How to use stories to hack the Instagram algorithm


In my last couple posts, I’ve shared with you guys WHAT the mysterious Instagram “Algorithm” is and HOW it works. 

In short: The Algorithm gathers information behind the scenes as you use Instagram, keeping track of what you like, and boosting posts that are the most likely to generate engagement. Basically, it’s constantly curating your feed so you see the posts you are most likely to “like”, comment on, or click through to a person’s profile- all based on your past behavior.

The algorithm only has one purpose: to KEEP PEOPLE ON THE APP LONGER.

We also learned that as you’re scrolling through your beautiful, customized feed you are only seeing 30% of posts from the people you follow. And whose fault is that? Yup. the algorithm. That’s because Instagram is putting ONLY the BEST 30% of content in front of you at any given time. Which means if you want your posts to be seen, you have to work with the algorithm as best you can to make sure your posts are in that top 30%.

So basically, when it comes to the algorithm, we can use all the help we can get!

Here’s a few stats on why Instagram stories really DO matter and how you can use them to boost your engagement, hack the algorithm, and put yourself in that top 30%…


  • 75% of Instagram users watch stories daily, which equates to 400 MILLION (!!!) active daily users (almost DOUBLE the daily usage of snapchat!)

  • Sounds crazy but it’s true: Users are MORE likely to see your story than your feed post.

  • 70% of IG stories are watched with sound ON (which means people are *hearing* your message as well as seeing it).

  • Over 120M clicks per DAY happen from IG story ads in the last 6 months.

**Most of these stats came from this article: Instagram Statistics 2018 adespresso **

If a user interacts with your stories, they are WAY more likely to see you posts on your feed. Believe it or not, the algorithm is your friend! It helps get your posts seen by putting them in front of users who are most likely to interact with your content.

When you double-team the algorithm with bangin’ content in your feed and “real-life” moments in your stories, you are essentially DOUBLING your engagement! And what does the algorithm love most of all? ENGAGEMENT. Why? Because it KEEPS PEOPLE ON THE APP LONGER!

Question: So, we know we need to be using Instagram stories. Question is, what should we put in them?

Answer: 2 things: First, A more casual look behind the scenes at your life and your business that people will relate to and connect with. Second, include as many opportunities as possible for people to engage with your content.

 People are kinda sick of “perfection”. Why? Cuz it’s boring. Those shiny, monochromatic, highly-filtered, perfectly curated feeds are gorgeous to look at and scroll through, but they don’t really tell you a lot about who the person really is.

We crave human connection. And while your feed should definitely have purpose and a clear brand message, your IG Stories are the place where you can invite people in and let your freak flag fly!

Here’s how to use your Instagram Stories to present a confident, on-brand message while still being authentically, perfectly-imperfectly  YOU!

When you put up stories you should have a general idea of what you want to say before you start (NOT a script- just an idea!). I’m in a place where I feel confident talking on the fly, so I film and post my stories right on the app. However, when I first started out, I found it helpful to record my videos with my phone camera so I could do a few different “takes”, then choose the best one to put up on my story.

The reason you should have a general outline of what you want to say is because it’s easy (even for seasoned pros!) to find yourself blabbing on and on about something and before you know it you have, like, 12 videos that are saying something that could have been condensed into 3. People have super short attention spans, so when filming, be ready to talk about a few key points and then PEACE OUT.

We. Wanna. See. REALNESS. Your stories are the place to share the real-life moments; the awkward mess-ups, the blooper of your dog pooping in the background of your video, your kids trying to get in the frame, your messy kitchen, etc. The super-curated perfectly styled stuff just plain isn’t as fun to watch. It’s the awkward moments that let us see who you really are behind the scenes that makes us love you and feel like we know you.

Someone who does this really well is @alifedetowski – former star of The Bachelorette (don’t act like you don’t love it) and current lifestyle blogger. Her feed is STUNNING and gives you a very clear sense of her brand style, but her stories are super honest looks at her post-partum body, her running around trying to find coffee as she gets her kids ready, funny shots of her new baby gurgling…and it makes me like her. More than that, it makes me TRUST her.

And that’s exactly what you want to foster: you want to invite people in in such a way that they feel like they know you. The more they know you, the more they like you. The more they like you, the more they trust you. The more they trust you, the more they engage with your brand in a meaningful way (like subscribing to an email list or hitting “buy” on your product or service!).


INVITE ENGAGEMENTRemember what I said about posting with purpose? If you’re just putting up a bunch of stories that users are just skipping over, that’s not going to help your business. But if you’re posting stories with INTENTION and using the awesome features that invite users to engage with your content, that’s going to show IG (and the algorithm) that your content is VALUABLE and that people are excited to engage…which of course will help your stuff get seen.

So how do you find out what kind of content your audience wants to engage with?


  • Polls

  • Geotags

  • Hashtags

  • Polls

  • Tagging other accounts

  • Swipe up feature if you have it

  • Did I mention polls?

Okay, clearly the one feature I want you to start using immediately is: POLLS!

Polls (including questions, the slider emoji, and the poll feature) are the easiest/fastest way for a user to quickly interact with your IG story. And every time they interact with your story, your engagement number goes up and the algorithm ranks your stuff higher. 

Polls also give you AMAZING insight into what your followers want to see on your feed. You can ask both personal questions: which halloween costume should I wear? Winnifred Sanderson vs. Eleven at the Snowball, as well as business questions: would you rather see a blog post about SEO or Hacking the algorithm? (Literally what I did before writing this post!)

Geotagging is just telling people where you are so when others search that place, they’re more likely to discover your story and your account. Ditto for hashtags. In my case, I ALWAYS get a handful of new followers every time I use the hashtag #amwriting – this is because people searching the hashtag #amwriting are usually writers (like me) and my feed and my blog is all about helping people write! (Also, fun fact: Geotagged posts get 79% more engagement than non-geotagged posts!!)

Tagging other accounts is also a surefire way to boost engagement. When you tag another account, you are inviting that person to see your post and it’s possible they could re-post your story. If they do that, you immediately gain access to their audience as well as your own! Do this with intention and do it sparingly- you don’t want to tag a Kardashian every time you post (that will do nothin’ for ya!), you want to tag an account in a meaningful way that may compel them to share your post with their audience. 

Swipe up is a feature you can get if you are “verified” or are a business profile with over 10K followers. I’m assuming if you’re here you’re neither of those things, so I’m just gonna link to an article that tells all about that HERE.

Don’t be intimidated or think you have to be “perfect” in your stories. Just show up on a semi-regular basis (I try to post at least 3x’s a week but that’s because my biz is online) and invite your users to engage with your content to show the Instagram algorithm that people are interested in what you have to say which will help your profile get SEEN.

I know this was a long one, guys- thanks for making it all the way to the end! Was there anything in this post you’d like me talk about more? Anything you found particularly helpful? Let me know in the comments!!