Just as I finally started to figure out Snapchat – yes, I was a late adopter – in pops another platform – Instagram Stories. With the launch of this new feature this past August, Instagram took some major heat for its “Stories” feature, but the platform has been quite successful. This topic has recently become an ongoing discussion during my weekly digital strategy meetings at work. How should we be utilizing this platform? Should we be sharing the same type of content as we do on Snapchat? For this reason and after listening to Digitas’ Lindsey Sutton speak in class last week, I decided to further investigate Instagram Stories and its future impact on the social media world.
What is Instagram Stories?
Instagram Stories is a feature that is included in the Instagram app and launched on August 2, 2016. Many have dubbed it the Snapchat for adults. It works almost the same as Snapchat, allowing users to post pictures and videos of themselves that disappear after 24 hours. However, the stories that are posted appear at the top of Instagram’s newsfeed, which is the genius behind the feature. This allows current followers to see what has been posted and avoids needing to build a new audience base, equaling automatic network effects.
With overall content sharing being down 15% year over year, Facebook wanted to increase posts of more original, off the cusp content. Instagram stories, like Snapchat, encourages more sharing because each post doesn’t need to be picture perfect like the typical mindset for Instagram. It creates a place for users to share that not so perfect photo or video, knowing it will be deleted in 24 hours. Facebook had other attempts of solving this problem with different apps like Instagram Bolt and Poke, but no one was interested in downloading an additional app.
While the Stories feature is very similar to Snapchat it also has some key differences. Besides the location of where the stories appear (as I pointed out previously), Stories are also sorted by who you interact with most, not just in chronological order like Snapchat. Additionally, if your profile is public, anyone can view your story. Unlike Snapchat where you need to follow someone to see what they post. Instagram stories also does not have location filters (a huge bummer!), 3D effects, speed effects or native selfie lens filters.
Other differences include: You can’t add old content, Stories has three brushes to customize your slides while Snap has one, you can’t see who screenshotted your story, and you can’t save your whole day’s story, but you can save individual posts to Instagram. Truth be told, I didn’t realize that there were this many differences – even though they are pretty minor!
Why is it Successful?
Instagram Stories’ success lies in its open network and user-friendly interface. Additionally, Instagram’s powerful established user base and relationship with top-tier brands, allowed for it to seamlessly integrate the Stories feature. Within days of its launch, brands and users alike were flocking to Instagram stories. For brands, it is much easier for users to find brands compared to Snapchat where you need to know the exact user name. It also allows both brands and users to leverage their existing followers on Instagram to share additional content with them. Lastly, it allows them to continue using the same platform, instead of moving between two. These reasons are why after just two months Instagram Stories has over 100 million daily active users, 2/3 of Snapchat’s! And with the recent announcement that Instagram is now adding stories to its explore feature, which means more visibility and views for brands, it is likely that it will continue to have more growth and success.
Will Instagram Stories kill Snapchat?
Many are calling Instagram Stories a Snapchat killer, but Snapchat is in its infancy, so I wouldn’t go that far just yet. It is still slowly expanding globally, while Instagram has been in the game since 2010, and it is in HIGH demand (it currently takes 4 weeks to get a meeting with Snapchat). I do think; however, it will force Snapchat to expand more rapidly as it needs to keep up with Instagram. Moreover, most of the growth that Instagram is experiencing is not Snapchat users switching platforms, it is additive to the medium.
Snapchat has pioneered a new way for people to express themselves in a pressure-free, imperfect, real life type of way. I think we will continue to see more copy cats popping up trying to capitalize on this new trend.
In terms of how brands should react to this new Instagram Stories, I believe they shouldn’t be just re-using Snapchat content. The key to effective social media engagement is carefully understanding the makeup of your audience on each platform. As I discussed earlier, most Snapchat users aren’t just jumping ship to Instagram stories, meaning that it is pretty likely that your audience on Instagram Stories would more closely align with your Instagram following not your Snapchat following. Thus, you should use a test and learn mentality where you see what types of content users respond to best and adjust from there.
While I don’t have a huge Snapchat following, I am still a loyal user. What’s odd about this is that I have a much larger Instagram following. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Instagram Stories. Do you use both? Or are you a loyal user to one?