• Reaching larger audiences through fact-based journalism •

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CHAPTER 5

STORIES

«We created a series of contents that only exist in this format. We also share content marked by users and readers, as a form of interaction with the public»

Gilberto Scofield Jr., Business and Strategy Director at Agência Lupa (Brazil)

Instagram introduced the “Stories” feature in August 2016, six years after the platform’s launch. Initially, the idea was to give users the possibility to temporarily post pictures or short videos on their accounts which would then disappear after 24 hours. As time went by, Stories became one of the most popular features on Instagram, and it passed from being a place for content that was nice, but still not quite worth having on the main feed, to a whole new way of interacting with followers. 

Stories can now be saved in “highlights” that remain available even after 24 hours, they can include interactive polls, music, geotags or stickers, and they can be used to introduce external content or to present previously published posts from the Instagram feed. The fact-checking community has quickly embraced all of these options and has started using Instagram Stories to increase audience engagement levels and as a means to reach new people. 

Polls to interact
with the audience

A friendly interface

A useful user engagement feature offered by Instagram Stories (Figure 1) is the possibility to conduct polls through a friendly interface that lets users vote between two or more options.

If used wisely, polls can quickly turn into actual quizzes for their audience. A common format, for instance, consists of first posting a Story with a question and a poll through which users can try and guess the correct answer, and then presenting the solution and its explanation in the following story.

Figure 1. Examples of polls in Instagram Stories – Click to enlarge

This format is frequently adopted by several fact-checking outlets. We can see it, for example, in the highlights of Maldita (Spain), Observador (Portugal), Fatabyyano Project (Jordan), and Agencia Lupa (Brazil).

“Swipe up” to promote
personal or joint initiatives

The “blue checkmark”

Stories can also be used as a tool to promote projects and initiatives organized or sponsored by fact-checking outlets.

Instagram accounts with more than 10k followers, and those that are verified and therefore present the “blue checkmark”, can in fact add external links in their Stories, so that when users “swipe up” on the screen they are automatically redirected to third-party content.

In this way, fact-checking outlets can redirect users from Instagram to their actual websites, present podcasts, videos or newsletters, and link other content they find relevant and want their audience to watch, listen to, or read (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Examples of stories to advertise other content – Click to enlarge

External links can also be used to inform the public about initiatives that fact-checking outlets are organizing on other platforms, or to which their journalists are participating. Facebook Lives, tv or radio appearances, and live events thus become elements that are worth being advertised through Instagram Stories. 

Reposting to
increase visibility

An easy and effective routine

On the other hand, Instagram also lets users repost content in their Stories that have already been published on their or other people’s feeds.

Thereby increasing the possibility for the content to be seen by the audience, since the same post will basically appear both in users’ feeds and in the Stories section.

This is quite an easy procedure that lets social media managers reuse the same content in different ways, and can help increase engagement levels both on Instagram and on the external website that can be linked in the Stories.

Clicks and interactions on the links can be tracked and analyzed, therefore helping social media managers to understand whether their strategy is working or whether it should be improved (Figure 3).

Figure 3. MediaWise Instagram stories – Click to enlarge

CASE STUDY

Agencia Lupa’s use of Instagram Stories

Launched in 2015, Agência Lupa is the first Brazilian fact-checking project. It produces text, video and audio content about politics, culture, education, healthcare, international relations, and the economy.   

As of January 2021, its Instagram profile counts 140k followers and has published more than 2k posts.

Agência Lupa uses all of the features offered by Instagram Stories (Figure 4). It has several highlights (collections of saved Stories that do not disappear in 24 hours, which we have already briefly mentioned), routinely posts quizzes and polls to interact with its followers, and uses Stories to redirect users to other content published on different platforms. 

Figure 4. Agência Lupa’s stories – Click to enlarge

To understand more about their strategy we spoke with the Business and Strategy Director, Gilberto Scofield Jr. He explained to us that Agência Lupa currently has five people working in the social media department: a social media manager, a web designer, and a media assistant manager, together with two freelance video editors. None of them focus solely or primarily on Instagram Stories though.   

Even though the project was launched in 2015 and Instagram Stories became available the following year, Agência Lupa didn’t start focusing on them until the beginning of 2019: «We adapted cards used in other social media to this format and we have kept publishing Stories since then», Scofield Jr. said.   

A key element in Agência Lupa’s social media strategy is the creation of formats specifically designed for Instagram Stories: «We created a series of content that only exist in this format: absurd rumors, quiz, highlights of the week, or #CaiuNaRede (Figure 5), a partnership with favela’s local journalism groups, very popular in Brazil», said the Business and Strategy Director, adding: «We also share content marked by users and/or readers, as a form of interaction with the public».

Figure 5. Stories in partnership with CaiuNaRede – Click to enlarge

According to Scofield Jr., the strategy evolved as the profile grew: «The more daily content we produced, the more followers we got».

Today, Agência Lupa publishes at least seven Instagram Stories per day. Scofield Jr. told us that the best performing content in terms of user engagement is «with interactions, like quizzes». On the outlet’s Instagram page, in fact, we can see several saved highlights which feature polls, videos, reposts, or clickable content (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Stories with interaction – Click to enlarge

To conclude, Scofield Jr. would «for sure» recommend fact-checkers who are trying to increase their audience engagement levels, to focus on Instagram Stories. 

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