The meteoric rise of Snapchat changed the social media landscape. The network’s crowning achievement was the well-received Stories function, which turned users into publishers and put a powerful new business tool in the hands of marketers.
Instagram apparently took notice.
On August 2nd, 2016, the photo-centric social channel introduced its own response to Snapchat’s revolutionary Stories feature.
At a glance, it’s little more than a thinly veiled copy.
Like Snapchat Stories, Instagram’s new tool allows users to create chronological narratives using photos, videos, hyperlapse and Boomerang snippets. Like Snapchat, it enables users to watch and respond to other users’ stories. Also like Snapchat, it lets creators use text and drawing tools to add depth and flair to their productions. Called Instagram Stories, the network didn’t even come up with a new name.
But for marketers, Instagram’s newest tool is far more than just a duplicate of Snapchat’s defining feature.
5 Steps to Creating an Instagram Story
Visit Instagram.com, click “Sign Up,” download the mobile app and follow these steps:
- Start by clicking the plus sign (+) in the top left.
- Tap the round button to take a photo or hold the button for up to 10 seconds for video. Swipe down if you want to upload your own photo or video.
- Select an emoji or choose between three different pens to draw on your image. Want a color filter? Swipe right.
- Click the checkmark icon to share your story to your profile and your friends’ feeds.
- Identify who viewed your story by viewing your photo or video and swiping up.
Instagram Stories: A New Tool for Marketers
Even though Snapchat rose from relative obscurity to more than 100 million users with unbelievable speed, Instagram is still by far the dominant network for millennials. Nearly one-third of American teens still consider Instagram to be their most important social channel. 500 million people log in every month, 300 million every day. Although Instagram Stories is clearly an almost identical copy of Snapchat Stories, it brings the concept to a much larger captive audience.
For marketers, Instagram Stories provides the opportunity to express Snapchat-level creativity without ever leaving the network that young people still love best.
Not only can they use Instagram Stories to reach a younger audience, but marketers and advertisers can use the tool to stir up more engagement with the prized youth demographic. Since Instagram doesn’t allow likes or shares on its Stories, the only option for users to engage is through direct private messages. This gives marketers access to raw, unfiltered feedback directly from the audience they’re targeting.
Marketers can also spur engagement by:
- Following other users and engaging their stories with private messages.
- Continually adding content to extend existing stories.
- Have fun with content by using the text, emoji and finger paint tools.
- Isolating a specific part of your story and feature it by sharing to your main feed.
- Posting content from your camera roll shot in the last 24 hours.
Since privacy settings strictly regulate who can and cannot see stories, brands can get a window into their audience by following and viewing their stories. Then, they can direct message them with feedback of their own.
They can use creative tools like the neon pen to spice up otherwise drab content. By allowing marketers to see exactly who has watched their stories, how many people have watched and which sections they’ve watched, Stories can be used as a powerful new metrics analysis tool.
Finally, Instagram stories appear at the top of your feed. When a brand gains a new follower, that brand has a unique opportunity to place itself directly in that follower’s line of sight.
Disappearing Content = More Engagement
Of all the differentiators that set Snapchat apart from the pack when it first arrived, the network’s most unique identifying trait is the concept it pioneered — disappearing content. Yet another Snapchat first that Instagram took for its own is content that self destructs in 24 hours. This feature has always created a sense of urgency among Snapchat users and nudged them into gobbling up content more enthusiastically.
Marketers who migrate to Instagram Stories can now harness this psychology, but the benefits of disappearing content don’t end there. Marketers can give a test run to experimental content on Instagram stories. If it works, they can move it to their regular Instagram account for more permanent viewing.
With the release of Stories, Instagram essentially copied Snapchat’s most innovative, most characteristic and most definitive feature. For marketers, however, Instagram Stories represents an opportunity to apply Snapchat’s interactive and creative feel to Instagram’s massive global audience, established platform and familiar format. Much more than just a carbon copy, Instagram Stories gives marketers a brand new tool for making dull content exciting, testing new campaigns and analyzing the success of new ideas.