We chatted with Mel Brittner (@melbrittner), Social Media Strategist at Instagram Marketing platform Later (@latermedia). Mel shared insider tips on Instagram Story growth, as well as her best practices for stories. Check out her insights to discover how to take your brand’s stories to the next level:

1. Do you have any tips for keeping followers tapping through to the end of your Instagram Story?

With Instagram Stories, I believe it’s all about the narrative – that’s why it’s called a story! You have to create a clear beginning, middle and end. The best stories are straightforward, without complicated messaging. You can always add any additional details within links or Instagram feed post copy.

Length is also an important factor – you want to test out different story lengths to find your sweet spot. For us at Later, it’s usually around 8 slides. We try to keep our stories under that amount within a 24 hour period to avoid viewers exiting right away.

We keep track of stats for each @latermedia story, using a simple spreadsheet to learn our drop off rate after slide 1 and our overall completion rate. This gives us a ton of insight into what our followers want to see from us and what type of story content works best.

2. Any tips or tricks for when you have Instagram content block, and just can’t think of new Story or feed ideas?

Look to your community! See what people are talking about and then think of how you can spin those topics through the lens of your brand. Whether it’s a pop culture moment, a popular meme or a running joke – see if you can add your own unique take to the current conversations. Content like quotes or adding a design treatment to a funny tweet is an easy way to add variety to your grid, without having it feel like filler content.

Additionally, you may have a ton of untapped gold at your fingertips – I’m talking user-generated content (UGC)! Look at what people are tagging you in, find accounts that inspire you, and add them to your owned content to build out your content plan. A few tips for using UGC: make sure you’re always asking for permission to share, and including full credit (both in the tag on the image and in the copy). It can be a win-win for creators, as they get the added exposure, and you get the extra content! Here’s some recent UGC posted to @latermedia:

I find content creation is so much easier when I’m in the mood for it! Batch creating content will make your life so much easier and it enables you to create when the creative juices are flowing. By mapping out, creating, and then scheduling your Instagram posts and Stories in advance, you can carve out dedicated time to the task and really get in the zone – while saving yourself time (and saving yourself from headaches!) in the process.

3. Any tips or tricks for getting more DMs or other engagements in response to your Stories?

Use the interactive Instagram Story features! From polls and questions to the emoji slider, quizzes and countdown – you have so many options to get your audience involved with your stories. Be direct with your calls to action. If you want people to tap the countdown sticker to get notified when your countdown finishes, add some text to call that out. If you want people to answer a question, ensure that the sticker is somewhere obvious within your story, and easily clickable in the center of your screen. If you place your stickers too close to the right or left edges of your screen, it can get in the way of navigating the story and your viewers will be less likely to engage.

Another tip, especially for brands who might shy away from this, is to share your face from time to time. It’s a great way to connect with your audience on a human level. Whether it’s introducing members of your team, sharing specific insights and expertise, running a Q&A – there are a ton of ways to talk to your audience. @Ritual does a brilliant job of this if you’re looking for some inspiration.