Social Media

20 Ways to Use Instagram Stories to Increase Engagement

Tara Purswani
min read
20 Ways to Use Instagram Stories to Increase Engagement

Instagram Stories are becoming a necessary part of any social media marketing content strategy. Immersive and highly consumable, they take up every pixel of real estate on a smartphone. 

There are many ways to measure how successful Stories are—impressions, reach, taps forward, taps back, swipe away, exits, and next story metrics. These data measure how engaged people are with your content. Engagement is the holy grail of every social media strategy. 

Part of engagement is interaction. Ideally, you want to get users to take an action such as visit profile, click link, reply, or share. Interaction is the ultimate form of engagement, and proves your strategy is successful. I’ll show you some ways to boost engagement, especially interaction, through IG Stories.

Organize archived Stories into Highlights

Instagram has improved the function of the Stories feature so users have more options for interacting with it. Typically, Stories are destined to self-destruct within 24 hours, generating FOMO as a motivation for viewing. But, Stories can be archived and categorized for later viewing and reference.

Smart creators, brands, and social media managers are taking advantage of the IG Highlights feature to bring evergreen value to their Stories content. Highlights present an opportunity to showcase facets of your brand on your social media profile.

UNUM Stories

Each category operates like a menu on a website, offering a directory of content sorted by type, topic, or event. A group of related Stories should be easy to find. An example of Stories Highlights categories could include: 

  • Products
  • Shops
  • Events/Travel
  • Tips & Tricks/Recipes
  • Podcast
  • Community/HQ
  • Challenge

Each category should be cleverly branded with an album cover and unique name. Create professionally-designed distinctive assets to make it easy to see how content is sorted.

Stories-worthy content

Before we dive into creative ways to boost engagement, let’s begin by making sure you’re familiar with the type of content featured in Stories. As a general rule of thumb, Stories should be one or more of the following: minimally staged, impromptu, exclusive, intimate, or bite-sized.

For more best practices, check out Why Instagram Stories Should Be a Part of Your Content Strategy

Now, let’s take a look at some truly creative ways to get followers interacting with your Stories!

Engagement ideas

User-generated content

UGC is the most authentic, unscripted content you can get your hands on, so it makes the most sense to add it to your stories queue, rather than clog up the feed. Content created by users inspires credibility and trust for your brand. 

There are 4 ways to obtain user generated content: challenges, movements, communities,and reviews. (We’ve listed reviews under educational content for a good reason.)

Start a challenge

A challenge is an exciting way to get people to submit content. Ask followers to post images and videos on their account using your product or benefitting from your product. Have them mention you in the post and make sure you mention them back. 

Keep it relevant to the season or any current trends. It should be fun for them to participate and not feel as if they are doing you a favor. 

For instance, makeup brands can ask customers to post their fall makeup looks using the newest shades. Home furnishings can encourage fans to post a decorated room centered around trending looks. Use relevant hashtags, and if you’re creating a new challenge, create your own hashtag.

Join a movement

Tapping into a movement is a great way to boost engagement through participation. People like to feel a part of something larger, and are glad to know you stand behind it. Any brand can garner support  around pre-existing movements or social justice issues, but it needs to be authentic and align with brand values. This is a great opportunity to collaborate with influencers.

Soulcap is at the forefront of the #BlackGirlsDontSwim campaign. This movement is clearly closely related to their brand values and product mission:

Soul Cap Stories

Build a community

You can also create your own community. Figure out the best way to bring your followers together. It can be product related or not, but make sure it doesn’t seem contrived. Again, making up your own hashtags can make it easy for people to join in.

Collaborative or influencer content

This is similar to user-generated content. Some of it is more polished than your usual Stories and some of it is off-the-cuff. You’ll see plenty of crossover with other categories. Collaborators can help with supporting a movement, educational content, events, podcasts, and more.

Part community-building, part influencer content, OATLY profiles baristas they like under a Stories Highlights category titled, “Hey Barista!” 

OATLY Hey Barista Stories

Interactive Content

Polls, quizzes, and questions pose a decision: participate or tap to move on. People love to contribute their opinions or have their intellect challenged, so these three forms of interactive content are perfect for getting followers to interact with posts, assuming they are interesting and relevant enough.


Use polls to discover your audience’s preferences, pain points, unmet needs, or opportunities. It’s one way to survey your fans without the hassle of an actual email survey. 

For instance, a UX designer could ask users: What features would make our app better: A, B, or C? A food or drink brand planning seasonal flavors could have customers vote on their favorite flavor profiles.


Playful and educational, quizzes beg you to take your best guess. Try creating a multiple choice quiz about your product line or service features, along the lines of trivia. 

Food & beverage, supplements, haircare, skincare, and makeup manufacturers can ask followers to guess where certain ingredients are sourced, offering 3 or 4 possible answers. (Be sure to post the results of the quiz later.) 


Asking a direct, open-ended question is a bold move and can result in comments. It could be a way to gather more information after a poll or a quiz, or it could be relevant to a community or movement you’re creating. 

If the question is too vague, seems suspicious or too personal, you won’t be successful in getting responses. Be sure to circle back and respond to any comments. 

Chewy is asking a users to disclose a pain point in pet parenting: 

Chewy Stories

Promotional content

Promotions often result in engagement metrics such as visits to landing pages, resulting in a conversion. If you can sell products via your IG Stories, you’re doing a great job! 


Customers will appreciate knowing about all kinds of sales—holiday or seasonal sales, specific discounted products, or package deals. Use the Instagram Link Sticker (which has replaced the Swipe Up feature) to redirect users to the landing page on your site where they can take advantage of the sale. 

Coupon codes

Everyone expects a coupon code in exchange for their email address, but people’s inboxes are so full, new or existing customers are resistant to subscribing to newsletters these days. Placing coupon codes in Stories, ensures followers who have hit “unsubscribe” to stay tuned into your social account. It’s also a great way to strengthen brand loyalty because the only people that will immediately see these offers are those that follow you, unless they specifically pay a visit to your page.

Look at this genius cross-promotion story post from Cupshe. They didn’t directly include the coupon code, but they invite users to join a FB group with the promise of special offers:

CupShe Stories

Educational Content

By understanding your customers' pain points, you can create content that solves or avoids a problem. Show your customers how to take full advantage of your product line or service through education content such as tutorials, tips & tricks, care, and reviews. 


If your product has a learning curve, you can use video stories to demonstrate proper use. Archive these Stories under an appropriate category so the  information is easily accessible on your social media account. This can prevent unnecessary returns or bad reviews. Engagement with tutorials may come in the form of likes, questions in the comments, or saves.

Tips & Tricks

Create videos that demonstrate all the different ways products can be used. This content works best when it’s user generated or an influencer collaboration. Customers can identify with real people giving them tips on how to achieve a desired outcome. This works great for beauty, fashion, appliances, tools, art & crafts, or anything that requires assembly.


Content that teaches consumers how to care for, clean, upkeep, or store products is a great category for your stories archive. It’s yet another way to avoid disappointing reviews. Be prepared for viewers to interact with a DM if they have specific questions.


You’re probably wondering how a review is educational. Hear me out. Seeing how well a product has worked for someone else can result in conversions and even conversations. Think of reviews as your customers educating each other about your brand. 

Casper has their reviews and influencer collaborations listed under “features” in their Stories highlights:

Casper Stories Features

Behind the scenes content

Humanize your brand with behind the scenes stories. Show any stage of the production process, highlight the people that make it all possible, or offer a quick funny or entertaining moment among co-workers. This type of raw content draws people into the ethos of your brand, which goes beyond the transaction.  

Take a look at this employee social activity at Bombas headquarters:

Bombas Stories


Create buzz with product teasers, event invites, location announcements, and media samples, or simply cut the line by directing viewers to important posts. 

Product teasers

Create a series of Stories that point to a product launch to get your followers excited. Show them new colors, ingredients, flavors, features, and more. If anything you’ll get a like, and fingers crossed for a share.


Any virtual or in-person events should be announced in Stories with a link for more information or to register. Create multiple stories leading up to the event to create hype around it.


Businesses with brick and mortar shops can use IG Stories to create buzz around store openings, things happening at stores, or even open positions at those locations. A new metric determines whether or not a user clicked on a location tag for directions. Keep an eye on this metric ro see how interested people are in visiting that shop.

Cutting the line

Have an important post you want followers to see? Use a Story to notify followers and link to the post, bypassing the feed. This is a great way to ensure your post is seen and does not get buried.

Media Samples

Do you have a podcast, audiobook, or longer video on an IG Reel or IGTV you want to promote? Stories are a great way to introduce fans to your content. We love these IG Stories from Casper that link to a sleep meditation on IGTV.

Caspter Stories

Gamified content

Games are irresistible because they demand you make a quick decision. Similar to quizzes, games are meant to playfully challenge users to interact. Some examples of gamified content include word games, puzzles, and fun math problems. Design posts using brand colors and fonts and make the content specific to your brand.

Check out this Ben & Jerry’s BINGO card: 

Ben & Jerry Bingo


Begin implementing Stories into your social media strategy right away before you miss out. You can always organize your archived Stories into categories later. Focus on creating content that provides value for your followers and isn’t simply click-bait. It should be either informative, useful, entertaining, funny, educational, or act as a shortcut.

Try out some of these suggestions, track your analytics, and see what kind of content your followers like best. Soon you’ll have higher engagement rates and more interactions to make your Stories successful. (And it goes without saying that you can use UNUM to help plan your Stories grid).


[Header image by Tyler Nix on Unsplash]

September 13, 2021

About the author

Tara Purswani

Tara Purswani

Tara is an accomplished social media and marcom copywriter and researcher. She got her start at Gotham Writer’s Workshop and continued to hone her craft at NYUSPS where she has completed a certificate in Copyediting, Proofreading, and Fact-Checking.

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