Instagram Stories: What does this mean for your brand?

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By Nick Westergaard

Instagram, as I mentioned last month, is a powerful social network. So I was a bit surprised last week when the company announced that it stealing a feature from social juggernaut Snapchat.

In fact, they didn’t even bother to change the feature’s name.

As with Snapchat Stories, Instagram Stories offer users the chance to captures moments via photo or video, add some text and scribbles, and drop this into a chronologically organized slideshow. These stories also disappear over the next 24 hours.

Is Snapchat doomed? Is Instagram the Snapchat killer or is all of this hype?

Let’s cut through the clutter and take a look at what this means and why it matters for your business.

Why Instagram Stories Are Better for Users

Make no mistake about it, Snapchat is a social media giant. It essentially owns the millennial demographic, as Edison Research noted in its Infinite Dial study earlier this year. This is big news as Facebook has had a solid foothold on every demo over the past decade.

So it’s not that surprising that Facebook would use its visually focused social network — Instagram — to make the most aggressive and obvious attack on Snapchat.

It has a bit of history with this kind of thing. Remember when Twitter launched Vine’s six-second looping videos to popular acclaim only to have their growth stunted a few months later by Instagram’s 15-second videos?

It’s easy to say that Facebook is simply stealing. However, in both cases, it made the product better.

It beat Vine in both video length and by adding filters. Instagram Stories similarly strike at Snapchat’s Achilles’ heel — design.

While Snapchat is bold and engaging, it eschews standard social network design conventions. I don’t want to sound like the old, non-millennial, but Snapchat isn’t intuitive. It isn’t easy to use.

That’s a problem for growth. Instagram’s sleek stories are easy to access edit. A plus icon at the top or a simple swipe right reveals the photo screen to start a new story.

Why Instagram Stories Are Better for Brands

This intuitive design provides a good segue into why Instagram Stories are better for brands. The home screen for the network features horizontally scrolling icons across the top for users with the latest stories.

For most brands, their logo is their social avatar. This provides an immediate and powerful brand touchpoint, reinforcing top-of-mind awareness.

As the feed — now powered by Instagram’s first algorithm — gets more crowded, standing out is essential. Stories provide a great way to reinforce your core message.

Another brand-centric feature is that all of this is happening on Instagram — an established social network used by 94 percent of the Interbrand 100. If you already have a presence on Instagram, you can build on that.

It’s also easier for users to find and follow brands on Instagram. With all the hype, it’s easy to forget that Snapchat still requires users to search for an exact username — no spaces, no exceptions. For example, foxmovies does not show up in a search for “fox movies.”

What This Means for the State of Social Content

“Good artist’s copy, great artists steal.”

It’s easy to misinterpret this Picasso quote as an endorsement of blatant theft. A copycat simply parrots the original.

The stealing done by great artists usually is taking something that exists and reinventing it with either new features or context. The iPhone made the existing tech of the MP3 player better, for example.

While Instagram Stories streamline some of Snapchat’s design shortcomings, they provide new context for the story as a powerful and transcendent form of social content. Facebook pioneered the feed, which is now a widely accepted social standard.

Stories provide the perfect intersection of realtime, personal, and visual content. A powerful tool for both users and brands. What’s your story?

l Nick Westergaard is founder of Brand Driven Digital; nick@westergaard.com; @NickWestergaard

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