We Analyzed 15,000 Instagram Stories from 200 of the World’s Top Brands (New Stories Research)

An incredible 400 million people around the world use
Instagram Stories
on a daily basis (with that number
rapidly growing by the minute).

Besides being an interesting and fun way to connect with friends
and family, stories offer businesses a unique opportunity to
capture the direct attention of audiences and potential
customers.


Instagram Stories Research - Stories Growth

But where do you start? And what makes for great
stories content
? We partnered with Delmondo to answer these questions, and
more!

Together we analyzed more than 15,000 Instagram Stories
from 200 of the world’s top brands in one of the largest
Instagram Stories
 research studies to date.

Today, we’re excited to share this brand new research with you
(spoiler alert: Instagram Stories content is incredibly engaging)
as well as proven best-practices on how your business can create
content for Instagram Stories that both engages, and converts.

Let’s dive in!

Table of contents

Key findings from analyzing 15,000 Instagram Stories

Delmondo is a Facebook and
Instagram Media Solutions Partner and was the first to launch
Instagram Stories analytics in the summer of 2017. In doing so,
they now have access to some of the most robust Instagram Stories
data on the planet, which powers a ton of incredible research
studies like this
one
where they shared findings from more than 5,000 Instagram
Stories.

Earlier this month, we approached their team with one
(not-so-simple) question:

How are Instagram Stories performing for brands and
businesses heading into 2019?

Here’s what we learned…

1. One to seven stories is the optimal posting length

It’s long been debated whether or not posting more
leads to better results
on social media. Many brands report a
positive increase in results when they post more, while others
experience the opposite.

Which is exactly why we wanted to know what top brands are
experiencing when it comes to optimal posting length. I.e., 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 we found is that one to seven stories is
the optimal posting length:


Optimal Instagram Stories Length

After seven stories, completion rate drops to below 70
percent.

However, it’s 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’s crucial to experiment with various story
lengths
and use your own 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 20 or more
stories still see a 55 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 our research with
Delmondo is around the best time(s) to post to stories. Given the
ephemeral
nature of stories
, brands that work hard to create great
Stories content will want to maximize the reach of that
content.

And while there are hundreds of different factors that go into
the Instagram
Stories algorithm
, post timing arguably still plays a key role
in the success of your content.

We found that there are four distinct spikes in the mornings,
afternoons, and evenings. In other words, outside of normal U.S.
working hours (all times are Eastern):


Best Times to Post Instagram Stories - Instagram Stories Research

Based on the data above, the best times to post to
Instagram Stories
are:

  • 4am – 6am Eastern Time
  • 8am – 10am Eastern Time
  • 12pm – 2pm Eastern Time
  • 8pm – 10pm 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.

3. More content leads to greater median reach and
impressions

Another reason that Instagram Stories
are such a powerful channel
for brands and businesses 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.

The data from our research shows that the more stories top
Instagram accounts post, the more median reach and impressions they
get. We can definitively say that stories posting length
has a positive correlation with reach and impressions

metrics.

Correlation between stories length and
median reach:


Instagram Stories Average Median Reach

Correlation between stories length and
median impressions:


Instagram Stories Median Impressions

We’re not necessarily suggesting that brands and businesses
start to post a ton
of stories content
just for the sake of posting, but the data
shows that you can increases both median reach and median
impressions by posting more content
on Instagram
Stories.

Instagram Stories research benchmarks for specific
verticals

In an effort to make this research even more interesting and
valuable, we looked at four unique verticals to compare a variety
of data points such as completion rates, posting frequency, and
more. Those four verticals are, brand accounts,
entertainment accounts, media
accounts, and sports accounts.

We defined the industry verticals using the following
criteria:

  • Brand: Consumer related products or service
    brand
  • Entertainment: TV/Movie networks, TV shows,
    movies, and similar
  • Media: Newspapers, news organizations, news
    websites, publishers
  • Sports: Sports or eSports teams, leagues and
    events

Hopefully the following Instagram Stories research will help
shed some light into what the world’s top brands are experiencing
in terms of results.

Average completion rate and stories length

First, we looked at how Instagram Stories performed for these
four verticals in 2017 vs. 2018:


Year Over Year Instagram Stories Research Comparison

What’s incredible is that completion rate has risen by
12% for brands and businesses
in just over one year.
Meanwhile, accounts are posting slightly less stories content on
average.

It’s worth reiterating here that all four verticals are seeing
a 65% or greater average completion rate with
Instagram Stories. Meaning that audiences are sticking around to
watch this content at fairly high rates.

Average reach and impressions

Next, we wanted to know how Instagram Stories are performing for
these verticals when it comes to reach and impressions (based on
overall average follower size):


Average Reach vs. Impressions - Instagram Stories Research

It’s interesting to note that although average reach
rate is 5.82 percent for all verticals
, there is a huge
swing between sports accounts and media accounts.

Still, in a social media world where average organic reach
within the news feed
is often less than four percent, a five percent (or greater)
average reach rate is welcomed with open arms by many
businesses.

Average posting frequency per month

Last, but not least, in addition to understanding how many
individual frames per story (story length) are being posted by the
world’s top brands on Instagram, we also wanted to know how often
they are posting per month.

For this data point, we looked at how many individual days
during the month, on average, these verticals posted to Instagram
Stories.

Here’s what we found:


Instagram Stories Average Days Posting Per Month

Sports accounts are posting the most days per month
(13.7), whereas brand accounts are posting the
least amount of days per month (8.7).

Overall, we’re not at a point where brands are posting
daily to Instagram Stories
. However, as the popularity of
Instagram Stories grows and businesses continue to see success with
the channel, we predict that daily posting will become more of a
common thread throughout different verticals.

Best practices for posting to Instagram Stories

Now that we’ve shared the data from more than 15,000 Instagram
Stories, we thought it would be useful to provide a few
actionable steps
on what to do with all of this research.

Here are 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.

Meaning, 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.


Average Exits In Instagram Stories

Whether you’re promoting your product, giving your audience a
behind-the-scenes look at your business, or simply posting
entertaining content, make sure that it hooks your audience in
right from the beginning.

Airbnb, for
example
, slowly reveals content throughout their Instagram
Stories in order to encourage users to move onto the next story
frame – only revealing the answer on the very last story
frame.


AirBnb Instagram Stories Example

Bonus tip: You’ll notice in the graph above
that average exits decrease as users move through the story frames.
For loyal users that make it all the way to the last story frame,
we recommend including some kind of CTA to provide them with a
“next step.”

2. Post consistently to stories

Today, Instagram Stories is one of the most engaging social
media channels available. Completion rates are well-above 50
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 don’t have to be
complicated.

The Guardian
found that
for their Instagram Stories, simple static
graphics and quick explainer videos outperformed
their
professionally-produced videos.

The
North Face
, for example, uses simple photos and text overlays
to reinforce their brand using Instagram Stories:


The North Face Instagram Stories Example

Simplicity means:

  1. Using a background image to quickly tell a story
  2. Adding short copy to convey your message
  3. Decorating with minimal graphics and logos

And you’re done!

3. Calculate your own data

Of course, the research above is only the beginning for brands
and businesses looking to improve their Instagram Stories content
going into 2019.

In order to make the most out of this channel, it’s important
that you accurately calculate your
own stories data
on a regular basis. Keeping a close eye
on the following data points will ensure that
you’re continually improving:

  • Completion rate
  • Reach and impressions
  • Exit rates according to story frame
  • Stories post timing
  • Stories length
  • And more!

One example of calculating data in action is when we began to
experiment with Instagram Stories ads here at Buffer. Instagram
Stories, compared to
ads
in the Facebook and Instagram news feed, have helped
decrease our cost per click (CPC) to the Buffer Podcast landing page by
more than 50 percent in some cases.

Other brands like Warby Parker are
using Instagram Stories to promote their products in fun and
interesting ways and comparing those results to traditional
marketing channels such as email and content:


Warby Parker Instagram Stories Example

Source: FS – Social Media Blogs 1
We Analyzed 15,000 Instagram Stories from 200 of the World’s Top Brands (New Stories Research)