As the Instagram algorithm continues to take a toll on people’s engagement, it’s no surprise that more and more users are switching their focus to Instagram Stories.
Just look at the numbers:
According to TechCrunch, Instagram Stories has over 300 million daily active users, which is almost double that of Snapchat.
But Instagram Stories is more than just a great way to connect with your followers.
Posting to Stories consistently can also impact how your posts perform in the Instagram algorithm.
The algorithm takes into account all the interactions you receive on your Instagram Stories — this means, the more that a user interacts with your Instagram Stories, the more likely your posts will show up in their feed.
In the following post, we cover 7 ways you can use Instagram Stories to outsmart the Instagram algorithm, grow your reach, and spend more time on your audience’s screens.
How the Instagram algorithm has changed in 2018
While Instagram revealed that posts are soon going to be returning to a more chronological order in people’s feeds, this doesn’t necessarily mean that chronological feed is back. Instagram is essentially adjusting the algorithm so that the time that you post is more important than before.
In other words, the feed is still algorithmic, however the weight of the factors that impact the Instagram algorithm have shifted slightly.
In light of all these changes, Instagram users will have to find new ways to grow their engagement and reach their audiences. Queue, Instagram Stories.
How to use Instagram stories to outsmart the algorithm
This year, you can expect Instagram Stories to continue its dominance over Snapchat and become an essential part of your Instagram marketing strategy.
Here are 7 features and tools you can use within Instagram Stories to outsmart the Instagram algorithm:
1. Use all of Instagram stories’ features
The Instagram algorithm uses the amount of time spent viewing your content as a factor in determining its popularity.
So how do you stop your followers from scrolling past your Instagram Stories?
The good news is that Instagram seems to roll out new features for Instagram Stories every few months (or even weeks!), giving users fun new ways to connect with their audiences.
You can access most of these features by clicking the sticker icon in the top-right corner when adding to your story. Once you click the icon, all the feature options will appear:
Try adding GIFs, stickers, locations, and hashtags as often as possible (without over-using them, of course). By using all these features, you’ll have a better chance at keeping your audience engaged and will give them a reason to spend more time viewing your Instagram Stories.
This year, Instagram also introduced “Type” mode, which a new way for users to share what’s on their mind with creative text styles and backgrounds.
To switch to Type mode, all you have to do is open your camera and tap the Type button at the bottom of your screen.
You’ll find it next to “Live,” along with your other camera options under the record button:
Whether you use Type mode to post your favorite song lyrics, ask your followers a question, or just let people know what’s on your mind, the feature is a great way to add personality your Instagram Stories and keep people engaged!
2. Encourage audience interactions
The Instagram algorithm also takes into account the interactions you receive on your Instagram Stories, such as replies or when someone DMs your story to another user.
And the more that a user interacts with your Instagram Stories, the more likely your posts will show up in their feed.
A great hack to outsmart the algorithm is to take advantage of Instagram Stories’ engagement opportunities, including the useful polling feature. Interactive poll stickers let you ask questions and see results from your followers as they vote:
There are so many different ways you can use poll stickers to interact with your audience.
For example, you can use polls to gather feedback on your products, crowdsource ideas, or simply entertain your followers.
Encouraging these kinds of interactions will not only help you build a deeper connection with your audience, but it can also help you grow your reach too.
One trick that influencers use to drive up the engagement on their accounts is to ask their followers to “DM me for a direct link to this product!” It’s a great way to drive people to your inbox, build relationships with your followers, and ultimately increase the chance of your posts showing up in their feed.
The Instagram Stories that appear on the top of your feed are affected by the Instagram algorithm as well!
Typically, the Instagram Stories that appear closest to the beginning of the row are from accounts that you engage with the most, whether that may be through the users posts or Stories!
3. Maintain a cohesive brand aesthetic
Your brand’s Instagram aesthetic isn’t only important on your feed, but should be carried over to your Stories as well!
When a follower watches your Stories, they should know it’s yours without having to see your name in the corner of their screen.
Luckily, there are a ton of different ways to brand your Instagram Stories within the app, including different fonts, brush options, and stickers. Using these features in a consistent way can add a ton of personality to your Stories and help you build a uniform brand aesthetic.
There’s also a lot of flexibility within these features themselves.
For example, you can customize the color of their text or brush strokes by selecting a new color from the bottom of the screen. Just hold your finger down on any of the color options to pull up a larger spectrum of colors to pick from:
You can also use the eyedropper tool on the left of your color palette to select a color directly from your story. This will help you keep your story elements branded and cohesive.
Creating templates for your Instagram Stories is another great way to help you quickly put together a cohesive story that aligns with your brand. Tools like Canva offer a ton of different templates that you can use to build a consistent (and gorgeous!) aesthetic.
The fact is that your followers are much more likely to convert into brand advocates when they know they can expect consistent, high-quality Stories from your account.
4. Add links to your Instagram stories
Last year, Instagram rolled out the ability to add links to Instagram Stories, and it’s a pretty big deal. In fact, it’s the first time ever that users can add links to Instagram that aren’t the link in their bio!
It’s currently available to users on an Instagram Business profile with 10K+ followers. If you meet these requirements, you should be able to include a “Swipe Up” option in your Stories and drive traffic to your web campaigns, product pages, blog posts, and more.
Adding links to your Stories will not only help you drive more traffic to your website, but it’s another feature that the algorithm will reward you for including in your strategy.
5. Add hashtags & location stickers to your Instagram stories
Recently, Instagram expanded the Explore & Search page to include hashtag and location Stories! Now when you add a hashtag or location sticker to a story, other users will be able to find it if they search that hashtag or location.
In other words, you have the opportunity to reach whole swaths of new and undiscovered audiences. And if they like what they see, they might even give you a follow!
To add a location, simply click on the location sticker and type the location of your story. Your story will then appear at the top of the search results for that location:
Adding a hashtag to your story is just as easy. You can either just type in the hashtag, or you can use the hashtag sticker to add in the hashtag of your choice.
When people search for a hashtag on Instagram, if it’s popular enough, they’ll be able to see all the active, recently shared Instagram Stories for that hashtag at the top of the Search page.
When your story is added to the search results for a location, you should receive a notification from Instagram. And when someone views your story from a hashtag or location page, when you view your Instagram Insights, you’ll see the name of that page when looking at who watched your story.
6. Start creating Instagram stories ads
The recently rolled out Instagram Stories ads appear between regular Stories at the top of your feed. As more and more users spend time scrolling through their Stories, Instagram Stories ads can help increase your visibility to new audiences.
When creating an Instagram Stories ad, you have the option to share a photo or video. Whichever you choose, make sure you have an eye-catching intro to stop users who “speed-tap” through their Stories.
7. Track your success with Instagram stories analytics
When you switch to an Instagram Business profile, you can also view the analytics for your Instagram Stories — which is extremely helpful!
Taking on your Instagram Stories strategy with a better understanding of what’s working (and what isn’t) will help you come up with a fine-tuned strategy, saving you time and effort.
To see the Insights for your Instagram Stories, head to your profile and select the Insights icon in the top right corner. Next, scroll down and tap “Get Started” in the Stories section.
Now, you’ll have access to impressions, reach, and other metrics related to your Stories:
Instagram Stories Analytics gives you a clear view of who is sticking around or swiping away, and can ultimately help you optimize your Instagram Stories content strategy.
In addition, there are social analytics tools such as Socialinsider that can provide deeper analytics for your Instagram Stories.
As Instagram continues to tweak it’s algorithm, use them as an opportunity to create deeper connections, produce high-quality content, and optimize your Instagram Stories strategy.
Testing out all the latest features within Instagram Stories will not only help you “beat” the Instagram algorithm, but can keep you one step ahead of your competition!