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Cultural Institutions Using Instagram Stories to Engage Users

Jamie Bourne

Interactive Designer, Forum One

With over a billion active users, Instagram is an excellent way to engage your audiences. Instagram “stories” is a particularly engaging feature that allows users to provide live updates and share their everyday lives. The platform has provided an impactful way for cultural institutions to use Instagram stories to engage users.

Over the years, Instagram has become an interactive experience with features such as  Instagram Live, stories, and story highlights in addition to traditional posts. Many mission-driven organizations are already using Instagram, but few have meaningfully embraced using stories. Your content marketing strategy should be the guidepost for how you decide to use Instagram and stories. Whether you use Instagram to interact with your audience, serve as an extension of your website, or act as an e-commerce platform, there are many ways nonprofits, government agencies, associations, foundations, and other mission-driven organizations can leverage Instagram stories to better tell their own story.    

What are “Instagram stories” anyway? 

The Instagram stories feature has been around since 2016 and allows users to post temporary, short, video-based posts that last for 24 hours. The story itself can be text, a photo, or a video and is accessed by clicking on the photo of a user profile (if they have one posted) or at the top of your feed.

Story highlights allow users to feature permanent stories and group them by category.  A number of nonprofits and cultural institutions are using Instagram stories to engage users; the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), both in New York City, are excellent examples of how cultural institutions can use story highlights to share content and convey various aspects of their organizational missions.

Protip: Use Instagram Live to stream videos and engage with your followers in real-time. You have the option to save your live videos through IGTV.

MoMA: Creating an extension of their website 

Some organizations choose to use Instagram stories as an extension of their website, as is the case with the MoMA in New York City. MoMA’s story highlights are broken into categories: Tune In, Magazine, Virtual Views, and Design Store, which is similar to the navigation items on their website. By tapping on a category, users can access a preview of MoMA’s new website content and browse the content directly within the Instagram app by swiping up. They are also using the e-commerce functionality by featuring items or categories and encouraging users to get right to the product pages by swiping up.  With 73% of Gen Z preferring brands to contact them about new products via Instagram, they are engaging users where they are most likely to convert to customers. 

MoMA’s Instagram strategy actively drives traffic to strategically chosen areas of their website. Posting content to an Instagram story highlight could prove to be more valuable than hoping people find it on the homepage as there is a higher chance users will click through on a social post (or in this case, swipe up).  Your chances are even higher if you are hoping to capture younger generations since 64% of Gen-Z checks Instagram daily. A story can be directly sent to other users within messenger and can also be shared or “regrammed” via third-party apps. Regrammed stories are valuable due to the increased reach of your content to users who may not be following you on Instagram. 

Protip: Provide users with optimized pages so that when they arrive on your website, they are more likely to browse other content related to the page where they’ve landed. 

The Met: Increasing engagement with users 

The Met’s story highlights are designed to interact with their audience and to provide an insiders look at their employees and exhibits.  Their story highlight on “Trivia” asks a question about a piece of art in their collection through an embedded poll and posts results to their story after the 24hour time limit has elapsed. The Met provides a fun way for followers to check the Met’s stories daily through gamifying the experience, spreading awareness of their collection, and creating content that can be enjoyed by users at a later date. The Met is taking content readily available on its website and repackaging it for a richer more spontaneous experience on social media. 

Protip: Create content that is in line with your brand promise and keeps audiences coming back to your profile to engage with content.

How are you using Instagram? 

Instagram is rolling out new capabilities and features each year and positioning itself as one of the most innovative social media platforms. Instagram provides myriad opportunities for engaging users, sharing rich content, and converting clicks into your key goals. How is your organization using Instagram stories?

Written By

Jamie Bourne

Interactive Designer, Forum One