How Storytelling on Instagram Differs from Storytelling on Facebook

From our earliest days on this planet, people have loved stories. Exciting, intriguing, and emotional explorations of people, places, and events have always drawn us in. And as social media grows in popularity, it has become the perfect platform to tell, hear, and share stories with our online connections and community.

Naturally, savvy brands recognize the binding power of stories. It should come as no surprise that more and more businesses are using social media to weave yarns and tell stories that hook and captivate their customers. In turn, these stories serve to spread a brand’s reach and boost engagement with their audience.

But there’s no one-size-fits-all platform for the story you want your brand to tell. Two of the most popular social media sites, Facebook and Instagram, offer very different storytelling opportunities for businesses.

The former is an online community that has users who regularly share candid insights into their day-to-day lives: an intimacy that lends itself to a homespun brand story. Instagram, on the other hand, is a platform rich in dazzling visuals and carefully curated imagery that offers an aesthetic slant to storytelling.

We’re breaking down the how and why storytelling on Instagram differs from storytelling on Facebook, and how your brand can use them to tell yours…

Quality Visual Storytelling

The first thing about Instagram that will strike you is the quality of its visual content. If you browse through the social feeds of some of the platform’s most successful and popular brands, you’ll see an intelligently-curated collection of some of the most gorgeous visuals on the net. And the whole UI and UX of the Instagram app is geared towards showing off visual content in perfect symmetrical squares. It’s the polaroid perfectionist’s dream.

Not only are the pics stunning as standalone pieces, but they also complement each other in the feed itself. Consider the example below from software company Adobe:

Image via Instagram

Each image works with the other to create a stunning visual synchronicity that reaches out and grabs you. Each photo alone is beautiful, but a top-down overview of the feed provides a view of a coordinated, considered story that each individual image is a chapter of.

In comparison, let’s consider Facebook. There is certainly an element of visual quality to the site; stunning cover photos and striking product photography all have their place on the world’s most popular social media platform. But the emphasis on photo quality isn’t as pronounced as it is on Instagram. Instead, Facebook places emphasis on purpose over pictures. On Facebook, it’s much more about the message and context. You won’t get far with just a pretty picture…

Instagram is a much more closed ecosystem when compared to Facebook. The former has no in-app sharing feature for its content: snaps and videos can be shared via Facebook or Messenger, but not within Instagram itself. On Instagram, each photo has value in and of itself, rather than as an immediately shareable experience. This is very different to Facebook, where visuals are easily shared and re-imagined by other Facebook users. Again, context is everything.

Interactive Storytelling

While the features of each overlap — live videos, stories, photos, and so on — Facebook offers greater functionality and interactivity. For example, videos in Facebook can be stopped, started, and replayed much easier than on Instagram.

In addition, a wider range of emotive user interactions are available on Facebook than Instagram. In 2016, Reaction emojis were rolled out across the platform, letting users express their anger, sympathy, amusement, and more with just a flick of the thumb.

The interactivity facilitated by Facebook makes it a place for brands to share more complex and nuanced stories. Businesses using this platform should create deep, subtle stories that incorporate a range of formats — photo, video, text, graphics — to weave brand stories that invite and encourage audience engagement.

With such an array of functions and reactions available to you on Facebook, your brand has room to create a multimedia experience that your consumers can immerse themselves in.

Creating aspirational stories

Let’s return to the implicit importance of image quality on Instagram. This elevates the content on the platform to the level of art, with successful Instagrammers using artistic techniques and methods throughout their content. For example, look at the considered flatlays and color coordination of Instagram influencer Brittany Wright, below:

Image via Instagram

The images are carefully crafted and visually stunning, and it’s evident that a lot of consideration went into the staging of each. Instagram is a platform that naturally lends itself to the curation of beautiful imagery, transforming a product into a work of art, a story into an exhibition. It is this sense of curation that sets it apart from Facebook. Brands can build an aesthetic that expresses their story not through copy, but through color, technique and imagery.

Through this style of storytelling, brands can tell a story that is almost cinematic in nature, one that paints them as something your customers can desire and aspire to. This is a style that will suit luxury or lifestyle brands best: brands whose products or service are visually pretty or pleasing to the eye.

And on Instagram, if your story is thoughtfully curated and engaging, you can compel your customers to make a purchase there and then. Insta-friendly online stores can leverage the platform’s closed ecosystem by letting customers buy instantly with the in-app purchase feature. Brands can tell a visual story through Instagram which in turn motivates a customer response and action.

Telling an authentic story

In contrast, Facebook lends itself to a more authentic storytelling style. It is the most widely and regularly used social media platforms out there, and plays host to millions of digital photo albums featuring candid shots of families and friends in special moments. Instagram lacks the sophisticated albums feature that Facebook offers. This paints the latter as a more informal, authentic platform, where brands can have real and candid conversations with their customers.

For a great example of how brands can use Facebook to tell authentic stories about themselves, look no further than coffee giant Starbucks.

Image via Facebook

The album doesn’t feature staged, professional-level photography, taken in a studio. Instead, it presents unposed, informal photos of grinning servicemen and women. The photos could have been taken by anyone, and it is this quality of immediacy that works so well on Facebook. Likewise, brands can tell a story that is candid and genuine, presenting to their audience their ‘real’ self. These stories nestle comfortably on news feeds with similarly candid social posts from other Facebook users — and it works.

For brands who want to tell an authentic story that provides an honest insight into their history, their value proposition, and who they are, Facebook is the perfect platform for it..

Instead of family photos of parents and siblings, you can present photos of your brand family: the hard-working men and women who all work together to make your business what it is today.

Stories bind people together. They refresh and rejuvenate places, people, products, and brands. Telling the story of your business can help connect you with your customers, creating a personal link between them and your brand.

When it comes to choosing the storytelling platform to use though that depends on the story you want to tell. Decide what tale you want to tell: a visual masterpiece that elevates your brand to the stars? Or a down-to-earth yarn that expands on your humble origins? Once you know this, you’ll know the platform that’s right for you.

Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for and Micro Startups — a site dedicated to spreading the word about startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest marketing insights from top experts and inspiring entrepreneurial stories. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.