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August 16, 2017

Within the great wide world of social media, the stories experiment has long since ended.

The intimate content format, introduced by Snapchat and—controversially, some may say—popularized by Instagram, is here to stay, much to the joy of many and dismay of those who fear change. (I suppose Facebook has adopted the feature as well, but we don’t talk about that around here.)

I love stories. It’s a bizarre, fun, and overall uniquely personalized method of communication. I find that you can learn a lot about a person based on their own social media feeds, but even moreso when they’re augmented by stories, either through Instagram, Snapchat or another preferred platform. And for brands, the opportunities for crafting creative content is are now much more plentiful.

However, from a content creation perspective, utilizing a stories function—for a personal account, for a brand, or anywhere in between—comes with its own inherent best practices. As major social platforms continue to add storytelling tools (think stickers, lenses and more), there are bound to be some developed do’s and don’ts for hitting that sweet spot in an effective and stimulating story.

Formatting is Key

Successful brand design lies in consistency. This is doubly true when said design carries through onto social media. Now, that applies to stories. An audience will grow familiar with your story content when content deploys a consistent use of design elements and storytelling features, including text, color scheme, layout and more.

See below for some strong examples of what I mean.

Whole Foods: a consistent and fairly elegant, if busy, use of text, highlights and doodles, all hitting a rhythm with a top-down perspective of its subjects. Nicely done, Whole Foods.

Cheerios: A text-based story, Cheerios’ stays fairly minimal with its design elements, letting its messaging do a lot of the heavy lifting, and reinforcing the idea that each story segment is part of an overall piece of communication. Plus, this is also a great example of introducing engagement into your storytelling.

Diversify Your Content

With consistency in place, it’s just as important to create a diverse range of content for your audience. That means we really cannot have a vacation story that consists solely of selfies and Boomerangs in the same way that a clothing brand cannot publish story content that consists solely of its new sweatshirt line. We need more.

Apparel brand Everlane understands this need. Through Instagram Stories, Everlane not only hawks its products—kewl basics that kind of feel near-futurist—but has a clear sense of a need for multiple creative campaigns. Through this format, Everlane gives behind-the-scenes looks at funsies millennial basics brand office life, a Random Act of Kindness social campaign, a Transparency Tuesday campaign, employee spotlights, and more, and they use all of the storytelling tools at their disposal.

Through Stories, Everlane is offering more than one perspective into its core values and mission—none of which has a whole lot to do with selling t-shirts, but again, it’s a perspective that supplements and augments the overall experience of engaging with Everlane on Instagram. A little different than a story full of socks.

Keep it Simple

Stickers. Doodle tools. Geotags. Emojis. Social platforms continue to add more and more features to augment the story format, but frankly, good storytelling is not “a lot of storytelling”.

1213 Walnut, a brand-new Center City apartment building, understands this by taking a small number of storytelling elements and features and sticking to them without going overboard.

See what I mean? 

Otherwise, your overall content may begin to drown in ideas and messages, and an over-reliance on such tools can begin to develop into a habit akin to using a crutch.

Don’t Show Us, Well, Nothing

An important factoid to keep in mind when stories are photo and video-centric, sometime you can’t rely solely on the features you’re applying to your storytelling. Sometimes you need to let your imagery itself do the talking especially when paired with some above tips (diversifying story content in order to develop a rhythm that does not lean heavily on text and stickers in each and every piece especially).

This goes for storytelling on personal accounts as well as through professional accounts. See CBM’s own Matthew Ray below, who just flexed his Instagram Story muscle throughout a trip to Iceland.

Minimal editing and production. Maximum hot springs. 

Like all strong visual social media content, the image is key, first and foremost. Extra features and widgets can’t save a low-quality or under-stimulating base image, after all.

Got any Snapchat/Instagram story tips of your own? We’re all ears.

About the Author

Marc Snitzer

Marc Snitzer is ChatterBlast's managing editor.

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