By Emma Fitzpatrick
As of January 2019, 500 million people were watching Instagram Stories every day. If you look at the channel’s growth trajectory, you’ll see that’s more than triple the number of daily active users from just two years prior.
Even so, that figure represents only half of Instagram’s total daily active user base. So it’s a safe bet that the number of people who use Stories will continue to grow organically throughout 2019.
For that reason alone, it’s worth knowing what the research says about how to optimize the success of your Instagram Stories. It’s also a good idea to look at real-world examples of those best practices from the banks that are already posting Stories. But first, let’s ask the question we all want answered.
Why should I spend time making Instagram Stories if they will just disappear in 24 hours?
Actually, Instagram Stories only disappear if you want them to. If you enable the Stories Archive setting, you can save all your Stories to your profile’s archive. There, you’re the only one who can see them—unless you want to share.
If you’d like, you can add Stories that are older than 24 hours to your profile by uploading them to your Stories Highlights. Those are the small circles that appear under your bio on Instagram, and they’re often sorted into different content topics. Check out Bank of America’s profile to see how that works.
Thanks to these changes, Stories have evolved from a formerly ephemeral piece of content to an integral way to tell your bank’s story.
It helps that users, especially younger ones, respond well to the format. A year after Stories launched, Instagram saw a significant uptick in the amount of time users spent on the app. Users younger than 25 spent 32 minutes every day on the app while users older than 25 spent 24 minutes.
Plus, users watch more than 75 percent of Instagram Stories to the end, which is a 12-point increase from last year.
How to make Instagram Stories that perform better.
Based on Buffer’s 2018 analysis of over 15,000 Instagram Stories from 200 of the world’s top brands, here are some tips and best practices.
How often to share – Most brands, on average, are posting Stories only about nine days per month. If you can do more, you may see greater results.
How much to publish – Like Twitter, there’s really no such thing as too many Instagram Story posts. The more you post, the more people you’ll reach. Users don’t seem to be annoyed or drop off if you share too much content.
When to post – It’s smart to share Stories outside of typical working hours. Stories perform best between 4-6 a.m. (before work), 8-10 a.m. (commute time), 12-2 p.m. (lunch break) and 8-10 p.m. (after work). Those are the times when more than 70 percent of people complete the Story they started. If you post before work, that rate hovers around 80 percent.
How long each story should be – If you share a Story using one to seven frames, you can expect about 70 percent of viewers to stick with you and watch through until the end. That percentage tends to drop off as the number of frames increases. That said, if you occasionally have something longer, go for it. Even if you tell a Story using more than 20 frames, about 55 percent of people will still watch them all.
How to compose better Stories – Start the Story with your best, most-engaging piece of content. Your first frame should get people interested and inspire them to keep watching. If people are going to abandon your Story before finishing, it will happen in that first frame.
What visuals perform best – Think you need professional videos? Think again. Often, static photos with text overlay perform better than professional videos. That’s a strategy that worked for The Guardian, which, after tracking the ROI on its Instagram Stories, found that heavily produced videos were not worth the effort.
What to post about – Brainstorm the essential content types that display your brand’s personality, educate the public—or connect with customers by asking questions. You can also look for inspiration from other financial institutions that are active on Instagram Stories. For example:
- USAA does a great job of using Instagram Stories to catalog special events.
- Chime uses simple graphics with powerful messages that could link to additional content.
- American Express frequently highlights its customers and the cool things they do in its Stories.
- Chase specializes in posting engaging educational content on its Stories—from credit scores, savings and paying down debt to travel topics and even the money habits of the zodiac.
Emma Fitzpatrick is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and marketer, whose specialties include content marketing, social media marketing and short, snappy writing. Pick her brain at firstname.lastname@example.org.