Taking public engagement events online with Instagram Stories

In November 2017, we invited 10 teachers into Parliament for an informal roundtable with the Education Committee. We wanted to hear from teachers about the current challenges faced in teaching before deciding their future work.

Aside from other teachers and education professionals, we also wanted to reach out to students, since it was about issues which would be affecting them too. We recognised that in speaking to teachers only, there would be a gap in the committee’s understanding.

Instead of expecting them to come to us, we went to where they were: Instagram.

Reaching students with a live Instagram Story

Since nearly two thirds of its users are 18-29 year olds, Instagram is the best platform to reach students. The UK Parliament’s Instagram followers are predominantly a younger audience; 27% are 18-24 year olds and 34% are 25-34 year olds,. So we decided to create an Instagram story, capturing the event for this audience and getting them involved.

An Instagram Story is a slideshow of images and videos that vanish after 24 hours.

The Story function allowed us to capture the dialogue between teachers and MPs throughout the day, opening up Parliament to our followers all over the country. We wanted to post the story on the same day to ensure that it was current, inclusive and in real-time - something that people on social media increasingly expect.

Choosing to post as a live story as opposed to a regular post on the page prevents it from looking like an isolated and one-off event. Using the live-story element frequently for events would convey how often committees consult the public and how integral it is to the inquiry process.


Using a poll as an entry point

One of the functions offered on Instagram stories is the option to do an interactive poll. This allows you to ask your followers a question and see the results as they vote for an answer.

When followers participate in the poll, they are able to see the results themselves in real time.  Participating in the poll is as easy as touching the chosen answer on the screen as you swipe through the story.

For our Instagram live story, we decided to use the interactive poll as the first page in the sequence to hook the interest of the audience. In order to design an engaging and meaningful question for the poll, it was essential to think about the event from the perspective of the audience. Which issues were our audience likely to care about and relate to?

We wanted a universal experience that most people could identify with. The poll question we chose was: ‘Has a teacher ever had an impact on your life? The poll received the most engagement with over a thousand votes. Starting with an issue that was personable was an effective way of sparking interest and inviting them to continue watching on to the vox pops.


Using Vox pops to capture the range of opinions

The event lasted for about 2 hours and lots of topics were explored. We needed a great way of capturing the different discussions going on without requiring the audience to watch the whole thing.

Vox pops allowed us to represent the diverse opinions of the attendees in a short, snappy way. The teachers were asked to outline what they thought should be a key priority for the Education Committee in 15 seconds. We filmed clips from both senior leaders to regular classroom teachers of mainstream and alternative provision schools.

This communicated the range of opinions in an authentic and off- the-cuff manner. The teachers spoke directly to the camera and they were filmed outside the Parliamentary grounds making it feel both personable and credible. Instagram videos are limited to 15 seconds, so it was very important to comply with the style of the story function, giving viewers a fast-paced and authentic entry into the work of Parliament.

At the end of the day, we’d received 2993 views and over a thousand people participated in the poll.


How to spot an opportunity to do an Instagram story

  • Does the inquiry raise a particular issue that people are able to identify with or care about?
  • Is your event likely to give you a variety of content using Instagram’s story tools?
  • Is the content likely to appeal to a younger audience?
  • Do you have opportunities for interaction you can offer?
  • How will you cater for those who are more interested? For example, will you signpost a link to more information, or include a hashtag to follow?

If you’re interested in using an Instagram Story at your event, just get in touch.

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