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Instagram Stories

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

Before we go, a huge shoutout to Delmondo for helping us put together one of the largest Instagram Stories studies to date. If you’d like to learn more about all of the in-depth stories analytics and insights their platform provides, check them out at www.delmondo.co.

Tell them Brian sent you!

Over to you

I’d love to hear from you!

How are you feeling about your Instagram Stories strategy moving forward? Are you excited for the future of stories in general? What experiments do you plan on trying first?

Feel free to drop me a comment or question below about the data in this study or just to say “hello.”

I’m looking forward to chatting about this Instagram Stories research so that we can all learn from each other!

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