Instagram Stories launched in August 2016 and brought a totally new approach to content on Instagram with photos, Boomerangs and videos that disappear within 24 hours of being posted.

Stories feature at the top of the Instagram app feed, making them a perfect way to keep your brand top-of-mind no matter what the Instagram algorithm is doing at the moment. Plus, since their short-term nature leads to more off-the-cuff and less exactingly curated content, they’re a great source of content that can run parallel to your grid’s brand messaging, while bringing a unique perspective.

Instagram has clearly recognized all the creative use cases people have come up for with Stories, and continues to build out features such as Stories Highlights, which lets you save a group of Stories to your profile permanently.

With this mix of unique FOMO-driven content, you probably already know Stories are an important channel to tackle as part of your Instagram strategy. The question you might be asking now is how you can track the performance of your Stories and pinpoint what people are engaging with, so you can continue to optimize your approach.

Read on to find out what the unique types of metrics for Stories are, and what they mean for your brand. We’ll also show you how you can easily report on them using Sprout.

Understanding Stories metrics

Stories don’t have likes, comments, and saves as Instagram posts do. Instead, they offer their own set of ways to interact:

  • Taps Forward: The number of times a viewer tapped the right side of the screen to go to the next story.
  • Taps Backward: The number of times a viewer tapped the left side of the screen to rewatch the previous story.
  • Exits: The number of times a viewer swipes down to stop watching stories and go back to the main feed.
  • Replies: The number of times a viewer swipes up and responds to a story. The reply feature starts a direct message conversation between you and the viewer.

Stories also come with their own daily unique reach and impressions, letting you understand how broadly your stories are being seen.

Using Stories data to build a winning strategy

Is your audience consuming Stories?

The first question you should ask is whether or not your audience is interested in watching Stories at all. While they’re highly visible on Instagram, they’re also certainly more suited to certain types of brands and topics than others. Either way, you can get a feel for how motivated your audience is to consume Stories by reviewing their reach.

You can find this metric in Sprout either at a message level in the Sent Message report, or at a profile level in your Instagram Profile Report. This latter view is a great way of getting an overall feel for whether your audience is interested in Stories

If you’re new to Instagram Stories, look for daily unique reach to be trending upward. This means that there may be opportunity for growth in your story strategy.

Which Stories are resonating most with your audience?

Once you’ve validated that Stories is an area where you want to invest marketing efforts, you’ll want to refine your content strategy. Looking at impressions and interactions from Stories will help you identify what’s working best. Analyze your top stories to see if there are concepts, copy, or creative material they all have in common. You can see message-level data in your Instagram Insights, or in your Sprout Sent Messages report to compare what’s working.

Next, look at interactions to get a feel for how your audience is motivated to engage with your content. Since the interactions for Stories are fairly unique compared to the standard Instagram feed, or even other social platforms, you want to consider the different implications each action could have.

Why does your Instagram Stories audience tap back?

Taps back don’t necessarily indicate a negative–in fact, they typically show that your content was so interesting that the audience wanted a second look.

While that might sound like there’s not much to change, there are a few takeaways you can glean from taps back, and they mostly center on being conscious of how much your audience can absorb during a Story’s short display time frame:

  • If you packed too much text into a specific frame of your Story and it’s getting lot of taps back, you might want to space out that content over multiple images so people have more reading time.
  • If you posted a video and it wasn’t clear it needed sound, people might be tapping back to restart.
    • Consider either signaling that sound should be on with a sticker or emoji on the frame that leads in to the video, or offering an option such as captioning or a CTA that summarizes the takeaway without sound.
  • If you included a clickable element like a poll, make sure you didn’t place it so far to the left that it’s causing accidental tap backs.
  • You also want polls to be extremely obvious when they’re featured–don’t include a lot of introductory text on the same slide so that readers have to figure out what the poll is with one read-through, then tap back again to actually vote.
    • Again, lead up to a frame that features only the poll by spacing out how you use text across multiple images in your Story.

What about Story replies, taps forward and exits?

After getting a feel for what your audience liked enough to tap back on, look at replies, which can be considered the most powerful type of interactions. Users who reply to your story are passionate enough to invest the time drafting a comment. Use replies as a source for influencers and co-marketing opportunities.

To see what’s not working in your Stories, take a look at taps forward and exits. Taps forward tend to indicate that your audience wants to skip your content for some reason. This may be because an image does not resonate with them or a video is too long. Exits are the biggest form of negative feedback–these users decided to ditch Stories altogether and return to the grid. While a few people might be exiting just because they’re done for the moment, look at Stories with a large number of exits and evaluate what they have in common and try to minimize those features.

How are Stories impacting your post engagement?

Whenever you’re trying out something new on social, you should keep an eye on how it’s impacting other areas of your social strategy. In the case of Instagram Stories, evaluate how the creation of Stories is impacting your post engagements. If you find that your post engagements are decreasing but your Stories interactions are not increasing proportionately, you may want to shift some efforts back to your post strategy.

How are Stories impacting your audience growth?

As with engagement, you’ll want to evaluate the impact of Stories on your audience size and audience growth. Do you see a larger number of followers lost on days you post stories? If you see more followers gained, it may mean that more of your target audience has adopted Stories, and you may want to invest more resources.

Find out how you can delve into your Stories analytics and figure out what works with a free trial of Sprout Social.