By: Tribe Dynamics
WHY Instagram Stories INCREASE Follower ENGAGEMENT
This past September, we at Tribe Dynamics surveyed nearly 200 content creators to seek insight into how they engage with social media platforms. Not surprisingly, influencers reported that their most widely used channel over the last year was Instagram. Notably, their second most-frequented platform was Instagram Stories. Launched in August 2016, Instagram Stories function like Snapchat Stories, allowing users to post off-the-cuff pictures and videos that disappear within 24 hours. And while Snapchat popularized the idea of creating imperfect, real-time posts within the highly curated realm of social media, Instagram Stories have taken over that space.
According to a November TechCrunch article, the platform hit 300 million daily active users just a year after its release—nearly double those of Snapchat. Our survey reflects a similar shift in preference: 40% of influencer respondents claimed to have posted “significantly more” content to Instagram Stories in recent months relative to months prior, and 38% reported posting “significantly less” to Snapchat.
Why the shift? One of Instagram Stories’ main perks is that they automatically link to a user’s Instagram profile, boosting visibility and eliminating the need to rebuild one’s audience on a separate platform. Additionally, Instagram Stories provide influencers increased discoverability and exposure as their content may be featured on Instagram’s “Explore” page—a huge advantage for content creators looking to grow their follower communities. Since Snapchat does not have a comparable feature, the only real way to grow on the app is by cross-promoting on other social channels. Ultimately, Instagram Stories afford influencers easier usability, discoverability, and higher engagement.
While we could then understand why influencers might prefer Instagram Stories over Snapchat, we were also curious to know what motivated them to post to Instagram Stories rather than on their permanent profiles.
According to our survey, “aesthetic” was one of the most important factors influencers considered when deciding whether to post a piece of content to either their permanent profiles or Instagram Stories. Did the post complement their profiles’ overall aesthetic? If yes, it could steal another square on their well-curated grids. If not, off to Stories it goes. As influencers work to develop their personal branding, they put a great amount of care into creating a cohesive and stylized social media image, and thus reserve only “high-quality” and “relevant” content for their permanent profiles.
One survey respondent commented on the “pressure” for Instagram posts to be “perfect,” stating that a post “has to hit a lot of targets for it to be good enough.” Another noted that to maintain her profile’s “certain look,” she “plan[s] out [her] rows weeks ahead of time,” paying special attention to “color schemes, poses, etc.” With such strict posting standards, the diversity of an influencer’s content might be somewhat limited. With their easy visibility and fleeting nature however, Instagram Stories offer influencers the perfect outlet for creating consistent content to engage their followers without disrupting their profiles’ aesthetic coherence.
In addition, Instagram Stories allow users to more authentically represent themselves, granting followers a peek into their “real, everyday” lives. According to one respondent, Instagram Stories are for “on-the-go,” “spur-of-the-moment” content that “feels a little more genuine and lets you show off your personality in a way that’s less scripted.” Another influencer shared that she used Instagram Stories to “post anything that I’m doing or loving to show everyone the more human side of me.”
While bloggers’ profiles are typically reserved for relevant beauty or fashion-related content, they can use their Instagram Stories to post about a wider range of subjects—live unboxings of gifted products, real-time footage from their travels, outings with friends and family, or just “pictures of [their] dogs being cute.” This healthy mix of branded and non-editorial “real life” content also helps influencers maintain and grow their communities.
In Q2 (April to June) 2017, followers gravitated toward influencers who produced more unbranded content than their peers: Influencers who enjoyed the greatest quarter-over-quarter increase in follower count mentioned brands in 21% fewer posts than the slowest-growing influencers. By posting unedited, “behind-the-scenes” looks into their daily lives, influencers can connect with their followers on a more personal level and allow their communities to join them along their day-to-day adventures.
How much effort do influencers put into their posts? With permanent Instagram photos, bloggers must first think about angles, lighting, filters, and captions, and ensure that each post is “on-brand” with their overall aesthetic. In comparison, Instagram Stories require much less effort. Many respondents noted that Instagram Stories were significantly “quicker and easier” and allowed them to “share [content] immediately without too much thought.” Since Instagram Stories are typically used in a more “casual” nature for impermanent, “right here, right now” posts, they do not demand the same level of effort as photos on an influencer’s profile, and “the stress to create something perfect falls by the wayside.”
Finally, because influencers are less concerned with “over-posting” on their Stories, they can create more consistent content that not only keeps their own followers engaged, but potentially pulls in new followers from the platform’s “Explore” page. Instagram Stories also offer an opportunity for more direct engagement through features such as “Polls,” allowing followers to vote on questions posed by influencers and fostering an “ongoing dialogue” between content creators and their communities. Some respondents also believed that Instagram Stories helped them engage with brands.
One influencer shared that she always posted her PR packages on Instagram Stories “so [she] can tag the brand and they see it easier because of the DM [direct message] feature,” which immediately notifies the brand of the mention. Another respondent noted that she worked “with so many brands in different capacities” that tagging them on her Stories was “a way to make sure everyone gets seen and heard” without “oversaturating” her feed. Instagram Stories not only grant exposure to featured products or brands, but can help sustain or spark new relationships between influencers and brands.
What does this mean for brands?
It’s hard to say. While we know that influencers drive the most impact for beauty brands on Instagram and YouTube, Instagram Stories have become an increasingly popular platform for content creation—a trend that brands can and should take advantage of when interacting with influencers. Influencers who are willing to post more frequent and varied content to their Instagram Stories are also more likely to enjoy higher consumer engagement and follower count growth, marking them as promising ambassadors for brands to engage. Additionally, Instagram Stories offer new avenues of interaction between brands and influencers.
With the platform’s direct message tagging feature, brands can more easily identify and communicate with influencers who actively post about them. Brands can then highlight these influencers in their owned content, beginning a mutually reinforcing cycle of exposure and growth. (In Q2, the fastest-growing influencers were tagged by brands 120% more frequently than the slowest-growing influencers.) This opportunity for interaction helps to facilitate stronger brand-influencer relationships that can ultimately fuel lasting partnerships.
As brands come to understand how and why influencers post content to either their ephemeral Stories or permanent profiles, they can better structure their engagements with ambassadors, empowering them to create quality content for both platforms.
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