Polished vs. Raw Instagram Stories: Which Works Better?

Polished vs. Raw Instagram Stories: Which Works Better?

When Instagram stories came along, influencers rejoiced. I can now merge my Snapchat with my Instagram! many of you probably thought. Over on Snapchat, no one tried to be aesthetic-- it was all about on the fly content with minimal to no editing or production. But Instagram stories introduced a whole new game.

With more editing functionalities and a wider user base of creative professionals than Snapchat, Instagram stories has become a space where some people share content that is nearly as polished as their normal Instagram posts. So what’s the expectation now? Do we post less formal, unedited, unscripted content like we did on Snapchat, or do we need to make sure all of our stories are on brand and professional-looking?

When it comes down to it, you’ll find people in both camps, and you won’t find any research that indicates one style performs better than the other. So I can’t say definitively what works better, but I can offer a basic formula for determining what types of stories would probably work best for you. 

Who should produce aesthetic and branded stories?

Take a moment to think about why most of your audience follows you. As a general rule of thumb, if people follow you for your style and aesthetics (i.e. you’re an artist, fashion blogger, interior designer, crafter, photographer, etc.), you should put a little additional effort into the visuals on your stories. You don’t need to plan out the content ahead of time, but you’ll likely benefit from maintaining a semi-consistent and on-brand aesthetic. You can do this in a few ways, the easiest of which is to pick a certain filter or color theme to tie your stories together, like @negharfonooni’s consistent use of light red as her accent color for text elements. You can go a step further and share images that have gone through additional editing, like @ariwoeste’s stories. She frequently shares some of her photography in this style with the added white space and neatly styled typography which gives her an edge. 

If you have a strong visual brand, like @aleksandrazee, then it makes sense to maintain that consistent style across the board. Aleksandra does a kickass job of creating stories that match  her feed. If you do maintain a certain standard for what you post on your story, your audience knows what to expect and will become repeat viewers thanks to your consistency. 

Now, none of this is to say that you should abandon unscripted story content-- I think we all want a space where we can just relax and be ourselves without meticulously planning and editing content. But you can be laid back about your stories content and still pick something to visually unify your story and brand. 

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Who should produce raw and unedited stories?


So going back to that rule of thumb, if people follow you for you (as opposed to your brand, business, or aesthetics), then it doesn’t matter if you story is branded or pretty or polished. If people like you enough as a person, they’ll watch your story because they just want to see what you’re up to. 

This is especially relevant when you are your brand. If you’re an influencer who has built a following around your personality, then your audience probably is looking for a bit of a behind the curtain look at your life via your stories. Just look at Hollywood celebrities-- none of them are trying to share highly produced content on their stories. And that’s not what I’m looking for when I go to view Issa Rae’s story, I just want to see the super real and raw (and hilarious) parts of her life. 

Other types of influencers that probably fall into this category are family bloggers, performance artists, fitness influencers, and pet accounts. I could see foodies going either way. 


When it comes down to it… pick one style and stick with it!

Based on our observations, most influencers use stories one way or the other, but not both. So maybe you need to just choose and be consistent. Whichever method you choose, your stories are a crucial opportunity to offer less formal and more intimate content-- be sure to do just that. And if you’re still having trouble deciding what to do after reading this, poll your audience! Ask what they prefer using the new Instagram polls. Then you’ll have a definitive answer as to which style works better for you. 

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Creative Community Developer at Snapfluence

I'm the Oxford comma's biggest fan.