For the past two years, the social media team at BBC News has been experimenting with video content on Instagram, producing 15-second videos named #BBCShorts, in a bid to engage younger, on-the-go audiences with the news of the day.
But since the social platform lauched Instagram Stories in August 2016, a feature that allows users to publish a stream of videos and pictures that disappear after 24 hours, the BBC has been able to try and draw in followers in a new way, explained Mark Frankel, social media editor, BBC News.
"We thought it would be interesting to try and experiment with a different kind of storytelling, breaking down the component parts of a story into a number of short videos or series of animated stills, so our followers would experience the story as it unfolds," he said.
"There is a young, vibrant audience for BBC News that doesn't necessarily come directly to our website, television channels or radio stations to consume new stories, so we need to find ways to capture their imagination, bring them in, and encourage them to explore more."
Alongside graphic designers from the BBC, the social media team has been sporadically pushing out a variety of animated visual formats on Instagram Stories to tell the news in more interactive ways, and give alternative angles on stories that could spark interest in a wider issue.
"One of our most successful Instagram Stories focused on Muslim America after the US election, which was essentially a series of Muslim voices stating what Trump's America would mean to them, interlaced with clips of the President-elect speaking," Frankel said.
Muslim America, Instagram Story courtesy of BBC News
"It was powerfully presented because we used quotes and strong images of American Muslims, which held together really nicely. We got fabulous viewing statistics, 100,000 views on the first 15 seconds and then a great retention rate all the way through to the last clip."
Until recently, users of Instagram were unable to add any form of hyperlink to their posts, but the platform now gives publishers the ability to direct audiences out of the social media app to their own content.
"Before, it was just all about brand identity on the platform, but now there is a referral opportunity for us – we choose to add a hyperlink to frames within our Instagram Stories which encourage people on the platform to go to the BBC website," he said.
There is a young, vibrant audience for BBC News that doesn't necessarily come directly to our website, television channels or radio stationsMark Frankel, BBC News
"It's all about experimenting with different ways of helping people experience BBC journalism on another platform, which is also shareable in its own right."
Frankel explained that the publisher would like to publish more than one Instagram Story a week, but they are still figuring out how best to use the feature with the resources and staff the BBC has.
"We are scaling it up slowly as we continue to innovate and experiment and see what works," he said.
"Not every news story is necessarily suitable to be presented on Instagram Stories. They must be able to be told quickly and have a strong visual element in order to retain audience engagement. If there isn't a clear visual narrative, it probably isn't worth the effort.
"We are going for a more polished product on Instagram than we do with, say, Snapchat, for example. I think Snapchat is a more playful format where raw footage is appealing to audiences, but with Instagram, people are looking for something that is a little more produced, where the visuals look really arresting. There is a lot of sharp content on the platform so your material has to shine through in order to make an impact."
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