Your Own Digital Narrative

The importance of multimodality in storytelling and an analysis of my experience using Instagram stories.

8 min readJan 14, 2021
ALEX_UGALEK’s image from Shutterstock.

Since Instagram launched the stories feature in 2016, it has become a global phenomenon. 500 million accounts are using Instagram stories every day, including you and I! I’ll tell you why.

Instagram stories is a perfect infusion of everything multimodal. From inserting all kinds of cool emojis and stickers, to polls conducting research and starting conversation, Instagram blends multimodality into one digital form of social interactivity. I’ve mentioned this word a few times now, so you’re probably wondering, what is multimodality?


As the author and theorist Jennifer Rowsell expresses, “multimodality is an orchestration of multiple modes to communicate, represent, and express meanings — attends systematically to the social interpretation of a wide range of communicational forms used in making meaning”.

For clarification, multimodality is a combination of different modes, such as images, sound and iconography to create an all-round successful piece. Why? Because it creates more of a story.

So, what’s the significance of a story?

Well, stories are the most powerful resource of humankind. They shape the world. They disclose history, culture and values that bring people together. In regards to journalism, the stories that are told strengthen the connections and relationships between journalists and their audiences; stronger than any numbers could have done.

According to Visme writer Dave Carder(Visme is the #1 online design software for non-designers), “stories that are killing it on Instagram are combining inspiring images and video with an enticing narrative, that makes for more memorable and engaging visual storytelling”.

An Instagram story with just sound, is not nearly as effective as one with images and iconography too. Why’s that? Well, the fusion of separate modes augments the degrees of multimodality, resulting in a better piece. (When the post is done well, of course!)

Society these days have so much to look through on their phone, specifically stories. Sometimes, I even find that there are too many. This is particularly overwhelming, the monotonous train of stories that I must open, purely so I don’t miss out on anything (FOMO). Since there are a billion of these stories, journalists must construct their Instagram stories competently, in order to stand out, obtain more views and reach a wider audience.

Why are Instagram stories so popular?

Instagram stories are the most authentic replications of social experiences. The multiple different modes makes it even easier to interact and communicate, creating and showing an infinite cycle of stories to one another.

By being able to upload any image, add numerous aspects of creativity, from swirling letters with the digital pen to adding stickers and gifs, everyone can personalise their stories to exactly how they want it. What’s better than having exactly what you want?

Though Instagram stories only appeared originally for 24 hours, they are now able to be stored on a users profile FOREVER (if the user wants them there, of course). What was once a mere snapshot can now be everlasting, or as the Belgian writer Erik Pevernagie articulated, a “fleeting moment can become an eternity”.

Moments, is the term to take note of here. This is the title of the Instagram stories which are stored on a users profile, above their uploaded images. These stories can be picked attentively, allowing the user to choose what they want their future audience to see, in order to form the desired representation of themselves.

My experience

Experimenting with multimodality on Instagram stories was highly entertaining, opening my eyes to a new world of endless possibilities! From informing my followers about the news, to promoting my blog posts and even creating my own unique Instagram stories, I have gained many skills out of the experience.

So, what was the first thing I did? Initially, I felt that it was critical to build up a rapport with my audience, so I shared news stories that had just aired. See below!

My ‘news’ stories from my Instagram.

By sharing breaking news stories, I caught my readers attention. This was necessary to initiate my role as a former journalist and draw viewers in, before subsequently creating a connection to my readership. This also made them more likely to be interested in my latter posts.

As you can see from my stories above, they all refer to COVID-19 in one way or another. This is because COVID-19 is the biggest news story, dominating the press right now and for the foreseeable future. Therefore, I felt that I needed to promote news stories which informed the public about what is happening and will happen in this pandemic to reduce apprehension.

The first story is a screenshot from a video of a woman who has experienced life-threatening conditions, as a result of COVID-19. The original video was in colour, but I layered a black and white filter over it to illustrate its seriousness and severity. I used another mode, text. This was a bold black font that was layered over a brushed white textual background. This contrast not only further highlighted the life or death situation, but emitted an artistic touch that looks aesthetically appealing to the reader. The text in capital letters dramatises this, showing that is a urgent story that you cannot ignore.

The other stories inform the public about the gravity of the pandemic, varying from links to crucial news stories to the facts and figures video in the bottom right, showing the worrying increase in numbers of hospital patients from 2013–2020.

Though I used images and text mainly, with some sound for the videos too, there are many more ways that you can make your Instagram stories engaging. The image below is an overview of the main tools used on Instagram stories to interact and communicate with one another. From sharing your location to adding music, there are an enormous amount of possibilities!

Karnoff’s image from Shuttertock.

Due to there being so many possible options, I utilised Instagram’s story tools by creating another story with multiple mixed modes. See my story below.

Screenshot of my Instagram story.

This story is a blend of an image, text and a poll, creating a more interactive story altogether. I felt that this story was particularly effective, due to the careful crafting of combining the different modes to make a sleek and modern display.

The image was carefully chosen, as it had to represent the topic matter but not give too much away. So, I chose the above as it depicted the role of a journalist, with the keypad, notepad, pen and phone whilst also highlighting the COVID-19 issue by the person using hand sanitiser. Images are integral for the story to gain attention, communicate important information and increase engagement simultaneously.

The use of the poll brought an element of interactivity, allowing the audience to have their say and communicate this to the creator. As the Instagram Business Team express, polls “bring people closer together by enabling direct participation in the shared expression”. Allowing everyone to be involved and asking for their thoughts makes the voter feel valued, building the bond between each other. No one wants to feel left out, right?

If these stories haven’t quite caught all of your attention, then I hope the latter will!

I created these Instagram stories on the graphic design platform Canva and think that the boldness of the colours are extremely powerful. The bright blue story on the left is associated with the NHS, with the blue and white being the traditional colours of their organisation. The bright purple story on the right could also conjure up images of the NHS, as the purple could be related to the purple scrubs that are worn by certain NHS workers.

Colours are imperative for creating successful posts, as psychology have found that colour is a deep-rooted strategy to make the audience think about the creator/brand itself in a certain way. For example, my blue story could have a calming effect on some of the audience, as blue is known for lowering blood pressure. It could also relate to emotions and sadness, the same colours as tears which reinforces the tragedies within this pandemic. Whereas my purple story could be associated with royalty and empowerment, showing the NHS’ high sense of authority. Clever, huh?

To make the story more successful, I added infographics as another mode. The infographics of the remote worker and NHS workers at the bottom of the stories add some context and creativity to the post. These visuals are a must, as it is renowned that the human brain is wired to consume visuals more than any other form of content.

Lastly, I made my text large, bold and easy to read to add expression to the matter and show that this pandemic is not something to shy away from. The NHS slogan is reinforced at the bottom, reminding readers that this Instagram story is not just a post, but a post with a purpose.

“Storytelling is a contextual bridge between play and written narrative” Bruner, 1986, 1990; Saracho and Spadek, 2006.

If you are interested in more ways to make your Instagram stories stand out, read this article ‘15 Instagram Stories Design Tips to Create Stunning Visuals’.

Do you think that Instagram stories are more successful than Instagram posts? I want to hear your views, so reply to this on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.




Bournemouth Blogger | Social Media Addict | Sunset Chaser. Devoted to exploring journalism and the media.