Instagram may be best known as an image-sharing social platform—but that’s not all it can be.
Though the social media playbook tends to champion quick and “snackable” content, Instagram has begun to emerge as a quasi-blogging channel for some brands and influencers.
And while it might be a stretch to call these microblog-style posts “long-form content,” they are unquestionably longer than their Twitter and Facebook counterparts. When applied strategically, long Instagram posts can help brands pack a surprisingly big punch. It’s a dramatic content play, and though this style can add a new dimension to your social efforts, it’s not necessarily the right move for every brand.
When does longer-form work?
NatGeo is a case study in microblogging done right. The Instagram feed is loaded with gorgeous landscapes and stunning wildlife photography, but these shots are complex—and they beg for a deeper story. Here, longer-form content allows the brand to expand on what the audience sees and learns.
The audience is a key part of making this format work. NatGeo’s followers are more likely to be a scholarly, highly curious, and invested audience than your average consumer. Microblogging transforms a picture of some cute critter into a lesson on how tarsiers evolved and their role in the rainforest ecosystem.
NatGeo hooks consumers with a dynamic visual, then offers an added layer of information.
Is longer always better?
While, yes, microblogging can add an extra dimension to a brand’s content, sometimes less is more. Not all images benefit from an explanation. Take eco-friendly fashion label, Reformation. They want their audience’s focus to remain on the clothing.
Extended copy could add engaging information about the brand’s commitment to sustainability, but it could also distract from the clothing. Concise copy allows the visual to do the lion’s share of the work. It is no less effective than NatGeo’s approach—it merely emphasizes the image over the backstory.
So which is better?
Neither is better.
Instead, these are two different courses that chase two different objectives. A longer-form approach allows brands to educate audiences on complicated, nuanced topics and can add impact, but it requires more effort—and (unless the topic has a worthy story) adding length could even have a detrimental effect. Succinct copy can be just as effective. The key is to evaluate your goals, your subject, and your brand’s voice—and then choose accordingly.