Last week, Instagram introduced “Stories.” This new feature is almost an exact replica of Snapchat Stories: you share images and videos in a slideshow format, and they’re visible for a 24-hour period of time. Even Instagram’s CEO, Kevin Systrom, gave Snapchat all the credit for the feature.
What does this update mean for your brand?
If you have a presence on both Instagram and Snapchat, you probably have way more followers on Instagram than Snapchat. Instagram has double the amount of daily active users of Snapchat — around 300 million — and makes it easier for users to find you.
Audience size is going to matter a lot when you have to choose which platform to post your stories: Nike’s agency told Ad Age that its first Instagram story generated 800,000 views, while its best Snapchat story got around 60,000 views. It’s time to update your content calendar.
Instagram Stories currently have no likes, public comments, or sharing options. If you’re going to use Instagram Stories, expect to measure your engagement a little bit differently, as none of the popular measurement KPIs are available. The only data Instagram is going to show you is how many people saw your story, as well as their name. Unlike on Snapchat, the screenshot count isn’t currently available to measure engagement.
Another way to measure engagement with Stories are private messages. Users can send you messages from your Story. Use this as a feedback loop when you try new or unusual content. If the feedback is good, use the “Share as post…” option and make it permanent on your profile.
Call to Action
Stories are a great way to drive action from your fan base without polluting your profile. Some brands already figured this out and are using Stories to drive sales with flash promotions, sign-ups, contest entries, or simply starting a conversation around a hashtag.
You might be already doing similar activations on Snapchat, but Instagram has two components that should make you reconsider: profiles and search & discovery.
If users want to know more after watching your story they can go to your profile. This means that through your Instagram Story, you can drive people to a carefully crafted profile, have them browse your content, and even drive them to an external website with a URL in your profile description.
Through the search & discovery feature, users that are not following you can find you and see your story. You can also use a specific hashtag and drive conversation around your brand and leverage the community.
On Snapchat, your stories go as far as your follower base. Instagram stories go beyond the story and allow you to drive people down a conversion funnel and leverage the entire community.
Find the Right Balance
Keep in mind that with Instagram Stories, your brand will be at the top of your fan’s feed, among his/her friends and family. Making sure that your story provides great content and value is critical if you don’t want to get unfollowed.
So as tempting as it is to use Stories to drive various business objectives, you need to find the right balance between organic and promotional content. There are many ways to successfully use stories. Here are a few ideas:
- Behind the Scenes, e.g., photo shoots, how it’s made, events, company life
- Tips and How-Tos, e.g., educational videos
- Product Announcements, e.g., sneak peeks, unboxing, designs
- Live Events, e.g., shows, concerts, games, etc.
- Influencer Takeover
- Community Q&A
In addition to balancing content, you also need to balance frequency. There is such a thing as over-posting, and given the attention span of the average user, you need to make sure to keep your stories short and engaging.
Using Stories as a Research Tool
You don’t have to follow someone to see their story if their privacy is set to public. Users can block accounts from seeing stories, but this will most likely be used on individuals rather than brands.
This provides a wonderful tool for marketers to better understand their audience and gather insights on the audience’s behavior and daily life.
Another way to use Stories as a research tool is to analyze the response you get from your Stories. How did people react to your latest Story? Did people get excited about your latest product tease? Stories can be a useful tool when conducting market research and collecting early feedback.
There are a few things that we can see coming very soon.
- Filters and Lenses: Facebook acquired Masquerade, a live filter app, back in March.
- Advertising Opportunities: Whether it’s going to be Sponsored Stories or Ad Insertions in between your friend’s Stories, we can expect an ad product built around stories.
- Improvements: Hopefully some of the following features are coming soon:
- Click through to a profile.
- Click through to a Story’s @ mention or hashtag
- Unsubscribe from an account’s Stories (without unfollowing)
- Share Stories
Is This Bad News for Snapchat?
As we’ve seen earlier, Instagram’s ecosystem is much more brand-friendly than Snapchat’s. Brands on Instagram have profiles, they can be found organically via the search & discovery feature, and, more importantly, they already are familiar with the Instagram format and the Facebook ecosystem in general.
With Stories, Instagram offers brands the advantages of live, ephemeral content along with a well-crafted business profile, all in one place.
This doesn’t mean that the end is near for Snapchat. Snapchat still has a very differentiated and creative product suite and remains one of the best ways to reach the younger generation. Lenses, for example, have shown the power of Snapchat in multiple instances for brands such as Taco Bell or Tiffany’s. Geo-filters are also a huge hit and a powerful event-marketing tool.
If you weren’t considering Instagram Stories as part of your marketing mix, you need to do it now, but be cautious in your approach. Although Instagram Stories is a copy of Snapchat Stories in a lot of ways, it doesn’t mean they should be used to same way.
Instagram’s reach and ecosystem make it a prime tool for brands to share Stories and collect market feedback, but it should be done at first by carefully listening to your fans. Instagram is a platform with a higher quality content and even though Stories are ephemeral, they should bring value to the user in a non-intrusive and non-spammy way.
If you have to choose between one of the two apps, Instagram seems to be a great candidate to share product announcements, how-tos, behind-the-scenes, and more general branding content, while Snapchat remains the king for live events, creative campaigns, or for reaching the younger demographic.
While the jury is still out on the continued expansion of features in Instagram and its associated dilution of thesis, for your brand — welcome to your favorite new feature