Telling stories with Snapchat and Instagram

Albert Freeman

During the 2016 Bradford Festival I experimented with Snapchat Stories to share a behind-the-scenes account of the festival. It was a successful pilot, and I feel that both Snapchat, and Instagram’s new Stories feature, have potential for more storytelling by organisations.

Imperfect sharing and capturing the spirit of an event

Stories on Snapchat or Instagram are an ideal way to capture the spirit of an event, with a chronological narrative of how the event unfolds. Both types of Story are made up of photos and short videos that stay online for 24 hours and then disappear from your Story. So when we used our Snapchat Story at Bradford Festival, at any one point during the festival, followers could see the last 24 hours worth of snaps. Then once the festival had passed, so did our Story.

The ephemeral nature of Snapchat and Instagram Stories makes them ideal for imperfect sharing, where capturing a moment, and telling a story, is more important than quality of shot. The transient content on your Story can help bring an experience to life while your carefully crafted material is shared on your permanent Instagram feed, on Twitter and Facebook.

Snapchat is largely used by young people, and a local cultural festival is an ideal opportunity to reach out to a younger audience. This is why I chose to pilot it at Bradford Festival.

How we promoted and used our new Snapchat account

We shared our snapcode on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in the build up to the festival to publicise our new account. Discoverability of new accounts and audience growth is still a bit of a problem on Snapchat. About 30 people added us that weekend, which wasn’t bad given that we had only just announced our new channel. Snapchat will show you who has seen each snap in your Story, and most of those 30 people who added us went on to view our Story, so we had a pretty good engagement rate.

Our Snapchat Story for Bradford Festival included:

  • footage of the stage being set up before the festival started
  • footage from the side of the stage while artists set up gear and while they performed
  • an exclusive video message from a local performer
  • the stage being taken down the day after the festival ended.

Using Snapchat Geofilters

Snapchat’s stickers and filters add life to your content, with Geofilters helping to localise your snaps. Geofilters are pre-existing graphics or text that you can overlay on top of your snaps. Not only did I find that there are several Geofilters for Bradford, but there is also a Geofilter for City Park, the exact location of Bradford Festival. It is likely that if you use Snapchat you will also find several options for local Geofilters. Perhaps you could also encourage people in your local community to submit Geofilters to Snapchat.

Snapchat Memories changed the rules

As luck would have it, Snapchat launched its Memories feature in the UK on the weekend of Bradford Festival. This gave me the opportunity to save all of the snaps from our Story within our Snapchat acount, and even save a replica of the story itself. While we can now reshare individual snaps from our Memories, the Story itself now only exists on my phone.

One game changing feature that Memories has introduced is the ability to upload snaps edited elsewhere into a Story. Some organisations have already started to take advantage of this new storytelling method. See for example, BBC News on Snapchat, who have developed Stories specifically edited for Snapchat’s vertical display.

Making stories more of a shared experience

One potential problem with Stories is that it is quite a one-way communication, with not much in the way of open engagement. Snapchat does have a feature called Live Stories which broadens the process out from simply broadcast to participation. With Live Stories, everybody at an event can submit a snap to a collaborative Story. To use this feature at local festivals would be brilliant, but unfortunately this feature is only currently available at events Snapchat endorses.

Instagram’s clone of Snapchat Stories

Instagram’s Stories is largely a copy of Snapchat Stories, mimicking a lot of its features, although there are some key differences. I’ve seen Instagram Stories described as ‘Snapchat for adults’, but I think that’s perhaps an oversimplification of what is still largely an untested medium.

It’s certainly true that the content you share to each network should be based on what is relevant to each audience. Always consider your own unique audience, whatever the channel. Think about what is relevant to share in a Story, rather than what is technically possible to share, or what you want to share.

Instagram Stories is very intuitive to use. Many people new to Snapchat find they way it works to be unfamiliar and difficult to get used to. Also, the placement of new Stories from at the top of the news feed means Stories are likely to be seen. The flip-side to that, however, is that as Snapchat and Instagram Stories become more used, the crowded space in both apps doesn’t lend itself to scrolling beyond the first few visible.

Always stay relevant

Also, although content in Stories can have a low quality threshold, I still feel there needs to be a high relevance threshold before sharing content. What you add to your Story should add value to your narrative and not slip into just talking about yourself. I felt the same when live streaming took off in 2015.

I’d love to know if your organisation has embraced Snapchat or Instagram Stories. Let me know in the comments below, or you can catch me on Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.

This post was first published on Comms2point0.

Albert Freeman

Written by

I do digital things for Bradford Council and I play bass in Wilful Missing. Also a photographer and fan of Test cricket. Always learning.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade