very little difference in completion rate between 12 and 20 frames as there is between one and seven.
Perhaps more incredibly, top accounts that post twenty or more stories still see a fifty-five percent or greater completion rate, proving just how engaging stories content can be at any length.
2. The best time to post to Instagram Stories is outside of work hours
One of the most interesting takeaways from their research is around the best time(s) to post to stories. Brands that work hard to create great Stories content will want to maximize the reach of that content.
There are hundreds of different factors that go into the Instagram Stories algorithm. Still, post timing plays a key role in the success of your content. They found that there are four distinct spikes in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings. In other words, outside of normal U.S. working hours. Apparently, the best times to post to Instagram Stories are 4 am – 6 am Eastern Time, 8 am – 10 am Eastern Time, 12 pm – 2 pm Eastern Time, and 8 pm – 10 pm Eastern Time.
One hypothesis for this finding is that people have more time to watch Instagram Stories before work, during their lunch break, and in the evenings after work. Posting during these prime hours will give your stories the extra boost they need.
As I have mentioned in 16 Killer Instagram Hacks and Features for the Entrepreneur, posting on a consistent schedule is extremely important to maintaining your audience’s expectations and keeping them interested. If you post once a day for a week and then do not post again for a month, your followers may be less likely to see your post. So, make sure you post during prime hours AND do so regularly.
3. More content leads to greater median reach and impressions
As you know, Instagram Stories are a powerful channel for brands and businesses. Another reason for this is that the threshold for content consumption appears to be higher. There is only so much space in the news feed. The more content that people and brands post, the less space there is for everyone else. Because stories disappear after 24 hours, that makes more room, so to speak, for fresh new content to be shown.
Buffer’s data shows that the more stories top Instagram accounts post, the more median reach and impressions they get. We can definitively say that posting length has a positive correlation with reach and impressions metrics.
Buffer does not want businesses to start posting a ton of stories content just for the sake of posting. Still, the data shows that you can increase median reach and median impressions by posting more content on Instagram Stories.
As stated in 20 Instagram Tips I Learned From the Experts, Instagram stories have an algorithm that places the order of the stories’ in a user’s feed based on their interaction with that profile. Thus, by being active and driving people to your content and simultaneously interacting with the content of your viewers, you will increase the likelihood of having your story be placed at the top of the order.
Best practices for posting to Instagram Stories
With these main findings, Buffer has identified three key takeaways that your brand or business can get started with today.
1. Post your best stories content first
In their 2018 benchmark study, Delmondo found that, on average, more people exit on the first and last story frame than any other part of your stories. Therefore, if your first story frame does not immediately capture the attention of your audience, they will quickly exit your stories content in search of something else. So, make sure that your content hooks your audience in right from the beginning.
Bonus tip: average exits decrease as users move through the story frames. For loyal users that make it all the way to the last story frame, Buffer recommends including a CTA to provide them with a “next step.”
2. Keep it simple
Today, Instagram Stories is one of the most engaging social media channels available. Completion rates are well-above fifty percent, and more and more users are consuming stories content on a daily basis. Now is the perfect time for your brand to experiment with Instagram Stories content. The best part is, your stories do not have to be complicated. All you have to do is use a background image to quickly tell a story, add a short copy to convey your message, and decorate with minimal graphics and logos.
3. Calculate your data
Of course, the research above is only the beginning for entrepreneurs looking to improve their Instagram Stories content in 2019. To make the most out of Instagram, it is important that you accurately calculate your own stories data regularly. Keeping a close eye on the following data points will ensure that you are continually improving:
- Completion rate
- Reach and impressions
- Exit rates according to story frame
- Stories post timing
- Stories length
- And more!
Hashtags on Instagram
Looking for more tips on how to work with Instagram for your company? The Ultimate Guide to Hashtags on Instagram gives you tips and tools for hashtags on Instagram, allowing you to grow the reach of your posts and, ultimately, your company.