5 things brands should know about Instagram Stories

August 11, 2016  

Recently, Instagram launched a new feature called Stories, which allows users to post temporary photos without filling up their photo feed or grid. It’s an approachable and ephemeral response to a brand-saturated Instagram feed that tends to be filled with picture-perfect photography. Think of Stories as a place to post all the fleeting moments throughout your day that you don’t want to stay on a profile.

But isn’t that what Snapchat is?

Yes. Stories is Instagram’s direct parallel to Snapchat. But Instagram has little to lose as it attempts to own the storytelling space within social media. Some brands have moved quickly, with a handful of full-scale campaigns launched within just hours of the update’s release. From Nike to Mountain Dew to GE, we’ve been watching the early adopters claim their ground and take Stories for a test run. With that in mind, here are five things that brands should know about Instagram Stories.

  1. It’s easier to use than Snapchat.

    Snapchat is known for its lack of intuitive navigation. Users get very few directions on arrival — and this is likely intentional, as it becomes a barrier that keeps less savvy users (think parents and grandparents) off the platform entirely. By contrast, Instagram has simplified the Stories feature with practical navigation, which means that the nosey aunts of Instagram are going to be watching Stories from the get-go. It also means that the most active members of the Snapchat community — Millennials and Gen Z — may not defect to Instagram Stories anytime soon, for the sake of their privacy.

  2. It’s not intrusive and can serve as a testing ground.

    While some social media users disapprove of disappearing content, due to the time and energy it takes, it’s unlikely that Instagram will see much pushback from this update. Instagram Stories doesn’t intrude on the overall experience, so users will be able to choose how they use the app, whether for the Stories feature or the standard photo grid. Stories is easy to use and quick to understand, but it’s also easy to ignore if you choose. In this way, Instagram Stories can serve as a testing ground for content. So if a Stories post is receiving a lot of engagements, you can post it directly to your profile with a simple upward swipe. And on the flipside, if it’s not performing well, simply let it expire.

  3. It’s a natural fit for brands that want to maintain control over their projection.

    Instagram is an easier sell for brands than Snapchat, thanks to its size, growth, and general awareness. Many brands already have large audiences on Instagram and can target new, look-alike audiences through paid campaigns that align with their Facebook programs. Instagram has double the amount of daily users than Snapchat (300 million versus 150 million), giving brands a distinct advantage on I. Plain and simple, Instagram is already established as an accessible place for brands to engage, with double the amount of active weekly users. Instagram Stories could be a seamless transition for those brands looking to dive into ephemeral content more often.

  4. It has better data and stronger analytics.

    Snapchat has been a dubious place for some brands to experiment because of its limited options for metrics and measuring ROI. Snapchat has struggled to deliver reporting and targeting capabilities at the high bar that Facebook and Instagram have set. There are currently no indications on how Instagram plans to report on Stories interactions, but you can safely assume that there will be a Stories for Businesses offering soon, through sponsored lenses, filters, or other add-ons.

  5. It’s part of a bigger plan.

    It’s not a coincidence that Stories launched just weeks after Instagram rolled out adjustments to its algorithms, which create a personalized timeline based on your engagements, impressions, and viewing habits. Stories will be shown at the top of your screen in a vertical banner based on the “likelihood you’ll be interested” and your relationship with the person posting. This change may create positive user reinforcement for a change that has come with great criticism from the Instagram user community.

Is your brand considering one of these social media platforms? Here’s a side-by-side look at both Snapchat and Instagram Stories today: