Instagram: Find new audiences with a graphic novel

Instagram is known for food porn, fashion stagings and self-expression – but certainly not as a knowledge channel. And certainly not as a platform for rather dry topics like history. Accordingly, one finds there only a few history accounts. But that did not stop ZDFinfo from trying it on Instagram with the storytelling service.

After the First World War ended last year 100 years ago, the public broadcaster wanted to bring this period closer to a young audience. The tool of choice: fictional storytelling in the period between November 1918 to March 1920. But can the broadcaster thus address a young target group?

Yes, if the information is processed in a contemporary way, so the thesis at ZDFinfo. And up-to-date means: small, easy-to-digest, digital treats played through channels that matter in the life of the audience – like Instagram.

A story in 14 letters

For this purpose, a small team at ZDF Digital developed a story in 14 letters, which were sent back and forth between Luise and Ludwig, shedding light on the time, embedded in the everyday lives of the two protagonists. In these letters, the story is told between the young Luise from Munich, a well-protected nobleman, and the young Ludwig from Berlin, who works there as a printer.


ZDFinfo presented 14 stories in 14 days – in 52 feed posts, on a total of 259 slides. On average, an episode consisted of 18.9 slides. That’s a lot, as anyone who has posted stories on Instagram knows.

Ludwig und Luise Image Rights Zdf Digital
Ludwig and Luise (ZDF digital)

“We designed Luise in great detail,” says social media designer Marie-Louise Petersen from ZDF Digital. “Ludwig is much playful and also easier knitted.” In order to make the two persons and also the two cities of Berlin and Munich, in which the story takes place, clear, the graphic artist has used two different colors and also two different fonts.

This allows the characters and the stories to be differentiated, making the story easier to consume.
Ludwig works in a publishing house as a book printer. He is politicized by an attack on his employer. The end of the story is the Kapp Putsch 1920. The whole story takes place over two seasons.

Also interesting: “Instagram has become more commercial”

In a brainstorming the two characters were determined and stretched the narrative sheet. The story is carried by the fact that the audience asks: When do they get closer? When do they move away from each other?

It’s about the historical and the personal storyline of the protagonists. This resulted in the list of episodes and the screenplay. Subsequently, the design concept was developed, the story drawn and tested in a closed user group on Facebook and fiercely discussed.

Ludwig und Luise 1 Image rights Zdf Digital
Ludwig and Luise (ZDF digital)

At first there was too much information on every slide. The makers then equalized the content and so very, very many slides. Second problem: The beginning must be really crisp and drag the follower into the story. Therefore, the team changed the slides again to make storytelling more dynamic.

The result

To check whether a graphic novel on the topic of history on Instagram actually works, ZDF Digital has also set a few success criteria:

  • Follower growth: In principle, it is started at 0. In the first three to four days ZDFinfo got 2,500 new followers. However, this growth later capped at just under 10,000 followers. Today, the account counts 23,000 followers who were won without AD budget.
  • Click-through rate(CTR): It should be over 50 percent. Ludwig and Luise reached 56 percent.
  • Awareness: They were hoping for more than “I love Luise’s clothes” as feedback. The goal was high-quality comments.
  • The story was developed especially for Instagram. Every day there was a series with several slides. The follower was interactively involved by Taps. So he could look through the story at his own pace. In the end, ZDF Digital adopted the technique of serial storytelling from television and adapted it to Instagram
  • effort: The station needed a day to put together the team for the graphic novel. Research and storytelling took 10 days. And for drawing of history 50 days went into the country.

Learnings to take away

1. The best click-through rate was 9 to 12 slides per episode.

2. Viewers were the most likely to get out at slide number 3 to slide number 5.

3. It pleased the followers that the life story of two people was merged with contemporary history. But some viewers would have liked more a love story.

4. The clearer the individual brief information bits, the better. Less is more!

If you would like to see Ludwig and Luise yourself, you can watch the second season of the graphic novel on Instagram from 1 May 2019.

Also interesting: “Instagram has become the most relevant influencer platform”

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