The Rise of the Instagram Story

Instagram stories have provided a fresh way for media outlets to communicate news and strengthen audience engagement

Credit: Instagram

As I reflect on 2017 and the developments that social media platforms saw during the year, one in particular that stands out for me is the Instagram Story. Though it was launched in 2016, it really found popularity during the year of 2017, and I have no doubt that it will continue to rise.

An Instagram story is a sequence of pictures or videos that an Instagram user uploads to their profile, and that all of their followers will be able to view for only 24 hours, before the ‘story’ disappears.

“[An Instagram story] lets you share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile.” — Instagram

The feature isn’t only used by every-day Instagram users like you and I though; it has started to become popular in the world of journalism too. Similarly to tweeting, Instagram stories can be used to cover unfolding events in real time, only with the added bonus of quick and easy visuals. Not only this, but using Instagram stories can also allow publishers to tap into the main demographic of Instagram’s users, under 35’s, or in other words, millennials, who probably would have been more difficult to engage with previously.

Seeing as Instagram has at least 800 million users, this is a fantastic way for media outlets and news reporters to reach and engage with new and wider audiences.

Did you know that the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text?

It does, and this is just another benefit of Instagram stories; people comprehend them much faster, and with more ease, than written stories.

To further provide advantages, shortly after Instagram stories first launched, Instagram added a new function to stories where verified or business accounts with over 10,000 followers are able to add a link within their story that see Instagram users ‘swipe up’ and, for example, be taken to a publisher’s website or a full news story online.

So, Instagram stories have proved to be a welcome feature for not only us but also for journalists and publishers too, enabling them to stay current, adapt to technological advances, engage with millennials and tell stories in a new and easy-to-consume way.

“Before, it was just all about brand identity on [Instagram], but now there is a referral opportunity for us — we choose to add a hyperlink to frames within our Instagram Stories which encourage people on the platform to go to the BBC website,” — Mark Frankel, Social Media Editor, BBC News.
For the past two years BBC News has used Instagram to produce 15-second videos called #BBCShorts in an attempt to engage with younger, on-the-go audiences.
But since the creation of Instagram stories, BBC News has been able to take this one step further and draw in followers in a new way, enabling audiences to really experience a story, through a series of short videos or animated stills.
Credit: BBC News
Credit: BBC News
Credit: BBC News
Credit: BBC News
One of BBC News’ most successful Instagram stories was focused on Muslim America after the US election. It showed a series of Muslim voices stating what Trump’s America would mean to them, intertwined with clips of the President-elect speaking.
This resulted in 100,000 views on the first 15 seconds and a great retention rate all the way through.
“There is a young, vibrant audience for BBC News that doesn’t necessarily come directly to our website, television channels or radio stations to consume news stories, so we need to find ways to capture their imagination, bring them in, and encourage them to explore more.” — Mark Frankel, Social Media Editor, BBC News.

… and that is exactly what Instagram stories can do; they reach a commonly known hard-to-reach generation, because visual storytelling allows them to experience and consume news in a modern way that’s most likely more suited and attractive to them than traditional ways. The best part is — the experience will encourage those people to stay in touch with the news through these means thereafter.

Though a number of media outlets do produce Instagram stories, I personally think more of them should follow in the footsteps of BBC News and really get to grips with Instagram stories.

Who’s with me?!

This blog post got me thinking- in this digital age, communication generally seems to be shifting towards visual methods like emojis and videos. Will written text be around forever? Can you imagine a world without it?