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One of the golden rules of digital marketing is meeting your audience where they are. With 1 billion monthly active users by June 2018, there is a good chance that the audience you are trying to reach is currently on Instagram.

It has become one of the world’s most popular photo-sharing apps, and the numbers keep on rising. With this in mind, it is vital not to underestimate the opportunities available and make sure that your social media strategy is up with the challenges open for publishers.

Instagram is all about engagement. And there is a functionality, in particular, that opens a world of opportunity for those who are smart enough to dare to experiment and create with it: Instagram Stories, which is currently used by 400 million people every day. It is no wonder that major players in the editorial industry have jumped into the wave with the mission to deliver engaging content.

We have selected four interesting examples of publishers who are acing Instagram Stories. Let’s see what they are doing and analyze the secret behind their success.

National Geographic

The @NatGeo Instagram account is at the top of its game, getting into the number one spot in terms of followers by December 2017. In syntony with their editorial perspective, they introduce their audience to places and cultures around the world with brilliant photography while sending a strong message about environmental and humanitarian causes.

The use of stories is key to spread the word and educate the users, and they are able to do so by focusing on photographers and videographers. By tagging the creators, they are also able to provide a unique perspective to their followers who get unique insights into nature photography from experts and get a sense of how the job gets done.

The secret of being number one relies on the quality and attractiveness of their content, that always includes an emotional dimension and is able to build relatable narratives, which gets right to the heart of their wide audience.

The New York Times

When experimenting with Instagram Stories, it is important to keep in mind that the format is deeply connected to having fun. The New York Times understood that completely and was able to experiment with different formats in order to reach their audience, without sacrificing their professional approach to newsmaking and their well-researched and informative news articles.

They also understood what the audience looks for in Instagram: a place to relax and be entertained. With that in mind, in @nytimes they experiment with different formats and curate their content to have a positive attitude for their Instagram Community.

For that, they have used a “Good News” tab on their profile page that included a series of saved stories that focus on positive news presented in formats that have captions that are easy to read. The perfect delivery to what their audience is looking for.

Vogue

Last March @vogue reinvented itself with a specific mission: they wanted to provide a space to highlight emerging creative talent. Their focus is on providing a platform for the community and experiment with new forms of storytelling, what remains close to Vogue’s editorial values and perspective.

They are still at an experimental stage and aim to see how far they can go with this community-focus storytelling vision and have kept other Vogue Instagram accounts like U.S. Vogue account @voguemagazine which remains with a more classic strategy. In the past, different global accounts have shared the content for three series in Instagram Stories. This specific editorial project is the first outward-facing collaboration between all the Vogue teams globally, a joint effort to allow themselves to experiment.

The dynamic of the current project consists of telling a story in episodes, featuring different creators that have a unique or groundbreaking vision in fashion, beauty, photography, illustration, or art. With images and video, they create a series of daily stories to narrate each creator story.

The Guardian

Instagram can be the place to get to a demographic that does not typically visit your digital products. With that in mind, The Guardian reached to Instagram stories with the mission of keeping the interest of the community.

They understand the topics that interest the audience they are trying to reach, like fake news. For that, @guardian has a weekly story called “Fake or For Real” where a member of their team addresses a specific topic and asks the audience to tap whether the news is fake or not, before revealing the answer. The response of the community is impressive.

To achieve that, they have a special team that works together with the publisher’s distribution team, as well as receiving the contributions of designers, journalists, and video producers from the Guardian’s main multimedia team. In order to keep a consistent voice, all collaborators rely on core guides about what topics are relevant to the younger demographic they are aiming at, similar to the New York Times. The goal is to deliver a hopeful message that focuses on a solution.

What publishers should keep in mind while creating Instagram Stories

These major players have been able to engage deeply with their audiences since they understand where the focus should be. Let’s see what insights we can apply to our own strategy:

  • Think visual
    Instagram is all about the visual, so it’s important you think about how to present your brand in that way. Once you get into that mindset, pay attention to what type of content your audience is creating and encourage them to post about your publication.
  • Understand the formats
    The ‘all about visual’ mentality relies on the user behavior, with most Instagram users consuming stories on their smartphones. This has a direct impact on how you should deliver your content and allows you to experiment with different approaches.This does not mean that words are off the table. It’s a good practice to use one or two sentences as captions in your stories, so that the content is easy to digest. This also provides additional context.Other options like surveys and live broadcasts are very popular but remember: it’s important to be authentic. Don’t force formats just to follow a trend. Experimentation and fun should be aligned with your editorial message.
  • Tell a story
    Instagram Stories provide the opportunity to embrace immersive storytelling. Many publishers are taking advantage of this functionality for first-person reporting or to post a video of breaking news.This also allows to delivering some behind-the-scenes content on how news is made, something that the audience is always interested in. To give control to a specific reporter or even a celebrity to cover a specific topic or event is also a good way to give additional value to your followers.All these options help to bring a personal element to the story and provide a unique emotional connection with the community, which sets the difference miles away from lots of impersonal content that will be on the web.
  • Focus on quality and regularity
    The success or failure of an Instagram stories approach is deeply linked to delivering quality content to your followers. And in social media, that means to keep it real and be authentic. Keep consistency in what your Instagram message is and what your editorial message is in the print world.While doing so, watch for regularity. Followers don’t enjoy to be overwhelmed with a massive amount of stories per day, so try to find what frequency of posts work better for your audience and budget. Get inspiration from publishers who have developed a strategy behind the series or episodes for a specific topic and try to imagine how that could work for you.
  • Prioritize engagement over traffic
    While a social media strategy can be extremely helpful to direct traffic and revenue to your editorial site, in the case of Instagram Stories it is wise to understand that the main goal should be focused on the audience engagement.The value of this tool relies mainly on its unique opportunity to immerse the audience with new forms of storytelling, what contributes hugely to brand recognition and to form a special connection with the community. Think about how you can create a story that connects with them, rather than traffic KPIs.

Lights, camera… action!

Are you ready to experiment with new formats and create a story that connects with your followers? Remember what Instagram means to your community: a space to share parts of their life, explore their interest, and put a pause to their daily routines. Also, a place to make a connection and to discover something new.

With this in mind, experiment with different ways to deliver what your followers are looking for at the time you keep consistency with who you are and the message you want to get through. Have fun!