Followers and engagement

How to Use Instagram Stories to Gain Followers

  • 13 Minutes
Stories can capture followers like crazy - here's how you can use your short-form videos on Instagram to boost your follower count.

24 hours and they’re gone! 

Can a fleeting, temporary content format like Instagram Stories really help you gain more followers?

You already know we’re going to say a big, fat YES! 

14 Instagram Stories Best Practices to Get More Followers

So how do you use Instagram stories to reach your target market and increase your follower count? Let’s find out.

1. Work the Instagram algorithm

The Insta algorithm is the system behind-the-scenes that ranks and controls which content appears on a user’s Instagram feed, which Reel goes viral and appears on the explore page, and which Story shows .up first in line.

It’s the “secret” to going viral that nobody really knows, but everyone is always trying to win at. So, if you want to put your IG stories to work to gain new audiences, it makes sense for you to understand how the algorithm works for Stories.

The algorithm uses several ranking factors to assess content across the platform—Stories included. This considers information about the content, about the poster, a user’s activity on Instagram, and their history of interaction with the poster. The quality of content and timeliness of it also factor in, and all of these combined, determine whether your Story shows up first (or close to the front) of your followers’ feeds.

If you want to learn more about the algo, get all your story algorithm questions answered here. 

2. Create engaging content

We know you’ve heard this eleventy-billion times already, but engaging content is still *everything* on social media. Whether it’s Instagram Reels or TikTok, a tweet, or Instagram stories content—creating awesome content should be the cornerstone of your social media marketing strategy.

Creative, interesting, and useful content is crucial for making the algorithm work in your favor as well. After all, an account with a good engagement rate is an unmistakable signal to the algorithm that its followers enjoy the content.

As the account owner, engagement rate is the best metric for your Instagram business account to track if you truly want to understand which content resonates with your target audience.

Over 500 million accounts use Instagram Stories every day. In Instagram’s own words, “Stories give people the power to communicate creatively and easily interact.” 

Stories content can be a lot more “casual” and less polished than other types of Insta content. Your goal here is to tell a story for your brand and engage with your audience in an authentic way.

Make use of stickers, ask questions or maybe even host a quiz—more on these below in point 4. Have fun with Boomerangs or add GIFs to your Stories. Host takeovers, partner with influencers, or share more user-generated content. You can do so much to make your IG Stories more engaging. 

You’ll find lots more advice on engaging content in the sections below. Also, check out these 21 interaction post ideas to boost your engagement rates

3. Optimize your content with templates

One of those Insta story content hacks that brands love is a template. Templates can give your Stories the ‘wow’ factor without having to create them from scratch. Plus, it’s a simple but effective way to stay on-brand to include branded elements in Stories without having to customize elements each and every time you post.

For your followers—existing and new—this creates a consistent, quality brand experience. And, having templates handy allow you to post more content more often. More content on Stories = more eyeballs = more followers. 

You can easily create Story templates on Canva or other apps. @showpo makes great use of templates in its Stories. 

4. Use stickers

Stickers are probably one of the most fun (and useful) product features on Instagram Stories. After uploading your photo or video to Stories, tap the square smiley icon at the top to begin adding stickers to your Stories. 

If it’s not apparent already, stickers help you make your Stories more engaging, which in turn helps to expand their reach to hopefully more new followers.

You can choose from:

  • Poll stickers: great for a quick quiz.
  • Question stickers: great for feedback.
  • Location stickers: great for adding a location tag.
  • Countdown sticker: great for creating hype for an upcoming product launch or event
  • Emoji stickers: great for well, expressing emotions.
  • Link stickers: great for linking to websites off Instagram.
  • + many more

For more on Story stickers, check out:

5. Invite interaction

Stickers aren’t the only way to get your followers to interact with you. For example, if you’re posting a video, directly talking to your audience—ask them questions. Be specific. Ask for feedback. It doesn’t always have to be something serious but talk as if you’re talking to a friend and invite responses via direct messages.

DMs are a very straightforward feature, and you may be surprised to see how many people respond to your Stories if you only ask! 

6. Add hashtags to your stories

Don’t worry; we didn’t forget the hashtag stickers above. Hashtags are so important for Instagram marketing that they deserve their own bullet point.

Use hashtags for Instagram Stories. You don’t need to add 20 hashtags as you would for an Instagram post, but you still need to add one or two to your Stories. 

After you tag your Stories with a hashtag sticker, you’ll be able to tap the tag to see a page that shows all photos and videos people have uploaded with that hashtag. This means anyone on Instagram can also see your Stories within this hashtag—and if they like what they see, they might just come follow your account!

7. Mention other accounts

You’ve probably seen influencers and other creators use this tactic a lot on their Stories. And guess what? It works!

For example, if you shared a Story of your daily behind-the-scenes, you could use the mention sticker to tag the brands for any products or services you may have used during your day. 

Tagging the brand will send them a notification in their DMs, and if they like what they see, they may just share it to their own Stories—which is a huge win! This will expose you to a whole bunch of new Instagram users turned potential new followers.

Not every brand will do this, of course. Smaller brands are more likely to do this than huge multinationals, so choose your tags strategically to maximize your opportunities for a reshare.

Don’t tag brands and influencers in random posts that have nothing to do with them. This will only annoy them. Tag them only when it’s relevant and makes sense to do so.

8. Participate in an Instagram account takeover

Instagram takeovers are another clever way to introduce yourself to Instagram users on someone else’s account. Look out for accounts that do takeovers—and are relevant for your brand—and ask if you can take over their account. This would be a great opportunity for new Instagram users to see you and learn a bit about you and your brand.

You can also host Instagram takeovers on your own brand account. Invite influencers or other content creators to take over your page. Usually, this means they will share about the takeover with their own followers, which will hopefully lead them to follow you. 

9. Go live more often

Nothing quite beats real-time interaction with the “fans.” Instagram Live is a great way to host a live stream and interact with your audience through their comments.

When you go live, your account shows up first in the list of Stories at the top of the feed for your followers—which is excellent for more visibility. If you host a Live in collaboration with another brand or influencer, you’re exposing your account to new followers once again. 

For brands, the most common approach to a live video is an interview, a Q&A, or even a behind-the-scenes broadcast of an event. But you could do much more. You could also collaborate with other brands or influencers to go live. You could host instructional videos or a live event such as a live meditation or yoga class. Be creative!

Once your Live is over, it will still appear in your Stories for 24 hours, after which you can always save it to your highlights if you like.

10. Offer a subscription to your account

At the time of writing, Instagram is testing a new Subscriptions feature that allows creators to charge their followers for exclusive content like Instagram live videos and Stories. 

“With Instagram Subscriptions, creators can develop deeper connections with their most engaged followers and grow their recurring monthly income by giving subscribers access to exclusive content and benefits.”

As a creator, you will be able to set a monthly subscription fee. In return, you can subscribers will receive benefits such as:

  • Subscriber Lives: Creators can broadcast exclusive Lives to their subscribers, allowing them to engage more deeply.
  • Subscriber Stories: Creators can create stories just for their subscribers, allowing them to share exclusive content and to use interactive story stickers with their most engaged followers only.
  • Subscriber Badges: Creators will see a subscriber badge next to comments and messages so they can easily identify their subscribers.

This is still a relatively new feature, but one that a lot of content creators are excited to try out. If it’s something that interests you, keep an account on the Instagram blog and the @creators Instagram account for more updates.

11. Invest in Instagram story ads

If all else fails, run ads. We’re kidding! Ads are great, and Story ads— integrated between regular Stories, which makes them look like normal Stories—can be compelling for generating leads, driving sales and traffic, and gaining new followers too.

Here’s an example of a Story ad from @larkdistillery.

How do you get someone interested in 5 seconds and encourage them to keep watching and head to your page? Learn more with our ultimate guide to Instagram Story Ads.

12. Cross-promote on Instagram posts

Cross-promoting one type of content via another type of Insta content can be very useful. If you’re posting something on Stories that you want to get more eyeballs on, create an Instagram post.

These can be great if you’re going behind-the-scenes, launching a new product on Stories, or doing a series. You can even use it to draw attention to your Stories if you’re sharing something important.

Create an Instagram post letting your followers know more about what you will be sharing more on Stories (or have already shared.) It sort of acts as a “sneak peek” and encourages them to check out more on your Stories.

Here’s an example of how to do this from @legalnomads

13. Save your content in story highlights

Adding your Stories to highlights helps increase their visibility and further enhances their reach. Highlights are also great for saving content that can be useful for your audience over and over.

Lifestyle influencer @genevavanderzeil saves her how-to-DIY Stories in her highlights so her followers can easily access it whenever they like. Her posts and Reels frequently go viral and draw in new followers. 

When they arrive on her page, her highlights showcase all her recent projects, making it easy for the new followers to follow along even if after the original Story has long expired.

14. Pay attention to your Instagram stories analytics

Your Instagram metrics will tell you a lot about your content—what’s working and what’s tanking. This will help make future decisions about your content and general approach to IG Stories.

The Instagram app comes pre-loaded with Instagram insights for business and creator accounts. This data allows you to dive into the data and understand the performance of your Stories better (within 14 days of posting). 

While Instagram Insights are great, they can sometimes be limiting for brands looking for a bit more. Sked Social’s robust analytics features pull all your Instagram data into one centralized platform and deliver what you most need – insights! With Sked, you can see in-depth Story analytics such as reach, impressions, completion rate, taps back/forward, replies, exits, and plenty more! 

Drive Traffic and Sales from Instagram Stories 

As you start implementing the above best practices, you’ll likely see a bump in engagement and a boost in your follower count. Don’t let this hard work go to waste! Brand awareness is great but make sure you also start using your IG Stories to direct your followers to where you want them to go—like your website, a blog, or your online store. 

The old Swipe Up is no more, and adding links to IG stories is now available to everyone. At long last! You can link to a blog post or even a product—choose whatever is relevant to your Story. Take full advantage of this feature to drive traffic back to where you want them to go.

Use product tags 

Are you showcasing a new product on your Stories? Take advantage of the product tags available to creators and Instagram business accounts. Simply add a link to your product within your Story, and those watching can click through and learn more about your product via Instagram shopping or make a purchase.

The Super Power Your Instagram Stories Need

So, you get it; Stories can be powerful and help you attract more followers to your Instagram account. However, Stories only last for 24 hours on your Instagram account before you have to come up with something brand new to post for your next story. We get it; it can be exhausting!

Sked Social is the superhero every social media manager needs to save them from the death grip of the constant content cycle of Instagram.

How? By scheduling and automagically posting your Stories content for you—even if you’re asleep. 

As we like to say (yes, we are, in fact quoting ourselves!), “we are the OG story scheduling tool—and we automatically post for you. No notifications or reminders needed, unlike scheduling tools from the 16th century.”

Learning how to schedule Instagram Stories (and other types of content) is the easiest way to save time and regain your sanity. Plus, uploading your stories in bulk is the best way to batch your work and nix the daily stress of worrying about what to share and when to post Stories. 

Spend your valuable time doing better things like coming up with awesome new content ideas, optimizing your marketing strategy, and maybe sleeping too.

Learn more about how Sked can help you supercharge your Stories (and more!) with a free 7-day trial today.

Photo of Photo of Kyra Goodman

Kyra is a Junior Marketing Manager and "Spicy Meme Master" at Sked Social who loves to create content. Born and raised in Hawaii, her favorite things are traveling, yoga, beaching, coffee and baseball. Connect with her on twitter at @kyra_n_goodman.

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