Stories on Instagram have proven to be a useful and high-reach channel, as shown by the large benchmarking of story metrics. However, social media managers keep asking themselves one question: How long should a story be? If you publish many Instagram Stories per day, they will be grouped and shown one after the other. Does this chaining of Stories have an influence on the reach and when do followers become annoyed? Fanpage Karma has reviewed 5 million Stories from February 2019 and comes to surprising results.
The length of the Stories has a statistically relevant impact on the behavior of users and the reach. The following findings are particularly striking:
- Longer Stories reach more followers than shorter ones.
- Most users decide in the first few frames of a story whether they will continue to watch.
- The exit rate of users decreases with every frame.
- At the end of a story of 20 frames, 56% of the users are still there.
- Single-frame Stories are rare and more likely to be found on smaller profiles.
- Videos are more suitable for short Stories and pictures for longer ones.
Stories Tend to be Grouped
Stories have a lifespan of 24 hours. If an Instagram profile posts multiple Stories per day, they are grouped and played in sequence, starting with the oldest story. This results in a large story of several frames. The Stories are then no longer individual but a part of a group. This has implications for their reach and user behavior, as the study will show.
These effects affect most Stories. As the following graphic illustrates, single Stories comprising only one frame are not common and mostly found in very small profiles. Even with profiles of 1,000 or more followers, 62% of the Stories comprise more than one frame. For very large profiles, only less than one-fifth of Stories are loners.
To pinpoint the impact of the length of a story, it was important to ensure that the users had to see all frames at once. For this purpose, the frames could not be too far apart in time, as this would have meant that some users could only see the first or the last part of these Stories. To exclude these effects, only the Stories whose single frames were published within 10 minutes were examined for the detailed analysis. The results are meaningful and can be easily transferred to the Stories of all types and lengths.
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The Fear of Losing You
On Instagram, the user always has the option to swipe away the complete group of Stories (the so-called Exit). Like the sword of Damocles, this danger is an imminent threat to the reach of every single frame: once driven away, the user will no longer see the frames at the end of the story and their content will never reach them. On average, about 5% of Stories are swiped away. Upon first glance, this seems to be an acceptably low value. However, this is the overall average of the exit rates of all individual frames. Upon further consideration, there is an interesting detail.
The exit rate is the highest in the first frame of a story. 8% of the users decide here that they do not want to continue watching. In the second frame, the exit rate drops to 3%. Indeed, it increasingly declines while the user dives into the story. At first, the results seem counterintuitive. You might have thought that with every additional frame the exit rate increases, but exactly the opposite is the case. The users who are not interested in the content of the story leave it early, leaving only those who really care about the story.
However, the decrease in the exit rate per frame must not hide the fact that longer Stories continuously lose followers. After only five frames, only 80% of the users who were reached at the beginning of the story are still watching. After 20 frames, there are only 56% remaining. On a positive note, one could also say that more than half of the users endure a story with more than 20 frames and still have not swiped on. Depending on what you want to achieve, this could also be an amazingly good value. One thing is clear: anyone who wants to deliver an important message via a story has to put this message at the very beginning.
The Type Makes a Difference
There is an interesting difference in the types of frames. A story can comprise individual pictures or videos. Especially at the beginning, videos are swiped away much less commonly. On the other hand, this changes the longer that a story becomes. As the number of frames increases, users tend to linger if the Stories comprise images, which is easy to understand. On the one hand, pictures are only 5 seconds long, whereas videos are 15 seconds long. A story with five frames comprising pictures is 25 seconds long, while the same story with videos takes 1:15 minutes, which is an eternity on social media. On the other hand, the user is ready to pay a little more attention to a video at the beginning, because in contrast to the picture something exciting could happen later on. These two effects explain the different courses of crash rates at different times.
Reach is Rising
The most amazing finding is that the length of the story correlates with the reach of the entire story. Only the reach of the very first frame was compared, because from there the users decide themselves whether they exit or stay. They have very little control over the first frame, which is presented to them by the Instagram algorithm.
Indeed, the effect is positive. Aside from very large profiles, a story with many frames reaches more users than one with fewer frames. The start of a story is seen by more users if it has more frames. This is an interesting effect, since the user has no influence on it.
Stories are a suitable way to share even longer content. The amount of Instagram Stories per day has no negative impact on how many users are reached with the story, indeed rather the opposite applies. Nevertheless, one must be aware that many users cancel the consumption of the story. Therefore, Stories should always start with the most important or compelling content snippets.
What you might want to do now
1. Create longer Stories.
2. Put the strongest, funniest and most important frame at the beginning.
3. Start with a video.
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