Instagram is one of the most popular social media sites on the web. With hundreds of millions of daily users, it’s the best place to share photos and videos online. And one of the most popular features is the Instagram story.
Stories were first released in 2016, and became an instant hit. These days, there are more than 500 million people posting stories every day, with more than 1 billion daily stories. Stories are limited to 15 seconds in length, and disappear automatically after 24 hours. This makes them a powerful tool if you want a “live” feel to your content.
Stories are also easy to access. They’re prominently displayed on the page and simple to navigate. With one click, you can see what’s going on with someone without even visiting their profile. Better yet, you can watch all of your friends’ stories in the order they’re displayed. As a result, you can catch up with everyone at once in just a few minutes.
This has been incredibly attractive to brands. The average business with an Instagram story posts 2.5 times per week. On average, these stories have a 62% click-through rate, which is absolutely insane. No other online advertising comes anywhere close to that level of return.
A big part of this is Instagram’s social nature. The only people who will see your story are people who have already followed your page. In other words, you’re advertising to an audience that’s already interested.
Along the same lines, you won’t be able to see other people’s stories unless you’re following them. If you’re not sure whether you’ve requested to follow somebody, there’s a way to find out. Check our guide in the previous link.
Want to know how Instagram stories are ordered, and how yours can be closer to the top in someone’s feed? Keep reading to learn more.
Instagram Story Order Basics
The order in which Instagram stories are listed is a closely-guarded secret. This is par for the course with any social media algorithm. Sites are already in a constant war against bots, and letting people know the algorithm would make things worse. In fact, a big part of the algorithm is identifying and suppressing bots and promoting real people.
That said, independent researchers – meaning “people on the internet” – have done their own research. While the algorithm is still a mystery, stories seem to show up based on a person’s interests.
If you frequently interact with another person’s content, their stories will show up early in your list. The same is true if you view their story a lot, even if you don’t interact. Instagram will know that you’re interested from your views alone.
How to Make Instagram’s Algorithm Work For You
So, how do you use Instagram’s mysterious algorithm to your advantage? As we’ve discussed, it’s impossible to tell for sure. But since we know that story order is influenced by engagement and general interest. In other words, you need to find some way to grab your followers’ attention.
This might sound like useless advice, like telling someone to just “do better.” Thankfully, Instagram gives you plenty of tools to drive engagement. You just need to use those tools to best advantage.
One of the most powerful tools was the Swipe Up feature. This was a tool for brands and influencers with 10,000 or more followers. You could publish a story directly to your followers’ feed, and they’d get a notification that said “Swipe up.” This was an easy way to get tons of eyeballs in a hurry. It also saved you from putting “link in bio” captions on your videos.
Unfortunately, Instagram abandoned this feature in August of 2021. They replaced it with the Link Sticker, which is a bit weaker but still effective. And there are still other ways to drive more engagement. Let’s talk about some of those.
1. Instagram Link Sticker
As we mentioned, Instagram replaced their Swipe Up feature with the Link Sticker feature. A Link Sticker goes directly into your story, and can be placed wherever you like, just like a regular sticker. The difference is that it provides a link to your website or other content. It even shows a little preview so followers will know what they’re clicking on.
These won’t go straight into your followers notification like a Swipe Up link will. But anyone can use them, no matter how few followers they have. This makes them a powerful tool for creators who are just getting started. If you can’t access Link Stickers, contact Instagram support. The rollout was slow, but everyone should have access by now. If you’re not sure how to use this feature, here’s a quick overview:
- Open the Instagram app, and press the blue plus sign at the top right of the screen.
- Press the middle record button to create a photo or video on the spot. Or, scroll through your gallery and select a pre-existing photo or video.
- Select the sticker icon at the top of the screen to bring up the sticker menu. Choose the link sticker.
- Copy and paste your link into the field, and tap the sticker to customize the text and color.
- Post your story. At that point, all your followers will get a link directly to your website.
2. Consistently Post Quality Content
Like any social media platform, Instagram has all kinds of content. With more than 500 million people updating their stories everyday, that’s a lot of competition. If your account is idle for days or weeks, don’t expect many people to notice. Unless they’re close friends or family, they’ll just move on to something else.
If you want to drive engagement, you need to constantly be active. This doesn’t necessarily mean posting every single day. But you’ll need to post once or twice a week just to tread water. If you actually want to gain followers, you should post a minimum of three times a week.
And remember, content is king. If you’re putting out low-quality photos and poorly-edited videos, people will notice. Take the time to create pictures and videos you can be truly proud of.
3. Post Questions, Polls, and Quizzes
A lot of people get hung up on the “media” part of social media and forget about the social aspect. Good-looking photos and high-quality videos aren’t the only way to build your audience. People are also attracted to interactive content that they can engage with.
Consider posting questions, polls, and quizzes to your story. Not only will you gain engagement, but you’ll get the benefit of feedback from your followers. For brands in particular, this can be incredibly useful.
4. Take Advantage of Hashtags
Like Twitter and other social media platforms, Instagram also makes use of hashtags. Popular hashtags can “trend,” which means they’re feature on the main page. You can use this in a couple of ways.
First, you can create your own hashtag, and encourage your followers to use it. The odds that you’ll trend are small. But if nothing else, you’ll make your posts and stories more searchable.
Second, you can use hashtags that are already trending.
Just make sure to do your research, since this can backfire spectacularly. A few years back, domestic violence survivors started using the hashtag “#WhyIStayed.” Someone at the official DiGiorno Pizza Twitter account saw the hashtag trending, and didn’t do their research. The result? A now-infamous tweet that read: “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” Needless to say, that tweet went over like a lead balloon.
5. Tag Other Instagram Users
If you want your account to be more visible, tag other Instagram users in your posts. By tagging another account, you’ll also show up in their followers’ feeds. Make sure to keep tags relevant, though, and not to abuse them. If you just start tagging random celebrities, all you’ll get is a block.
If you can’t tag somebody, see if you can find their account. Look through your direct messages for your most recent chat. If it says “Instagram User” instead of their name, the person might have blocked you. Their account may also be temporarily disabled or permanently deleted.
Tagging locations can also be helpful. When someone looks up that same location, your story or post will show up.
6. Offer Free Giveaways
Free giveaways are an easy way for brands to gain engagement. Offer free perks or contest entries for anyone who shares your posts. This might sound expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. All but the most expensive “best prizes” will cost way less than a full-on ad campaign.
As you can see, Instagram story order is incredibly important for businesses and influencers. Fall near the bottom, and you won’t get engagement. Rise to the top, and more people will see you. By driving engagement in other ways, you can keep your story near the top of people’s lists.
This leads to a virtuous cycle. More visibility means more engagement, and that engagement leads to even more visibility. Soon, you’ll be in more people’s feeds than you know what to do with.