There’s been a lot of conversation lately, and let’s be real straight panic, about changes at Instagram and fears of decreased reach. Hands up if you’ve seen people stressing out and throwing up posts about how organic reach is only 6 or 7% now?! 🙋🏼🙋🏼🙋🏼That’s what I thought. Well, one that’s not entirely true and two, even if it was you shouldn’t be freaking out. #Realtalk, social media is constantly evolving and if you want to have continued success then your strategy needs to too. Trust us, we’ve been working in the industry for the last decade! That’s right 10 whole years and you can bet our strategies for clients today are a heck of a lot different than they were back then.
Now we get it, changes can be scary and it can seem exceptionally scary when you notice a drop in your engagement on posts, but there is a lot more going on than Instagram just hiding your posts from people. So here’s a peek at some of the things that are impacting some people’s reach and engagement.
1.) Instagram has really put the hammer down on people using fake followers and fake engagement services. They haven’t been able to totally eradicate the problem yet but they’ve made some serious progress. This matters because a lot of these services were designed to comment or like posts using specific hashtags. So a lot of your likes on posts were actually being inflated by these services even though you weren’t using them. With more of those services being shut down, it’s likely you’ve seen less likes from those and those dang annoying spam comments!
2.) We’re using the platform differently than we used to a few years ago. Instagram Stories have really taken off and now there are a lot of users who are exclusively opening the app and watching stories instead of scrolling through the feed or spending a lot more time in Stories than they did before. This doesn’t mean the grid doesn’t matter anymore, it just means that Stories are even more important today than ever.
3.) Because of the algorithm, content is actually lasting longer which may adjust the rate of likes you get because people aren’t seeing them immediately. Overall they still may be down a little due to the above points, but go back and look at your posts from a few days or even a week ago. Chances are they ended up doing better than you may have thought because people are seeing them over a longer period of time. Which means you can post a little less in the grid than a few years ago and balance the time you spend on Stories or your engagement strategy.
So yes, there have been changes, but spoiler there’s always going to be changes. That doesn’t mean that you still can’t be wildly successful on the platform either, YOU CAN! Just what you were doing a few years ago or even 6-months ago might not cut it anymore. So today I’m dishing some actionable advice on how you can refresh your strategy specifically focusing on Instagram Stories because as you see from above, there is some serioussss opportunity there!
Focus on Engagement
I know you’ve probably heard this before but your follower numbers are WAY more of a vanity metric than a sign of success. And while the algorithm may have changed things a bit over the last few years, the truth is all of your followers were NEVER seeing all of your content. Here’s a little secret though, and NO algorithm change will ever affect this strategy…. If you want more people to see your posts then you NEED to focus on engaging with others. Seriously, there’s no better way to get people to take a look at your content than posting authentic and genuine comments on other people’s posts or replying to their stories. Social media is about building relationships so if you want people to give a hoot about what you’re posting then you have to put in some time! Quit posting, and running… That’s not going to get you where you want, especially in today’s landscape. Engagement is gold and this also goes for the content you’re creating.
If you want people to talk to you or engage with you then you need to give them the opportunity to do so! A few good ways to do this through Stories is:
Use the questions feature and host a Q&A
Ask for feedback at the end of your Stories
Share your latest grid post on Stories and ask a question and ask your followers to go to your grid and share with you
Create polls in your stories relating to your content — they don’t always have to be serious either you can have fun with these!
When you’re providing a balance of quality content and also giving people prompts to talk to you, you’re opening the door of communication. Social media should be social so make sure you’re making an effort to include your audience instead of always just talking at them.
Get Yo’ Face on Camera
If you haven’t already, it’s time to get your face on camera — especially if you’re a small business or brand. It’s a little different if you are (or are managing) a bigger brand’s presence, but for the sake of today’s post we’re going to focus on small biz owners. That being said, if you haven’t jumped on this train, now is the time. Even if it can be a little scary. Remember how we talked earlier about how social media is about building relationships?! Well, there’s no better way to showcase your expertise, highlight things you like and let your personality shine than showing up on Stories. This is even more important in the service industry. People want to hire people they vibe with and Instagram Stories allows you to connect with others without even having to set up a one-on-one and showing your face can really make an impact.
Think Ahead When it Comes to Your Message
Something we really love about Instagram Stories are they are a little more off the cuff than the grid and we think you should keep them that way! When we’re talking about planning on Stories we’re talking about being strategic and thinking ahead about your messaging. Not everything has to have a message — sometimes funny ish will just come up in the day that you want to share — but try and think ahead when it comes to the bigger picture. So what exactly does that mean? Well, one of the things we hear the most from people about why they aren’t using Stories, or aren’t using them regularly is because they don’t know what to post. We get it, it can be daunting and sometimes it feels like just “another thing you have to do”. So instead of always having to come up with something to post, have a brainstorming session — either weekly or monthly. What are 5 things that you are super passionate about? Or how about things you want to share your expertise on? What types of activities do you do regularly at your business? Just as we suggest having content categories for your planned posts, having a list of categories you can talk about will make the process much easier! Unlike content categories for your planned posts, you don’t have to be as rigid about them on Stories — remember we like that off the cuff vibe! But, having a list of things you are super passionate about or could talk about will make doing Stories so much easier when you’re drawing a blank.
Another aspect of planning is on the smaller scale and that’s making sure there’s a clear message or CTA or both in each series you post. Some days you might just have a segment or two but others when you do more elaborate posts, make sure your messaging is clear! Storyboarding your messaging can be a great way to think ahead and include your intro, your key points, and end with a CTA or clear action point you want to share. By thinking ahead and even writing some bullet points down before, you can go into your stories more focused. Especially now that Instagram has the ongoing video option because it’s a heck of a lot easier to ramble on and suddenly have a 15-part video now. 😱#GuiltyAsCharged So think ahead and get concise because the longer your video is and the more segments it has the less likely someone will make it to the end. Which btw, we like to suggest 5 parts or less on average 10 at max for longer series.
Integrate text into your posts
You’d be surprised by how many people scroll through Stories with their sound off. But Anna, you just told me to get my face on camera and start talking to the people! What gives if they aren’t listening?! I hear you. So it’s still super important because seeing your face will always be gold but here is another pro tip. When you add a new series of Instagram Stories, add a text summary or write out the key point on each segment. Not only will this allow people watching without the sound on to still get the point of what you’re talking about, but it will also nail in your key points to those actually listening. You don’t need to write a novel on these but a quick summary sentence or some bullets can be a great way to tie everything together.
Another idea is to integrate text graphics in between or at the end of yours series. For example, if you decide to do a mini series on 3 things you can do to make your homepage more appealing to visitors, you may want to talk about it in the first portion and then end it with a slide that has those 3 bullets summarized. Doing so, also allows people to screenshot your summary or send it to someone else if they want to apply or share your advice.
Take Advantage of Instagram’s Built-In Features
Instagram is constantly rolling out new features and there’s some really great options to make your Stories even more fun and engaging! Here are a few of our favorites and how you might want to use them:
Gifs: gifs always make Instagram Stories better IMO! There’s no real functionality or optimization perk here, just good ol’ fun.
Questions: If you’re looking for an easy way to ask your audience to engage with you, questions is the way to go! It’s a great way to ask people specifically if there’s something they’d like to ask you about, submit feedback or just answer simple questions right from your stories.
Poll: This is another really easy engagement tactic for your audience that can be used to see what people are more interested in or get their opinion on things.
Countdown: If you have something exciting coming up this is an awesomeee one. Not only is it a fun feature visually, but people who watch your story can actually turn on reminders about your timeline and share it in their stories. Score!
Location or Hashtag: Now you don’t have to go hashtag crazy here but adding a tag or location tag when it makes sense can really increase the reach of your posts. This has especially been helpful for us when Mallory is hosting a local workshop in Raleigh or if our clients are at a trade show or something location specific.
If you use one of these features just make sure they’re also more centrally located on your story. If you have them too far to the right or left, it may cause users to swipe to the next story which kind of defeats the point of what you’re after.
Down to the last tip of the day, be consistent! You want people to keep seeing your Stories (and hopefully your pretty little face) pop up. Repetition is key and the more times you pop up in others’ feeds, the better the chance you’ll further connect with your followers and they’ll pay attention to your content. Plus, when people watch your Stories on a regular basis, your content will show up closer to the front of the line. There’s a reason you generally see your best friends or favorite brands at the beginning of your Stories line-up. That algorithm thing is in action here too!
The other part about being consistent is for straight practice! If putting your face in front of the camera is scary, do it more! The more you do it, likely the less scary it will get. Chances are you’re going to get a lot more comfortable with it and better at streamlining your messaging and presentation. Plus, the more you do it, the better you’ll get at brainstorming content as well as finding out what kind of content resonates best with your audience. And often it’s not what you think! True story, some of our most engaging Stories have been silly things I thought weren’t that important but decided to share anyways and spoilerrrrr, people ended up loving them. Like most things in social media, consistency is key and once it’s more of a habit it will feel much less like a chore.
I hope this post was helpful and can’t wait to see how you put this advice to good use! As always, drop any questions you have in the comments section or send us a note for how we can help further! Or bonus, connect with us on Instagram so we can see how you put these tips into action!