visual storytelling instagram

Visual Storytelling on Instagram: What You Should and Shouldn’t Be Doing

By: Rich Thomaselli

November 14, 2018

More than 400 million people across the planet use Instagram Stories to share images and videos, with some brands finding visual storytelling engages potential customers, maybe even more so, than any written explanation.

But, as with anything, there are dos and don’ts when it comes to going to market. Here’s are list of dos and don’ts for storytelling on instagram.


Be your own designer. Photographers and designers are great resources to have, but you don’t need them to win on Instagram. There is an appreciation by consumers for a homestyle-feel to a video or photograph. Keep it simple. A still shot, a text overlay, minimal graphical elements=story told. In fact, when British news outlet The Guardian crunched the data on its own Instagram Stories, it found something interesting. Videos professionally produced and shot in a studio received less response than less labor-intensive posts that included static graphics or quick video explainers.

Put your best frame forward. A recent report, published by Buffer and the social and video analytics platform Delmondo, found that more people exit on the first and last story frame than any other. If that first frame doesn’t engage them, they’ll exit.

Follow industry examples of what works best. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Look at ALL kinds of brands, including outside your own industry, for great ideas.

Track your data, including completion rates. In analyzing 15,000 Instagram Stories from the world’s top 200 brands, the Buffer report found the threshold for content consumption appears to be higher on Instagram than other social media platforms. They recommend tracking several data points to measure the success of your campaign: completion rate, reach and impressions, exit rates according to story frame, stories post timing and stories length.

Show your human side. You’ve heard this over and over: Be authentic! Don’t be afraid to express your personality with a photo from your birthday party, or share pix from that music fest you and your friends went to over the weekend. It helps further the bond with your community.

Go live. OK, this takes a little bit of planning. But we know some brands who have tried Instagram Live. Here’s how they did it.

Include a call to action (CTA). You’ve engaged your audience, but don’t squander the opportunity. This can be a button on your post to take consumers to a purchase page, it can be a link to further information. What you’re trying to do is to provoke an immediate response from a potential consumer.


Save the best for last. The Buffer report found that posting your best content first leads to more engagement and more retention of readers on your site.

Have your posts lost. Most consumers work for a living, and many do not, or can’t, check social media at work until lunch. The Buffer survey found that the four best times to post Instagram Stories are 4-6 a.m., 8-10 a.m., 12-2 p.m. and 8-10 p.m. (all times EST).

Over-post. According to Buffer, one to seven stories in a 24-hour period is the optimal posting length. And be sure to vary your story length.

Post generic stock images. Be creative. Consumers can see Getty Images anywhere; they’re looking for original content on your page.

Hire influencers? Yes. Use bots or buying followers to expand your audience? Don’t even. You’ll be absolutely roasted on social media by savvy consumers who will know immediately if you’ve done so. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, to build engagement. Don’t be Rosie Ruiz.

Want to hear more? Head to Atlanta in May for The Social Shake-Up. With up to than 90 speakers representing the platforms and brands leading the way in innovation on social media, it’s the premier East Coast conference for social media marketers, digital strategists and comms pros. Look at our line-up already!

At The Social Shake-Up