Using sequential art to tell stories on social media | INSTAGRAM

Say the words "Sequential Art" and the first thing most people think of are comics and graphic novels. The term dates to 1985 but the concept goes all the way back to prehistoric man. Sequential Art tells a story through a series of images presented in a step-by-step order. Egyptians told the story of the Book of the Dead through illustrations on the inside of coffins and tomb walls. Ancient Romans documented their conquests with bas reliefs carved into monuments. Towards the end of the Dark Ages the storytelling tool evolved with advances in creative technology and tapestries became the newest medium for visual storytelling. Medieval alter pieces followed suit as the Byzantine Era gave way to the Renaissance. 

Jump to today and savvy marketers are using the same concept to tell stories on Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. It's been thousands of years but the idea behind sequential art has stayed the same - the only thing that has changed is the artistic medium. Social media offers fun opportunities to present still images in ways that connect viewers to a story or feeling. I've recently used this idea on Instagram and it's something you can do too! 

How to turn website content into an Instagram Story | 7 easy steps

You've created solid content you're proud of. It's been proofread for accuracy and optimized for search engines. Now you want to send it out across as many channels as possible. The first rule is "be authentic to the platform". This means tweaking content to reflect what viewers expect from individual social media platforms. If you're sharing on Pinterest then create a vertical infographic. If you're sharing on Twitter then create a horizontal animated gif or short video. If you're sharing on Instagram - then have fun with it! It's as easy as combining a few photos with a few slides of text.

  1. The first step in turning your original content into an Instagram story, is to create a vertical image that will be used as the foundation. It should be roughly twice as tall as it is wide. Choose something that can be repeated for several frames and allows space for type and/or doodles. Repeating one background image while only changing the foreground prevents awkward jump cuts. (Think of a steady background in animated cartoon).

  2. Instagram limits uploads to cell phones. Move your image onto your phone via email or a shared folder such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Open Instagram and click the photo icon in the top lefthand corner to begin your story. A solid white circle will appear along the bottom edge of your screen - swipe up from there and any images added to your phone within the last 24 hours will appear. Tap your foundation image to select it.

  3. Using the type tool add a title. Then tap “Next>” followed by “Your Story” and “Share”. The first sequence in your story has now been published! Work quickly to keep the following chapters posted in a relevant time period. 

  4. Repeat the swipe-up-to-upload step. Select the original version of your foundation image again. This time add something different. It could be a quote from your content, a marketing message, a doodle or a sticker. When complete repeat “Next | Your Story | Share”.

  5. Continue this method until your story requires a different base image. When choosing the subsequent images be aware of how they complement and contrast one another. If the first image was taken at a distance contrast it with a close up or dramatically different point of view. If you only have one photo to work with then you can make it different by changing it to black and white or zooming in on a detail. 

  6. If you’re adding a frame that is words with no image then layer it onto a photo of a subtle texture. (You’re surrounded by texture options - bulletin board, floors, ceilings, sky, denim, etc).

  7. It’s okay to be silly on Instagram. Finish your story by adding a sticker that fits into the scene. To repeat a frame a 2nd time with extra flare download it from your story, then reupload it as a new frame and add additional design elements.

Remember! Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours. If you want to keep your story then download each of the finished slides and use Photoshop to combine them into an animated gif. For a tutorial on making animated gifs I recommend Lindsay Kolowich’s  Hubspot article.