The Magic of Multimodality.

My personal experience with multimodality storytelling on Instagram.

It is no secret that social media is taking over the world. But through the daily evolution of these platforms, the access to important information is portrayed easier than ever; all thanks to multimodality. Here’s what I’ve learnt.

We’ve all been there, faced with pages and pages of endless words which we have to read through in order to be informed.

Boring, right?

Well fear not, with the interjection of multimodal features on several media sites, words will no longer be meaningless.

In the tech savy world we live in and with the increased hunger from Gen-Z for new and improved features, multimodality is essential in maintaining engagement. Multimodality recognises that people communicate and understand things in different ways. The adoption of sound or the inclusion of different colours — modes, allows information to reach, and generally become more meaningful to a wider scope of people.

What is multimodality and where is it found?

“Multimodality is an inter-disciplinary approach that understands communication and representation as more than language and attends systematically to the social interpretation of a range of forms of making meaning.” — Carey Jewitt

To put it simply, multimodality is the adoption of multiple modes in one platform, designed to create a more meaningful form of communication. Gunther Kress says “a mode is generally defined as a communication channel that a culture recognises.” These can include the likes of colour, font choice, images, sounds and videos; all combine to help aid the sound display of a new form of communication.

What about journalists?

Over the last few years, journalism has undergone a lot of reconstruction work, largely due to the huge development in digital media. Back in 2016 Instagram introduced it’s stories feature, and let me tell you I can guarantee they have never looked back! With 4 million businesses using Instagram story ads worldwide, it is clear to see people are taking advantage of the various types of modes on offer to them.

Too right they should be!

Evolving with the time is essential to any successful journalist; the recognition that news it not just limited to the newsroom is vital. The way we receive and produce news is now wholeheartedly collaborate, media professionals have had to come to terms with the fact that they have to co-create with their audiences to ensure stories are received properly, and the only way to do this effectively is through the magic of multimodality.

Here’s how Instagram allows for this.

  1. Sharing posts
  2. Conducting polls
  3. Using stickers
  4. Swipe up’s
  5. IGTV
  6. Hashtags

Instagram is at the foreground when it comes to multimodality. The image sharing app boasts over 1 billion monthly active users, over 500 million daily active users and approximately 500 million active daily stories users. So, it must be doing something right.

A 2015 Microsoft study alluded to the idea that the human attention span has contracted from 12 seconds to a mere 8 seconds.

I’ll let that sink in.

The study also showed that spending a lot of time on screens reduces the likelihood of focusing on a task if it appears boring. So, here comes the praise for Instagram and it’s adoption of multimodality.

“They (young people) really respond well to stories that are told simply and well with visual images” — Nic Newman

Through Instagram’s introduction of polls in 2017, journalists can engage with their consumers and invite a collaborative opinion with regards to news stories. Likewise, through the introduction of IGTV in 2018 , it has allowed creators to communicate in a more immersive and engaging form than ever before.

However, with the swipe up feature only permitted if you possess 10,000 followers and hour long IGTV videos only allowed for larger accounts; there are limits to Instagrams greatness.

But that didn’t stop me.

Here’s how I have utilised Instagram’s multimodal features and my recommendations for you.

  1. Sharing posts and utilising fonts.
Various screenshots from my News highlight on Instagram

I found sharing top news stories to my own story and subsequently forming a news highlight to be one of the most effective ways of keeping my followers up to date with current affairs. I recognised that, although I like to think some of the time it is, my account is not as credible compared to other top journalistic accounts. Therefore, I found Instagram’s feature to share other users posts to your story the most trustworthy way to inform other people.

However, the eager journalist that I am, I of course wanted to express some opinion to these already excellent posts. So, in order to do this in an engaging manner I utilised many of Instagram’s selection of fonts. What’s great about this, is the ability to find fonts to suit the theme of the post. For example, for empowering posts of change, like the ‘tampon tax’ post, (see image above), I chose a bold, dramatic font so that my writing would stand out and grab viewers attention. I found this tool extremely effective when I wanted my opinion to be seen.

2. Polls.

If you are a dedicated follower of my Instagram, (follow me here if you don’t already), you will know I am a huge fan of Instagram’s poll feature. I create a lot of my stories with the help of the graphic design platform, Canva. It has enabled me to include various colours, mimic the appearance of different textures and aided me in finding suitable visual elements; all to assist my polls in becoming more inviting to their viewers.

Not only that, but the poll feature on Instagram allows for another element of interactivity and engagement to be added to stories. Something we established earlier is essential to effective storytelling.

3. Emoji’s, stickers and GIF’s.

Something I wish I took more advantage of was the ability to add sticker’s, emoji’s and GIF’s to a story. While I was prone to the odd “check this out” sticker on any blog post I promoted, I never really dabbled with the art of the GIF. Probably one of the most advanced multimodal features on offer, I would recommend everyone to use them. I think they’re so fun and I dont know about you, but they would definitely keep me engaged for more than 8 seconds!

4. Sound/Music.

While again I point out another limitations to Instagram’s glory, it’s inability to include sound supported videos is a bit of a downfall on it’s behalf. The inclusion of video’s with sound would not only encourage viewers to watch and retain information more, but also help them gage a deeper understanding to what is going on.

However, the good news is you can include music! While ‘silence is golden’ is a renown slogan, I believe the addition of music to an Instagram story is a clever mode and should be utilised by all where appropriate.

As Beckerman says;

“The sounds in our lives should elevate our experience. They should benefit us.”

So there you have it, the magic of multimodality.

Want to enhance your Instagram stories even more? Check out this guide on all things Instagram create mode.

Let me know your thoughts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Final year English student at Bournemouth University 👩🏼‍💻 Discussing all things #journalism ✍🏼