8 Influencers Share 8 Ways to Make Your Instagram Story More Engaging

Advice on how to maximize your personal brand

Instagram influencers weigh in on how they best connect with followers. Photo Illustration: Yuliya Kim; Sources: Instagram: @glitzngrits, @lucialitman
Headshot of Alissa Fleck

Instagram influencers are always looking for ways to get more eyes on their content and promote brands they care about. Stories may be one of the best tools available to allow individual influencers as well as brands to get more personal with—and organically grow—their followers. So, how can you optimize the 24-hour window in which your Story can have an impact on the viewer?

Adweek spoke with several Instagram influencers and distilled their best advice for keeping and gaining an audience through engaging, authentic content.

Note: Men can also be influencers, but the Instagram “lifestyle” space is dominated by women, and none of the men contacted responded for this story.

1. Balance personal and more broadly relatable content

Many influencers run their Instagram account as though it’s a business, removed from their personal lives. Because Lucia Litman, whose account features a range of dynamic, colorful photo ops (@lucialitman), does not have a separate personal account, she will sometimes integrate more personal content into her Instagram—including pictures of friends and family. She said she notices a dip in followers after posting personal stuff, especially if there are several of these posts back-to-back. In general, followers who do not know you personally aren’t as interested in this subject matter, she explained.

Lachrista Greco, whose Instagram promotes inclusive, intersectional feminism (@guerrillafeminism), said she also loses followers when she posts about herself, but continues to do so so people “understand there’s a real person behind the account.”

Lachrista Greco of @guerrillafeminism won't advertise brands that don't align with her feminist mission.

Alternatively, Litman sees a boost in followers after she posts her travel content. “I was driving around New Zealand and showing lots of videos and photos on my Stories, and I got a lot of [direct messages] from people saying their friends told them to follow me to see beautiful landscape photos,” she said. Whenever she posts about celebrities, Greco said, she tends to see an influx of followers.

2. Let people peer behind the camera by embracing vulnerability

While focusing on striking the right balance between personal and more public content, all our influencers agreed it’s still important to remain as authentic as possible. As much as your followers want to see interesting and aesthetically pleasing content, they also want to know you’re still human and some of the more successful influencers make sure to let their down-to-earth side show too.

For some, this means putting out videos that are self-reflective and display authentic emotion, even if it’s negative. Many popular influencers have, for instance, released Stories of themselves unabashedly crying while discussing serious subjects, to show they’re impacted by the same struggles as their followers. It shouldn’t come off as forced though—you’re not obligated to cry on camera to seem authentic.

According to Litman, your Story is a perfect platform for this. “The Instagram feed has become so curated and has lost a bit of personality,” she said. “I think Instagram Stories allow creators an opportunity to let their followers get an unfiltered look at creators’ everyday lives.”

“I find there is something so intimate about letting people into your everyday life,” added Aleshea Dominique, who shares her life in Texas through stories (@glitzsngrits). “It’s the reason so many family YouTubers are so successful … society as a whole wants to belong, to see there are others just like them.”

Alison Marras of @foodbymars says recipe tutorial videos in her stories have been a hit with her followers.

Her followers really love when she’s honest about the ups and downs of life, said Christina Brown, a “creator of dope digital destinations for savvy brown girls” (@lovebrownsugar). “I try to be real with them and let them know that the pretty pictures they see, don’t always reflect the reality … having lots of followers does NOT equate to being super human.”

3. Make your followers feel like they’re along for the adventure 

“People want to feel a part of something,” said MaryKate Schmidt, whose Instagram promotes general wellness (@froyotofitness), and the most successful Instagram accounts do more than just provide a snapshot.

People respond well to Stories where they feel like they’re really immersed in the action, as with Litman’s New Zealand trip. “The organic nature of Stories can make [followers] feel more like they are somewhere experiencing a place with you rather than a static photo,” Litman said.

Esmeralda Rodriguez, a world traveler (@esmeraldatravels), is focused on building a community of people who love travel, and understands this well. Photos from her Instagram often feature Rodriguez walking through far-flung paradises, her back to the camera, as though the viewer is literally following her through the sand. Rodriguez said her goal is to “motivate at least one person a day to go out and explore our world.”

4. If you’re going to promote companies, partner with brands you actually use

Nearly every influencer we spoke with agreed they only use brands that align with their views, even if that means turning down the majority of offers.

“I usually just ‘gut check’ every brand that reaches out and ask myself ‘Do I actually like/use this brand?’, ‘Does this brand stand for similar values to me?’ and ‘Would I feel silly posting about this?’” said Litman.

Christina Brown (@lovebrownsugar) said she tries to respond to every DM she receives.

@AlissaFleck Alissa Fleck is a New York City-based reporter, podcast producer and contributor to Adweek.