How well crafted Stories play to Instagram’s Algorithm

As the Game II looms near it feels appropriate to highlight a key win by the National Rugby League (Australia) from Game I State of Origin — and that “W” was from the League itself… winning fans’ second screen.

NRL’s Instagram Story from sunrise through to post-game celebrations was incredibly well crafted. So much so, I wanted to break down the successful elements to help inspire creators everywhere.

First off, to pique the interest of anyone deep in the Stories game, here’s the high-level recap from this story.

Story Insights:

  • # of Total Snaps: 48
  • Total Story Length: 6m15s
  • Completion Rate: 66.9%
  • Change in Organic Reach: 143% higher organic reach vs. trailing 90 day avg. 

There’s a lot to unpack exactly why this story ticked the boxes of Instagram’s algorithm and flew off the circular top shelf of the app.

So buckle up and get inspired by the team at NRL.

Intro: what’s to come

An engaging 10s intro (high paced enough to keep you from feeling the need to tap next or swipe out) the Story starts strong with historical moments from Origin’s of past.

(note: shouting out Network 9 their broadcaster reminds fans where to find the footy tonight)

Putting Instagram Polls at the top of the Story helps drive active engagement. This inevitably tells Instagram your followers like not only this Story but also content from your account.

Another power move was cross-promoting their Snapchat Lens with a swipe up. Australia has a highly engaged audience of young-Snapchatters, so ensuring fans know they have AR (augmented reality) to play with shows precisely how well the NRL understands the importance of connecting with young fans on their level — an epic few frames here!

#Origin: a Storied History

In most instances, I would always advise a client to rethink having 2 x 15 second videos near the top of a Story as any videos over 10s tend to see an average drop off rate of 7-10%+. This can be an engagement killer and lead your organic reach in the wrong direction. Not with the team here.

There are a couple of reasons why this 30s clip plays, it’s:

  • made specifically for vertical, it was the forefront of the strategy, not the afterthought
  • cuts between clips with graphics and gives the feeling of shifting into a new Snap rather than watching a 15-second video
  • leans in on history: the past gets fans fired up about the present
  • links to longer form content for those wanting to dip their toes into this content at length
  • and lastly, for the OTT peeps out there too, you’ll note NRL had an easy awareness piece for NRLTV — done in a way to not detract from the Story itself

That 30 seconds flies by in the palm of your hands.

Back to the Present: who, what, where

Similar to the top of the Story, the tactic of active engagement to bring your followers back into the narrative across a full day Story helps immensely in Instagram’s algorithm.

  • A simple Poll — ‘who ya got’ — is an easy way to recalibrate fan focus
  • Refresher on the game at hand — quick video: Sound On (obviously)
  • Head-to-Head Game Stats from all 114 matches to date
  • Shots of the stadium tailing off on another easy engagement sticker (Slider) does the trick

Across these 5 Snaps (20 seconds) only saw a 2.12% drop off rate — total! (that’s insanely good)


Shout Out to the Future: when, how

Promoting the future NRL stars is a key to the game’s long-term sustainability so it was great to see them drop in details on when and where the U18 Game was going to be available.

Again, this was also a subtle tie to their own OTT – NRLTV (great stuff!)

Pregame: prepping for #Origin

We’re getting close to game time now, it was imperative to remind followers of the actual task at hand.

Cue stadium specific stats to highlight the home state and stadium advantage the Maroons have built for themselves over the past 39 years of Origin.

Always a win with fans is getting them behind the scenes. A couple quick locker room shots (bonus points for having team specific GIFs loaded into GIPHY) as well as a few of the team entering Suncorp Stadium.

Game Time: fireworks, legends & the Kick Off

Right before the broadcast fires up the full line ups were pre-scheduled to go live on NRL’s Story.

This is probably overlooked for its value by most. The reason this is important is it’s a timely reminder that the NRL has fans covered on their 2nd screen for the whole evening.

As the final festivities got underway the NRL went all out on offering unique content specific to the channel as both teams made their way on to the field

For those on their second screens, it’s a very timely reminder to get your first screen tuned into Network 9.

Again, another high quality pre-made and scheduled video helped to kick off the game in real time.

So there are a couple of things worth mentioning here (and it’s these subtleties which are those 1%ers that add up over time).

  • They made sure this ‘stock imagery’ wasn’t out of place by using recent Origin Imagery from Suncorp Stadium means a fan’s subconscious does not disengage with incongruent Stock Imagery
  • They’re using graphics that line up with what you find in Instagram, so even though this was made in InDesign, it still feels native to the channel

Live Updates: not just for Twitter

Twitter used to be the only spot you could get live updates… not anymore.

I absolutely love what they’ve done here:

  • Premade Blues & Maroons templates
  • Designed to drop in horizontal highlights (cutting vertical like this just is not practical for these videos)
  • Updated in near-real-time to all tries are populated throughout the game (2nd screen ftw)

Post Game: feel the realness

After the final whistle blows they do an excellent job again winning that second screen by making sure unique channel specific content littered their Story through to completion.

Putting the phone in the hands of the victors is adds to the moment for everyone.

Summary: this Story won because

  • High energy intro
  • Active engagement at key points throughout the day (read: IG Stickers)
  • Keeping the history and fanaticism of State of Origin front and centre throughout
  • World Class Vertical videos created
  • Any still images were great quality & well branded (and had important information to share for the day)
  • Behind the scenes before and after kept fans coming back at important times of the day
  • All content was unique to the channel


National Rugby League Digital Team credits:

Cassandra Wilkins – Social Media Manager

Reece Carter – Senior Social Content Producers


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