4 min read

How to Make the Most of Video on Snapchat and Instagram

We hear a lot about Facebook video — and publishers like NowThis and AJ+ are making it big on the platform, dominating our newsfeeds with…
How to Make the Most of Video on Snapchat and Instagram

We hear a lot about Facebook video — and publishers like NowThis and AJ+ are making it big on the platform, dominating our newsfeeds with one to two minute, snappy, and intriguing stories. But how do you attract the huge numbers and younger users on Snapchat and Instagram? Unlike Facebook and Twitter, these platforms demand unique styles, form, and measures of engagement.


Unless you’re one of Snapchat’s few dozen publishers with a Discover channel, then your videos have to work within a smaller, less-production heavy framework. This means you have to get creative if you want to reach the platform’s growing number of users.

1. Master the Snapchat ‘Story.’ One Snapchat video can be a max of ten seconds long, which is barely enough time to even say hello. However, a number of these short videos or images can be added to your ‘story’ — content that is ready for your audience and exists for 24 hours after posting it. And unlike snaps sent directly to friends, all of your followers can see your story.

Your videos should have a casual, in-the-moment feel to them. Instead of overly-produced videos, try giving your audience something that’s more raw — from behind-the-scenes access to events to breaking news to live events.

“[Stories] feels like the right place to be in terms of how people are using or consuming Snapchat. Discover is a news bundle; Stories is just quick-hit photos and videos that capture a live moment. There’s a raw connection and engagement potential with users than a more produced Discover.” — Cory Haik, executive director of emerging news products at the Washington Post, in Digiday.

Part of mastering the story is also knowing when to post. Many publishers choose the same time each day to publish their story — often in the early morning so that their followers can wake up to news.

2. Make vertical videos. Since Snapchat content is viewed on phones, it makes sense that people prefer to watch videos that don’t require them to turn their phone. Horizontal video works on Facebook (though that may be changing), but videos for a phone-only platform need to be made for viewing on a phone.

3. Learn your engagement metrics. Unlike more established platforms, Snapchat doesn’t offer much in the way of measuring your followers engagement — one of the most important factors for determining whether your stories are reaching people in a meaningful way. Facebook views are counted after three seconds, but Snapchat counts a view as soon as a snap opens. So the best engagement you can have is when your followers increase and you receive snaps back from them. Your videos and story should not just be broadcasted, it should start a conversation.

4. Watch the leading publishers on Snapchat. The best way to learn how to create content for Snapchat is going to be spending time in the app, watching and engaging with other successful publishers. Follow your competitors and popular accounts like The Verge, Washington Post, and the Huffington Post, who snap everything from well-designed slide show stories to breaking news from the field. Use what you learn to influence your strategy.

An article in The Verge noted that “In its current incarnation, Snapchat is basically a television advertising business recast for a younger generation that lives on its phones. But TV has hit shows. Snapchat’s “hits” have tended to be one-day Live Stories, or paid photo and video filters — a Gatorade filter got 100 million views during the Super Bowl.”


Snapchat is becoming so popular and influential in it’s form that Instagram in August of last year released their own version of ‘Stories,’ where videos only live for 24 hours and aren’t posted to your profile grid or in your feed. They also just added the option to go live, though the video isn’t recorded to your profile. While videos for these new features will probably be similar to Snapchat videos, videos that are posted to your profile grid require different aesthetics and forms:

1. Go with high-quality visuals. Instagram, a haven for stunning photography and videos, is where you should put your best photo and video journalism. While the videos don’t have to be expensive productions, they should be visually interesting and attractive. The National Geographic’s Instagram videos are great examples of this.

2. Keep your videos short and vertical. While Instagram allows videos up to sixty seconds long, ones that are 15–30 seconds long see the highest engagement (in terms of comments, views, and likes). And as with Snapchat, Instagram is a phone-first platform, so video should be vertical or square.

3. Use the caption to expand your story. Facebook videos find success with on-screen captions that help tell the story while playing silently. On Instagram, though, the caption below the video is the best place to expand the story. The video can be a simple news piece, whose caption highlights a moment, or it can give a more in-depth explanation of what you’re seeing as in the video below.

However, some publishers like the BBC, use both on-screen captions and the post caption to expand the story’s narrative or to add important information:

How do you make your Snapchat and Instagram videos stand out? Tell us in the comments below!

By D. Simone Kovacs, Writer at Storyhunter