Case study

Instagram Story Design for Social Movements

what we worked on



Adobe Photoshop



Project Background

  • Typically discussions surrounding social justice on social media spike immediately following the event but dwindle as time progresses. In recent years the Instagram and Facebook story became a popularized venue for users to share commentary and promotions related to social justice movements. Ephemeral social media formats provide a frictionless experience which contributes to greater usage. I propose that the design of ephemeral social media platforms may explain increased activity around content focused on topics that individuals have short-term public commitments to.
  • How do we leverage the way individuals interact with social media post formats to encourage long term success through monetary contributions, participation, and conversation around social movements?
  • The purpose of this project is to review existing academic discovery focused on ephemerality as a design feature on social media platforms. The focus of our literature review is to find work that centers on how ephemerality influences a user's experience on social media: what they post, what they share with others, and what they consume. The goal is to first establish what social media ephemerality is, why people engage with post formats of this type, and what effect it has in comparison to other social media designs. Next, we will expand our knowledge about this design feature to specific content categories starting with social issues through a conditional survey that places participants in posting scenarios. The research question is: How does ephemerality as a social media design feature impact what content is shared on Instagram?

Project Hypotheses

  • Social media users feel a low sense of attachment to content they post or re-share in ephemeral environments.
  • Users do not conceptualize content shared through ephemeral venues as closely tied to their identity on social media or in real life.
  • The expiring nature of ephemeral social media empowers users to share content that they may align with in the moment but not long term.
  • Individuals who have weak attitudes towards a subject will be more likely to use a fleeting or expiring social media format. This allows people who may not have a strong tie to a topic to engage and gain the short term benefits of joining the conversation.
  • The connection between identity and alignment with an issue and post/consumption behavior is correlated.

BLM Content on Ephemeral Social Media

  • How does ephemerality impact BLM social media activity?
  • Are specific groups of people based on identity, attitudes or beliefs more likely to use this format than others for specific categories of content?

Research Summary

  • The goal of this study is to contribute to literature that details why people use ephemeral social media. Additionally, it aims to lay the foundation for understanding why people may use this format to speak about specific issues/topics such as BLM and social issues. Furthermore, it aims to evaluate BLM content effectiveness.

Study Design

  • 30 Question Qualtrics Survey
  • 150 Undergraduates at Northwestern University
  • Intent-to-Post Questionnaire with Conditional Logic based on format preferences


  • Social media post format had a significant effect on content shared
  • Willingness to share social justice related content decreased when presented with stickier formats such as the Timeline Post

New UX Design Features

  • Social media features on Instagram that increase the lifespan of ephemeral posts to heighten cause awareness and support
  • Sticky stories that load on each new interaction with a user's story
  • Sticky highlights that pin to the forefront of a user's profile featuring specific cause-related promotions
    Floating promotional banner to promote external links for petitions, donations, and events

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