Snapchat and Instagram Stories have become a quick and easy way to reach your audience. We take a look at getting started.

The way that people consume and interact with media is changing rapidly.

Rather than being passive audiences, social users are now active participants in the making of the news and content of the day. Anyone with a phone camera and internet connection can live-stream events as they unfold.

For example, this Snapchat video of Back-to-School in New York City is much more candid and compelling than a static text post.

With the advent of Snapchat, the Stories format has quickly exploded in popularity. The vertical, left-to-right, easily digestible format has been adopted across a multitude of platforms, leading to a division between in-the-moment posts vs. carefully curated feeds.

As of May 2018, it’s estimated that the number of users posting Stories each day is close to 1 billion across Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Facebook, asccording to Block Party. Indeed, it’s calculated that Stories grew 15x faster than feeds from Q2 2016 to Q3 2017.

Publishers and brands alike are getting in on the format. Recently, we looked at ten tips for content ideas. But how can you present those ideas in the best possible way?

We look at five ways to get you started. 

1. Start with a powerful shot 

Only 65 percent of viewers who watch the first three seconds of a video will keep watching to at least the ten-second mark, and only 45 percent will continue on for 30 seconds. Because of this, you need to hook your viewers during the very first second.

Make sure your text and visuals are both compelling and clear. You can pull viewers in a few different ways, whether it’s through an eye-catching visual or a provocative headline.

Teen Vogue story
Your task is to spark their curiosity and encourage them to click through your Story.

On Snapchat, this is a little different. The Discover section can act as your headline, and you can launch into the story fully as soon as people tap in.

Snapchat discover
From the screenshot above, we can see the way that publishers and brands are framing content to stand out in the Discover feed — a powerful visual and a catchy headline.

2. Layer on the text 

Much like the best practices for social video, you want to make sure that your Story is understandable with or without sound. Text can also be used to emphasize certain points, add context, or strike a mood.

National Geographic Instagram
You can use pull-quotes to help users understand or hone in on one particular statement. Above, National Geographic tells a story paired with breathtaking video clips.

Also, let users know how long they’re in for! On Instagram Stories, this is illustrated on the top of all Stories, with a series of bars representing each individual slide. On Snapchat, publishers can create similar visuals.

Telegraph Snapchat
This helps users to pace themselves through the story and understand where they are from beginning to end.

(P.S. our webinar tomorrow will go into more Instagram Stories and Snapchat tips! Join here.) 

3. Play around with visuals, polls, and interactive elements 

Keep your audience’s attention by making the Story more interactive.

There’s a variety of ways that publishers do this, from adding layered visuals, to appearing and disappearing text, to animations, to adding elements such as polls, quizzes, and prompts to create custom content.

mtv example
In this example from MTV, viewers could use the slider to pick their answer to a question and see how their answer compared to the average. 

4. Add a clear call-to-action 

Beyond just offering a fun storytelling experience, your content should lead users to take an action. Some Stories will include this as users click through, at the bottom of the content.

New York Magazine
Most Stories feature a clear and distinctive call-to-action at the end of a Story, giving it its own slide. We’ve seen this in some of the examples in this post.

What should you use the CTA for? You can use the call-to-action to direct users to further content, a newsletter sign-up, e-commerce, or another landing page of your choice. 

5. Tie it all together 

It’s important to remember that you’re creating a Story. The snaps or slides should make sense as users click through, each one adding on to the last.

Once the story is done, you can feature your call-to-action. Not only that, you can get your viewers hooked on learning more from the next story, by leading into another relevant piece.

Wall Street Journal Toys Snapchat
For example, here the Wall Street Journal has a story on Toys R’ Us. After that story ends, the publisher goes into another toy-focused nostalgia piece. 

Getting started with Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and more 

As Stories become ever popular, it’s important to master the format and see if it’s a fit for you. We already see publishers and brands diverging in their strategies across the different Stories offerings on Snapchat and Instagram.

To recap, here’s what you need to know.

  • Start with a powerful shot
  • Layer on the text
  • Play around with visuals, polls, and interactive elements
  • Add a clear call-to-action
  • Tie it all together

It’s worth testing new formats to reach your target audience in new and innovative ways. A Story can be a way to present your larger reporting efforts in bite-size pieces or to show off other angles.

To stay on top of trends like these, join our email newsletter. You can also join our webinar tomorrow, where we’ll be exploring these tactics in further detail.