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  • Writer's pictureKate Talbot

What Brands Can Learn From The New York Public Library's Instagram Stories

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

The New York Public Library -- founded in 1895 -- has always had to adapt to how the written word is consumed. Recently, the library introduced Insta Novels with the goal of “reimagining Instagram Stories to provide a new platform for iconic stories.”

With the rise of social media in the past decade, attention spans have decreased and the addiction to technology has taken away from consuming off-line content. By embracing social channels like Instagram, the New York Public Library found a way to inspire this new generation of readers through creating digital content that expands their knowledge-base of the classics.

They teamed up with the creative agency Mother and well-known illustrator Magoz to bring classics to life in the form of ephemeral content with each page only lasting 10 seconds in nature before disappearing. Luckily, these books live in the Highlights section on Instagram and can be viewed at any time. The three books they’ve piloted include Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Yellow Wallpaper, and The Metamorphosis.

The launch of Insta Novels has been a resounding success. The library says it has seen an increase of 100,000 new Instagram followers and over 40,000 readers completed  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Here are four ways the New York Public Library has been able to capture a new audience using the classics.

Build a community, not just followers.

When brands launch exciting and out-of-the-box campaigns there is always an influx of positive feedback. Comments and direct messages to the New York Public Library included, “This is brilliant. You know an idea is pure gold when you think how was this not a thing already?’” and “This is amazing! Accessible literature is everything. Thank you for doing this.”

The digital team saw this as an opportunity to develop stronger relationships with their community. Director of Digital Media, Richert Schnorr explains, “What’s great about the follower growth we’ve seen from this project is we see this as a huge new audience we get to keep engaging with.”

By looking at social media as a community, rather than a numbers game, they were able to create loyal followers. They did so by replying to the comments and direct messages with comments and emojis and listened to any user feedback from the launch. Additionally, they continued to post daily content on Instagram to illustrate their comprehensive social strategy and that this wasn’t just a stunt for new followers. “It’s not followers for follower's sake; it’s about inspiring this new community to engage with their local library and read more,” notes Schnorr.

Choose content that resonates with your community.

The New York Public Library strategically chose classics that would be truly enjoyable to digest from a visual perspective. By launching Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, they picked a novel that has many illustrative components and placed into the Instagram Stories format to galvanize readers back to the classic. It was an important decision to start with a book that is so well-loved and beloved by the masses, to make sure it got the most amount of attention and engagement.

To create a cohesiveness, the three books all have the theme of transformation, where one reality becomes another. The books also all touch on issues of diversity and inclusivity -- which are core tenets of the New York Public Library and of the millennial generation. Schnorr notes, “Each book -- especially Yellow Wallpaper -- with a focus on feminist literature -- highlights current societal themes.”

Embrace social impact.

Millennials are fervently passionate about social impact and gravitate towards brands that have a higher purpose. With Insta Novels, not only is there entertainment value, but the New York Public Library is highlighting their core value proposition of reading. With the libraries mission to be a force for social good, this initiative allows for civic participation into a world of knowledge and information. Schnorr elaborates, “What’s great about this project is how perfectly it aligns to both our mission and our brand. Part of our mission is to inspire lifelong learning, and our brand is bold, smart, and innovative. Any time we can inspire people to read, learn, and think more is an opportunity for us to carry out our mission.” When crafting content for the millennial generation it is imperative to showcase how it is deeply tied to the mission and has an overall positive impact.

Meet your audience where they spend their time.

As technology has become more commonplace in our everyday lives, the New York Public Library sees this as an opportunity to produce an experience for the next generation that would inspire more reading -- the ultimate goal. “We are always trying to be nimble, to stay on top of trends and meet our audiences where they are,” says Schnorr. By understanding that their audience’s go-to social channel is Instagram, the library created content on the platform where their audience lives. This had a ripple effect, and after the launch of Insta Novels, the library found a spike in eReader downloads.

The next chapter

Established brands and institutions will always have to shift their strategy to connect with each generation. The New York Public Library illustrates that if you celebrate your main product offering and core mission, those values will resonate with a newer audience. You just have to adapt to the ever-changing technological landscape. In doing so, you can inspire and educate global citizens, one page  - or Stories tap - at a time. 

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