How to: Create an Instagram story for an arts organisation

Tasnim Siddiqa Amin shares insider tips on how to use social media at a professional level.

I am currently working at Stratford Circus Arts Centre as a Creative Learning and Marketing Intern. Early on in the internship I was asked to live-tweet an event from my personal account and put together an Instagram story for a show we were promoting. For those who are already social media savvy you might think you don’t need to read this article. But unless you’ve used social media in a professional capacity before, I do believe these tips will be useful for anyone interested in promoting an event.

Preparation

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I’d like to give you a bit of context:

In my first week at SCAC I attended a social media training workshop with my marketing team. The workshop leader sought to aid us with defining our distinctive tone of voice and then, to learn how to implement this in our marketing. Tone of voice is crucial because there aren’t many hard and fast rules in social media marketing. Every time we tried to come up with one, there was a counterexample from a popular twitter account. That’s because your marketing will hugely vary according to your organisation’s brand and audiences. What works for Greggs (sarcastic and funny) won’t be effective for a brand such as Innocent (wholesome and health conscious).

So, before you begin with a generic post for your followers, think about who you are trying to target and how your language is immediately attracting interest from one kind of audience, and whether it is alienating another. For example, the event I was trying to promote was a play called Messiah: a biographical story of the famous black panther Fred Hampton. One approach would be to paint Hampton as a victim:

“Come and bear witness to the terrible injustice inflicted upon Fred Hampton, assassinated at the tender age of twenty-one. His story deserves to be heard.”

Or I could paint Hampton as a hero.

“Come and see our play about the charismatic #BlackPanther Fred Hampton. This is a story about #blacklove at the heart of a civil rights revolution.”

The first might put off audiences who are seeking to be entertained more so than educated. While the second ticks both boxes. Also, note how the second caption is overtly political which will attract ‘woke’ audiences, whilst potentially alienating those who are unsympathetic to a positive portrayal of the Black Panther party.

Another way in which you can prepare is to take a look at previous Instagram stories by your organisation as its best to stay consistent. Wildly different styles can confuse viewers. This is also useful to give you an idea of what your manager is expecting from you. Having said that, don’t be afraid to be creative!

 

Step-by-step guidelines

1. CONTENT

For content inspiration take a look at previous stories by your organisation and also have a look at your competitors and see what they are doing. The Messiah play I promoted was based on a real-life story and so my Instagram story featured interesting facts about Fred Hampton and the black panthers.

Another popular method is to display ‘behind-the-scenes’ content. So, you could have rehearsal photos of the cast, performers getting into costume or putting on their make-up, show how the set has been created, interview quotes from the director, stage manager, puppeteer, and so on.

Alternatively, you could focus on the story itself and like a trailer introduce the main characters and some teasers about what your audience can expect to see. You could have quotes from reviews if this is following press night (only publicise 4- or 5-star reviews).

Finally, regardless of what direction you go, don’t forget to establish in the first and final slides WHAT you are promoting, WHERE and WHEN. This will help the exposure turn into sales. For example, #MessiahPlay on their 1st UK tour coming to @Stratford Circus 9-12 Dec. Also clearly signpost partner organisations, actors, designers, whoever, by tagging them, and use existing (but also specific) hashtags. For example, #messiah is far too vague, but #messiahplay explicitly states what it is (a play) and is also fairly intuitive.

 

2. STORYBOARD

Create a word document where you can visualise your Instagram story. Decide here how each post will look and what text it will contain. Bear in mind that successful stories have a (somewhat logical) sequence in order to keep the viewer engaged. Have a think about the order in which the information will be presented and play around on your storyboard.

 

3. TOP TEXT TIP

Keep the text short and simple for each slide. If you have a lot of text you want to convey, consider breaking it up.

For example, figure 1 is crowded with text so I’ve fixed this by spreading the information across two slides, keeping the visuals the same so it is clear it is part of the same story.

4. PROOFREAD

Once you’ve drafted your image and corresponding text, double check dates, names, hashtags, tags, typos and get someone to approve it before you post it live. If my manager hadn’t pointed it out I would have posted a story promoting the wrong title…

 

5. PHOTOS

When selecting your photos/videos make sure that they are of reasonable quality and relevant to what you are trying to say. Portrait mode is best. Save them outside the word document in a file and label them in the order you want them.

 

6. INSTAGRAM

FYI you need a smartphone to create your Instagram story so use dropbox, email or connect your phone directly to your computer to access the photos you have saved on your computer. Download the document on your phone too so you can access the text. Your life will be made easier if you copy and paste the text directly into Instagram.

Now for the fun bit! This should be relatively easy because you’ve already storyboarded your story. Playing around with colours and layout your first slide should set the tone for the rest of your story. Once you’re happy with each slide, share the image/clip on your story and also save it in case you want to rearrange or tweak later slides. Instagram won’t let you replace an individual slide so if you make a typo you will have to delete the entire sequence and start again.

Social media has come a long way in the last few years and, as we STEP interns learnt at the CreativeAccess event at Facebook, it’s impact on all aspects of our life and career is yet to be fully realised. At a time when technology continues to rapidly transform our lives, and on a global scale too, it is important that, whatever stage of your career you are at, you learn to use it as a tool, and in an informed and creative way.

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