How to Make Instagram Stories like a Snapchat Pro

A version of this story appeared on The Huffington Post and Medium

This week, every Instagram user became a Snapchat user by default. So now to be an all-around Instagram expert, you’re going to need to implement a few Snapchat techniques to create stellar Instagram Stories.

On Tuesday, Instagram unveiled its biggest feature to date, Instagram Stories, live video and photo slideshows that evaporate after 24 hours. If the concept sounds familiar it’s because it’s essentially Snapchat’s raison d’etre. Even Instagram founder, Kevin Systrom, admitted Instagram Stories were a carbon copy of Snapchat Stories. “They deserve all the credit,” he told TechCrunch.

Before this drastic change, Instagram had become too picture-perfect for its own good. The app’s engagement actually declined because Instagram’s 300 million daily users share only their best photos, motivated by likes. Snapchat’s 150 million daily users, on the other hand, post more often because they are less preoccupied with garnering likes or avoiding a social media faux pas. Snapchatters prefer oversharing over being liked.

With Instagram Stories, Instagram has stolen Snapchat’s signature feature to become the best of both worlds: an app that’s your own permanent gallery, but also a living museum documenting your day-to-day.

This means that in order to truly shine as an Instagram star, you’re going to need to leverage your Snapchat skills, as well. Because the techniques that once made you an Instagram expert (well-composed photos, impeccable filtering, great timing) don’t necessarily translate into the realm of 10-second live video.

Here are a few storytelling tips taken from the Snapchat playbook to make your Instagram Stories stand out (and avoid annoying the crap out of your loyal followers):

Start with a bang.

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Consider the first ten seconds of your Instagram Story your opening scene. The hook that will entice your followers to continue watching all the way through. Think, action shots and immersive scenes. For example, if your first photo is of some questionable-looking blobs of food at a second-rate restaurant, you can’t expect your followers not to bounce. If your opening scene, however, is a video of a zebra and a giraffe, your followers will stay glued to their screens.

Show, don’t tell.

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There’s a certain type of Internet personality that can pull off talking to the camera nonstop. You’re probably not one of them, so save the video confessionals for Kylie Jenner. Don’t wax poetic about your new outfit, your new boyfriend, your new lipkit line, whatever… Instead, tap to use the rear camera and show us. Live video is all about what’s happening now in real-time, so take your followers along for the ride.

Use the element of surprise.

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Speaking of rides, every good story – whether on Instagram, Snapchat or in real-life – is a journey with a beginning, middle and end. And with twists and turns along the way. Think about this as your crafting your slideshow. If your Instagram Story starts with the zebra and giraffe, the middle could be another hint. Maybe a German sign… The end could be the revelation that you’re at the Berlin Zoo. Knowing from the beginning that you’re at a zoo is just not that interesting. The story doesn’t take us anywhere. In fact, it’s hardly a “story” at all.

Keep the camera rolling.

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Until Snapchat’s recent Memories feature, which lets you upload videos from your camera roll, it was impossible to know for sure if the 10 seconds you were recording were any good. Waiting for a whale to jump out of the water? Good luck. You basically had to keep recording and deleting 10-second clips until you got the money shot. Thankfully, Instagram already lets you upload anything taken within the last 24 hours. So next time you go whale watching, just keep the camera rolling and then edit the footage down to the most compelling part.

Choose the right format.

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Now that Instagram Stories have launched, there will zero tolerance for users who post on their main feed nonstop. Here’s a good rule: If you want to post more than three photos/videos of the same “scene” (beach day, fancy dinner, Beyoncé concert), consider making them all part of your Instagram Story, instead. Then you can pick the best-of-the-best to share on your permanent feed. It will prevent your followers from getting the urge to unfollow you for clogging their Instagram feed.

Know your brand (if you have a brand).

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If your Instagram brand is “being yourself” then ignore this tip and keep doing you! If over the years you’ve cultivated a brand, however, make sure that your Instagram Stories fall in-line. There’s nothing more off-putting that seeing your favorite travel Instagram spend all weekend watching Stranger Things in her apartment. Sure, it may give us a glimpse of the “real you,” but I don’t really know you. All I know is that Netflix and Chill is not your brand. If people follow you on Instagram for your awesome travel photography, or delicious food recipes, or sexy selfies, they expect you to continue giving them just that.

Oscar Raymundo
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