Craft your narrative.
Instagram called them “Stories” for a reason. You’re crafting a narrative to share with your audience; it doesn’t need to be a novel, but it should be -that’s right- engaging. So take time to consider what story you’re telling. If you need a place to start, try the classic and minimal story structure of beginning, middle, and end.
When planning out your story we also encourage thinking about alternating between different types of media like photos, videos, and boomerangs. This will hold audience attention longer. The Algorithm takes notice when users tap to view the next slide, so incorporating intentional techniques to prevent this is key.
As with every platform, keeping an eye on how your content performs (and then adjusting accordingly) is essential. For example, our Account Coordinator, Caitlin, tries to use more video as she’s noticed that her viewers prefer that content instead of tapping through. Stay in-tune with how your content is performing and take notice (and notes!) as to what happens when you change your technique. Do different kinds of content perform better? Worse? Content strategy is a science. Analyze your data, make a hypothesis, and test it out!
Shoot on your phone.
When creating an Instagram story, you start with your camera. Though images and footage from a DSLR will do the trick, this is an area of content creation where we highly encourage you to shoot using your phone in the upright (or “portrait”) orientation. This footage will be ready-to-share as it already on your phone and in the proper aspect ratio, but more importantly it affects the infamous Algorithm.
After lots of data analysis and research, Something Social has concluded that Instagram must be looking at the metadata of your content when determining relevance and how that Story will be served to other users.
Vocab: Metadata is complex, but it’s basically a digital name tag that explains what a file is so a computer can best interpret it. Metadata includes an abundance of information like date, time, and even the ISO, F-stop, and shutter speed you used to shoot the image.
We believe Instagram must be using your metadata to determine how engaging the Story will be, and that it prefers good-looking footage that has been shot on a phone. When shooting, pay attention to lighting, angles, and shot composition. You can literally get a degree in photography, so there’s endless amounts of info we could give you on creating the best shot, but don’t get overwhelmed. Practicing and experimenting on your own is the best way to start. See what looks good, what you like the best and go from there.
Need extra help? These are some quick and easy photo resources:
You can give your content fun effects by shooting through these apps:
VHS Cam – Gives your videos the grainy quality and timestamp of 90’s homevideos
Kirakira – The glitter app that’s takes highlights and turns them into gleaming sparkles.
Lightroom – Use this powerful editing software to use your favorite influencer’s presets.
Once you’ve shot your content, it’s time to get it in shape for Instagram.
Edit for Color
After shooting, getting your image properly fine-tuned to your brand’s exact feel is key. Stories content lives in a different space on Instagram, giving you more flexibility with styling, but as you hear us say over and over, consistency is key. Feel free to get experimental when editing your stories content, but try to stay within the narrative or identity of your brand.
For example, if you’re a blogger with a clean, lightly contrasted beachy aesthetic, try editing a nightlife story with the high-contrast, flash photography look to give that content a life of its own. Although the aesthetic deviates from what your brand typically projects, the narrative of a Girls’ Night Out drives the visual variation.
There are an endless number of aesthetics or “themes” to try out while you’re pinning down your brand’s overall look.
Try out some of these formulas from Later to play around:
Minimalist + Modern – VSCO’s A6
Bright + Clean – VSCO’s S2
Moody + Warm – VSCO’s M5
Cool + Bold – VSCO’s HB2
Simple + Elevated – VSCO’s J5
Retro + Filmy – VSCO’s AV8
Lay It All Out
Once your images have been tuned to perfection, use a story editor to elevate your story. Our favorite tool right now for subtle frames and bold effects is Unfold. The app is so dimensional and customizable that the possibilities are truly endless. To give you a taste of the app we’re going to walk you through two of our team’s most-used Unfold Effects.
Unfold’s Celluloid Effect
Erin’s feed- full of rust tones, Huji cam distortions, and desert vibes- is edgy and SoCal cool. She used Unfold’s celluloid frame to capture the carefree moments from her roadtrip to Marfa.
To start, make sure you have three (edited!) images and the Unfold app downloaded.
“For this kind of story, I like taking a lot of pictures that are the same but different. You can do this by using burst mode on your phone or just taking it from a few slightly different angles. I had a lot of photos from this set so choosing 3 was easy!
Edit to get your vibe right.
“I normally use the Lightroom app and VSCO to edit my photos. I take out blue and purple hues (just personal preference but you can really change the look of a photo by altering hues) and lower highlights and exposure. For stories where I know I’ll be using a film template, I like to add a little bit of grain in VSCO as well. It’s just a vibe.”
Use Unfold’s Film Template (FF1)
“You need to purchase the film set separately (99 cents!) and there are a ton of options. Once you choose which template you like, you can just tap the + and add your edited photos. That’s it! Save, post, and watch those views roll in.”
Our client, Facile Skin, held a cocktails and conversation Q+A to promote a brand collaboration with wellness expert Shauna Fauilisi. Our Account Manager, Taylor, used Unfold to create a seamless story to feature sponsors from the event.
Make sure you have six images and the Unfold app downloaded.
“To keep things interesting I like to switch up my distance from a subject. Close-up images are great for contextual backgrounds, and centering on details, while wider shots help you tell the whole story. I try to have about four or five of each before jumping into story mode. This gives me a lot of versatility while I’m editting.”
Quick Tip: Using VSCO’s skintone slider allows you to decrease an image’s red hues without increasing green or blue levels.
Brighten and lighten.
“Unfold’s paper tear effect is absolutely universal, but our skincare client tends to lean towards a lighter, more feminine aesthetic. To get this right, apply Unum’s A6 and then open up VSCO to try boosting exposure, decreasing shadows, increasing highlights, and increasing skintone.”
Use Unfold’s Paper Tear Template (RP1)
“You’ll also need to buy Unfold’s RP1 set separately, but we promise you’ll be using it over and over. To emulate our example, you’ll need to pick three separate templates to tell your story. Keep it concise and direct by crafting a beginning, middle, and an end!”
Quick Tip: When stitching media together, play around with adding in video. Be sparingly. Too much movement overwhelms the eye, so if you do decide to incorporate video, stick to just one per slide.
Other editing apps to try out:
Hype Type – Puts the power of graphic design and motion graphics right in the palm of your hand
Inshot – Powerful video editing app that can be used to trim clips, add music, and create GIFs
If You’ve Got It, Font It
You shot it, color corrected it, added character and flair to it and now you’re ready to get your story shared, but there’s one last element that we want you to explore and that’s font. More than likely you’re sticking to one font choice and a select few of your favorite colors, but we want to encourage you to break away from that. Why? Engagement and production value, of course!
Mix n Match
Combining typefaces gives the eye more to focus on, encouraging viewers to linger on your posts. Instagram’s famed algorithm takes watch time into consideration, so longer viewing times will mean a larger reach. Calli is the queen of mixing fonts. Her go-to combination includes minimal, quippy copy and a variation of the Typewriter and Strong fonts and a quick and pretty swipe of the highlighter pen.
Her top tips:
-Don’t do too many! Pick 2, 3 max and then alternate between using these.
-You can also alternate between upper and lower case to get the effect of switching up fonts
-Keep fonts in a similar color, creating dimension by using lighter or darker tones.
Dynamic Drop Shadow
We get questions all the time asking about which pretty type stickers we use. Our secret? The Strong type used with surgeon-like precision. The example below was made using three layers of the same type duplicated. The key to the ombré/gradient look is to use darker tones on the base layer and get lighter as you go. Be sure to stack your fonts carefully! Take your time and patience with this one.
Now all you have left to do is share your story!
Written by our Brand Communications Coordinator, Kaeleigh Morrison.