Audiences are flocking to Instagram Stories. With more than 200 million users, Instagram Stories activity has surpassed Snapchat. For publishers, this is an enormous opportunity to create content that gets users coming back time and time again.
While external data doesn’t yet exist, we decided to determine some best tactics of pioneering media brands. These publishers have already mastered Instagram, according to our look at the top publishers in July.
For more on these publishers and their Instagram strategies, check out our report for Fall 2017.
We took a look at over 20 publishers’ Instagram Stories to spot what the top content trends are. Many of the Instagram Stories echo best practices that we’ve recommended for general Instagram content. Let’s take a look.
1. Go someplace new
National Geographic is time and time again, our top Instagram publisher. In its Stories, the publisher uses its global reach to show viewers faraway places and cultures.
For example, this recent story from August 28th shows life in the Hermit Kingdom, North Korea. National Geographic made the Story timely by announcing a travel change for U.S. passport holders.
You don’t need to travel as far as North Korea to show off something different in your Stories. The New York Times’ fashion-focused Instagram recently covered the Afro Punk Music Festival.
Again, this Instagram Story brought fashion enthusiasts into a festival and culture that they might not otherwise have been exposed to.
2. Add context to other content
Like we’ve seen with Instagram captions, a popular approach is adding context to an existing post or article.
The New Yorker’s photo Instagram did this, giving viewers the “story behind the story”, so to speak.
3. Teach us something
More and more, it’s worth being hands-on in your content. Consider the success of publishers like BuzzFeed Tasty, now the most popular Page on Facebook. TIME now has an “interactive news team” to create engaging elements that go along with articles.
Bustle created a Story with a very “mad science” tutorial on how to create a body lotion. At the end of the tutorial, the Story showed the product actually being used. Tutorials have long been a successful tactic of YouTube stars, and it appears this is translating to Instagram Stories as well.
4. Immersive storytelling
Instagram Stories are also great for first-person reporting.
Al Jazeera’s Story on August 28th took viewers right into the streets of Texas after Hurricane Harvey.
While this can certainly take a breaking news angle, other publishers can create their own immersive Stories. ESPN FC took users right into a soccer game, between Montreal and Toronto.
Meanwhile, Teen Vogue handed their camera over completely to singer Julia Michaels at the MTV Video Music Awards.
These immersive Stories bring viewers right into the action, letting them experience the story from a first-person view.
5. How the news gets made
There’s been a push for newsrooms to have more transparency about their reporting. But beyond that, there’s just something interesting about seeing the behind-the-scenes of how stories get created.
Barstool Sports takes viewers right into its newsroom, showcasing the many on-brand antics that happen daily.
From a chinchilla on the run, to office pranks, and a watercooler “press conference”, Barstool Sports keeps its brand voice even in its Story. Bustle goes even further, leaving the newsroom behind entirely.
Its “Wake Up With Bustle” weekly Story, it follows a Bustle journalist’s morning routine, cats and all.
6. Speak their language
Much like maintaining your brand voice in the content of your Stories, you can also play around with formats that are already popular with your specific audience. Elle did this by interspersing reaction gifs into its Story.
The story itself can appeal to what will resonate with social users. In the vein of BuzzFeed’s already silly celebrity videos, BuzzFeed News did this with its August 28th Story.
At the VMAs, BuzzFeed News caught celebrities off-guard by asking them fun, unexpected questions.
7. Keep the interest going
One of the best parts of Instagram Stories is that they provide an organic next step to more content. You can tag other users or add in-app links to let viewers see more about a story.
Complex, one of our top publishers, did this through creating a highlight reel of one of its shows. The teaser captured some of the best moments and prompts viewers to swipe up to see the latest episode.
Stories is a format that is continually evolving. So far, the best practices for storytelling and social publishing hold true. Experimentation is key to understanding how your audience is responding to your content. As you figure out what’s driving likes and comments, and what’s flopping, you can create even more compelling Stories.
To explore the top publishers on Instagram right now, across any vertical or region, check out NewsWhip Spike.