This week, Instagram introduced Instagram Stories, a new feature which allows users to share ‘in the moment’ content on the social media platform.
Instagram Stories allows users to share multiple moments of their day through images and video that will only be visible for 24 hours before they disappear forever. Sound familiar? You wouldn’t be mistaken; the new feature no doubt owes a great deal to Snapchat’s hugely successful ‘Stories’ feature.
Instagram is well known for being a place for perfectly polished imagery which is a heavily edited version of real-life, but this new feature merges the authentic nature of Snapchat with their already hugely successful platform.
How does Instagram Stories work?
You can start to create a story by clicking on the + icon in the top left-hand corner of your feed or swiping left. Once you have taken a photo or video you can bring your stories to life with filters, text, drawing tools and emojis.
After you’ve posted your ‘story’, users can access it by tapping the circular avatars at the top of their feed, or clicking a user’s avatar on their Instagram page. According to Instagram, you’ll be shown your favourite accounts first thanks to their algorithm. When there is a new story to see, the account’s profile picture will have a colourful ring around it.
TechCrunch has useful guide on how to use the new features here.
Snapchat or Instagram Stories?
Instagram Stories has already been described as ‘Snapchat for adults’ due to the fact it’s much more user-friendly and doesn’t require you learn to use a new platform. Snapchat’s problem, which may well be intentional, is that the user experience has always been slightly clunky and tricky to navigate. At least for anyone over the age of 25. Instagram has taken that confusing interface and made it work seamlessly within their platform.
The other issue with Snapchat is that it lacks a sense of community – it’s impossible to find new people or discover interesting content without knowing a user’s exact username. It also doesn’t allow users to link to products and web content without verbally having to direct followers to another platform, making it tricky for influencers and brands to drive sales from the platform.
For this reason, Instagram Stories is more brand friendly and allows brands and influencers to access ad functionality, audience data, analytics, and an API.
With over 400 million active daily users on Instagram, compared to Snapchat’s 150 million daily users, we expect many Instagrammers to start to use this new feature rather than direct users to another platform where their followings are likely to be smaller.
The appeal of Snapchat
But have Instagram missed the point slightly? The main reason that the under 25 demographic is so enamored with Snapchat is its intimate nature.
Sure, Stories are public, but only to people following you, and you can only follow someone if you know their exact username, have their number on your phone, or are standing right next to them. You don’t have to be found unless you want to be, meaning that you can choose to keep the pool of people you communicate with very small. In a world where the pressure to get followers and likes can make teenagers anxious, Snapchat offers a welcome safe space where no one knows how many people are following you and no one can like anything.
Instagram, on the other hand, is massively popular amongst this demographic because of the superior quality of its imagery. Snapchat (and other private apps, like Whatsapp) are where teenagers go to communicate; Instagram is where they go to create and consume art. By trying to win ground back from Snapchat, Instagram could be diluting the essence of what made it popular in the first place rather than enhancing and celebrating its position as a distinct digital space.
There’s no doubt, however, that this is a massive opportunity for brands. Snapchat has troubled marketers for a long time as its difficult to attract new followers, very difficult to advertise, and almost impossible to measure impact. Instagram, on the other hand, now offers all the functionality of Snapchat, enabling brands to put together fun, lively, real-time streams of content, combined with the advertising and targeting power of Facebook. It’s the Snapchat marketers have always dreamed of.
Creative brands with a young target market will surely want to experiment with this new format and see how it supports their engagement across the platform. Time will tell whether Instagram users embrace the new format or whether Snapchat continues to be the app of choice for turning yourself into a unicorn!