Last Tuesday, Instagram announced its newest feature: Instagram Stories. Like Snapchat Stories, Instagram’s new feature allows users to post photos and videos that disappear after 24-hours.
If you’re a brand or marketer, you’re probably asking yourself 1) how Instagram Stories works, 2) how it’s different than Snapchat Stories, and 3) where you should be investing your time. Or maybe you’re just freaking out over having to create additional content for your social channels.
Well, don’t worry. Instagram Stories is something to be excited about (even without those sweet Snapchat selfie filters). It’s a great new way to interact with your Instagram followers, and there are some key takeaways you can start using today to inform your social media strategy.
How to Use Instagram Stories
When you open the Instagram app, stories from the people you follow are featured at the top of your feed. Just click to start watching them. Tap the screen to skip certain photos or videos within that person’s slideshow, or swipe left to view stories from the next profile. When someone you follow has posted a new story, there will be a colorful ring around their picture.
To create your own Instagram Story, hit the + icon in the top left corner of your screen, or swipe to the right at any point when viewing your feed. This will bring you to your camera where you can take a photo or video.
Just like Snapchat, you can write or draw on your photo or video, and add emojis. Unlike Snapchat, Instagram Stories doesn’t have fun selfie lenses you can use to add things like dog ears, make yourself look like alien, or my favorite: the granny filter.
When your post is ready to publish, click “Add it to your story” at the bottom of the screen.
That’s it! Easy, right? You’ve now created an Instagram Story. Instagram Stories don’t appear in your normal profile grid or in your main feed, which means you don’t have to worry about over posting. You can also track how many times your story has been viewed and by whom by swiping up on your story.
Instagram or Snapchat?
If you started asking yourself this question last week, you’re definitely not alone. It’s important to remember that it’s more of a “Instagram Stories vs Snapchat Stories” question, not so much an Instagram vs Snapchat one. Each platform still offers it’s own unique capabilities and most marketers or brands reading this have already invested time building audiences on both of them. Definitely don’t abandon your Snapchat followers!
What Instagram Stories does provide is way to communicate more intimately with your Instagram followers in a way the app didn’t previously allow for, but is what helped Snapchat take off as a marketing tool. It’s about providing that unpolished, behind-the-scenes look that followers love to see from their favorite celebrities, brands, etc.
Instagram Stories – The Pros and Cons
Pro # 1: Easy to Use
Lots of people are talking about how Instagram Stories is easy to use. While this might be because Instagram users are already familiar with the app, Instagram is also doing a good job with educating users on how to use the new Stories feature. People on the fence about Snapchat because it seemed difficult to use may now turn to Instagram.
Snapchat left many of its users up to their own devices (pun intended) with figuring out hidden features, tricks, and more. In fact, I just showed a coworker the other day how to access the expanded color palette (hint: hold down on the color palette and drag your finger to the bottom left corner of your screen). However, this kind of learn-as-you-go model has led to TONS of awesome Snapchat related content, which has worked really well to create buzz about the app.
Pro # 2: Leverage an Existing Follower Base
Instagram launched in 2010, which means some users have had 6 years to build a following. Using Stories doesn’t mean having to create or migrate a follower base; it’s a way for users to strengthen existing relationships with their existing Instagram followers.
Instagram has 500 million active users, which is a larger community than Snapchat’s 150 million. Instagram Stories are front and center when you open up the app, which speaks to the push Instagram is making. Snapchat Stories are located on their own separate screen you need to navigate to after opening the app.
Con # 1: Not As Many Cool Features
The most entertaining part of Snapchat is the fun filters. If you’re an avid Snapchat user, you probably check the different selfie lenses daily. Snapchat keeps creating new ones and recycling the greatest hits. Sponsored filters are also big for brands (you can literally paste your ad on someone’s face) and geofilters are useful for event marketing.
Instagram Stories doesn’t have this kind of thing – YET. Instagram Stories offers just the basics at the moment: adding text, drawing on your picture or video, and adding emojis.
Con # 2: Shift in Instagram Culture
Historically, Instagram is a place for well-manicured photos, taken by people who really care about the visual quality of their posts. Snapchat is the total opposite. It’s a place for quick, goofy, even blurry photos or videos with doodles and funny filters. Can Instagram make that shift and do it as well as Snapchat? Imagine if the opposite were true: if Snapchat tried to become a platform for more intentional photography or visual content. It’s too early to tell if Snapchat-like content will get traction on Instagram, but if it does, it could pose a threat to Snapchat.
What’s a Marketer to Do?
The big question is how content will differ between your Instagram Stories vs your Snapchat Stories. Instagram posts and Snapchat snaps are already used very differently, but can tell the same story.
For example, a brand that’s shooting a new commercial might post a polished picture of the set as an Instagram post, and then take a goofy video as a snap with some of the crew. That snap would then be added to that brand’s Snapchat story for the day.
So, where do Instagram Stories fit? There may be duplicate content between Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories for a while until users, especially brands and marketers, figure out how to create unique social content on each platform. But until then, start playing around with Instagram Stories, see how your followers respond, and have fun!
What are your thoughts on the new Instagram Stories feature? We’d love to hear them!