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Published May 9th 2022

Instagram Stories vs Feed: What Works Best?

Wondering how to improve your engagement on Instagram? Here's how to stay ahead of the competition.

As Instagram grows, bettering engagement on your posts is getting more complex. The ever-changing algorithm, on top of shifting user trends, makes the ability to adapt vital for businesses looking to succeed on the platform.

Here's what you need to know to stay ahead of the competition.

The algorithm

From the latest food craze to relatable memes, trends are continuously evolving on Instagram. On the other hand, the dynamic algorithm is being driven by machine learning, aiming to constantly improve to keep users on the platform for longer.

Instagram has previously shared that the most important metrics in its algorithm are likes, comments, shares, views, and saves. Essentially, the algorithm prioritizes content that receives more engagement than others.

The algorithm not only ranks content, but also determines the relationship of users based on how often they interact with each other in terms of likes, direct messages, or search intent. This means that the algorithm won’t show your content nearly as much if you don’t keep your audience interested and engaged.

The recent change to Instagram's like feature means businesses and individuals can hide the number of likes on their posts. The platform did this with the aim to “depressurize people's experience” on Instagram, giving users more control. While this is the case, the algorithm still takes these likes into account when prioritizing content.

Essentially, there's no secret 'hack' to gaining exposure on Instagram. Constantly analyzing what engages your audience, and adjusting your content to do more of what works, will certainly increase your engagement. Additionally, being aware of upcoming feature changes and understanding user intent can definitely help your account thrive. Here's what you need to know.

Recent functionality changes

This year, Meta has announced a number of functionality changes to the Instagram app. The company is constantly adapting its interface to better suit its growing user base.

Most recently, new typefaces and design layouts have come to Stories, offering new ways to show off your content.

Another recent feature is called Limits. This allows users to limit or hide comments and messages coming from users who are not on their follower list, or who have become a follower in the recent past. This aims to help companies and businesses reduce the number of offensive interactions on their page.

While these changes might seem minor, adjusting your content strategy to account for new features is a must for businesses to stay ahead of the competition.

The rise of Instagram Stories

The rise of Instagram Stories has caused a duality on the platform. While users tend to perceive feed content and Stories similarly, they also associate them with very different use cases.

For instance, people are likely to visit Instagram Stories to see timely and authentic content. They appreciate that it disappears after 24 hours, and that it helps them feel more connected to their friends and businesses they follow. Plus, the sense of urgency means people are more likely to check Stories often.

Over half of Instagram's entire user base uses Stories on a daily basis. This number has been continuously rising since 2016 when Instagram Stories were first launched. So, if you're not utilizing this Instagram feature, you risk getting left behind.

How do Stories relate to your sales cycle?

Now we know why Stories are important, we need to figure out how they fit into the sales funnel. To begin with, it's important to keep in mind that Stories are best used to target users who are in the middle of your sales funnel. Stories invite users who already follow your brand to view and engage with your content more consistently, and therefore this feature is ideal for nurturing consumers.

You can also use Stories to move consumers down your sales funnel by creating consistent and compelling story content. These should be designed to introduce followers to products, or to drive them to specific landing pages.

Bonus tip: In case you want to warm up new followers, it is a good idea to group your best Stories into highlights which can target specific topics of assumed interests.

Are feed photos dying?

The Instagram feed, or timeline, is used for a broad range of reasons. A survey carried out by Meta revealed that the most common reasons people use the feed were to find information and discover new products, brands, or accounts related to their interests.

Posting feed photos will always remain relevant for businesses, as it's an ideal way to reach new audiences. When a new potential follower arrives on your page, you need to hook them in with an exciting feed full of information-heavy, relatable content.

The Meta survey showed that 83% of people use the feed to search for new products or services while 81% use it to research products and services. So, as a business, posting this information-heavy content is a sure-fire way to stay at the forefront of customers minds.

Stories vs feed content

Now we've established that feed content and Stories are both important for your businesses, let’s sum up how they compare, and how you should use them in a tactical manner.

Feed content usually lives on your profile forever (unless deleted or archived). Knowing this, most businesses keep their feed content edited and curated in order to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible. You need to draw in costumers to encourage them to follow by posting useful, information-heaving content which adds value.

On one hand, feed content is ideal for reaching new audiences, raising brand awareness, and attracting new followers. On the other hand, Stories are short-lived and disappear after only 24 hours. Unlike the feed, Stories offer many features to invite interaction, which makes them ideal for engaging users.

In terms of aesthetics, Stories are less polished, usually raw creatives. They are often shared in the moment and therefore are more experimental.

When it comes to adopting to the duality of Instagram, brands often decide to keep their feed content curated to an editorial level, whilst creating raw and authentic Stories that help them engage with their audience on a more personal level.

Essentially, your feed posts should be designed to attract new followers to engage, learn from, and follow your brand. Stories should be to engage existing followers, share day-to-day tips and tricks, and even share time-sensitive information about your brand.

East Carolina University: The perfect example

East Carolina University (ECU) is using their Instagram feed to build their brand and showcase their highlight reel. They preserve their feed by featuring the very best of their content. Additionally, each feed post works in unison with other previous posts in the feed, to connect their content together.

In terms of creating engaging feed content, they believe it’s very important to establish their brand voice. They actively focus on approaching users through nostalgia and showing old photos of the campus, together with newer photos of the same building or monument on their campus. Finally, they use CTA messaging in order to boost engagement.

On the other hand, they use Stories to share information to their students and save this in the highlights for students to revisit. Their main audience is undergrad students, with their secondary audience being postgrad students, so they tailor their strategy in order to fit this younger demographic.

They utilize interactive story features such as polls and question stickers to engage their audience and get feedback. They also utilize countdown stickers to generate extra awareness around their events while using quiz stickers to engage their audience around specific topics. This method uses the algorithm to their advantage, as the more a user interacts with your Stories, the more you will show in their timeline.

Final thoughts

Instagram is an ever-changing platform where your ability to adapt and put out timely content is key. However, Instagram Stories have made serious advances in recent years, and not leveraging these features will put your brand at a disadvantage.

The bottom line is that you should combine the feed and Stories features in order to reach your target audiences, and engage with them in an effective manner.

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