Little more than a month after Snapchat announced the release of its archiving feature ‘Memories’, photo-sharing platform Instagram has stolen the social media spotlight with the introduction of ‘Instagram Stories’.

This new addition to the app offers users the chance to post photos and videos that won’t be featured on their grids or in their news feeds. In a rather familiar manner, these posts will disappear after 24 hours, and can be edited through the use of a filter or a set of drawing tools – much like on the popular messaging app Snapchat. With over 300 million daily active users, Instagram has a dedicated global community that continues to grow. Many of its users are heavily invested in the app, with 66% of users uploading at least one photo every month, and 54% liking at least one photo or video clip within the same time frame. So why the need for change?

More content for Instagram

The official blog post introducing ‘Instagram Stories’ described the update to users as “a new feature that lets you share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile.” The post also emphasised the fleetingness of this type of content – assuring fans that they wouldn’t need to worry about over posting, as photos and videos are only temporary, and will vanish after a 24 hour period. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom described ‘Instagram Stories’ as “a place for content that’s not good enough for the Instagram feed”, or at least is too silly to fit in amongst the art. Because everything disappears, you don’t have to be ashamed of that awkward face or stupid joke forever the way things posted to your real Instagram profile reflect on you forever.

Inspired by Snapchat?

It does appear that Instagram has taken a great deal of inspiration from Snapchat, and it’s easy to see why: the app shot to fame in less than six years and is now used routinely by over 31% of social users. But will the kind of disposable ‘Snapchat-style’ content enabled by ‘Instagram Stories’ really fit within the Instagram’s carefully curated environment? Only time will tell. Many users have already shunned the update, using it not at all, or just once to promote their Snapchat usernames. Others are embracing the offering, uploading stories to both Snapchat and Instagram throughout the day. But, as with everything new, it takes time for an existing audience to adapt their use of a platform to incorporate a new feature, and even longer for them to adopt it as the norm.

What the future holds

And we’ll agree that this kind of content does feel slightly out-of-place on Instagram at the moment. The platform has not only taken a risk by adding this feature so soon after rolling out its latest algorithm tweaks, but also by potentially alienating its current audience base. Many Instagrammers are not on Snapchat, and therefore may find it hard to understand the premise of ‘Stories’, resulting in a slow uptake of the feature, and potentially even spurring them to leave the platform altogether. Similarly, those who are familiar with these kind of quick updates could feel overwhelmed by the idea of publishing/viewing such similar updates on two social networks at once, and suffer the same fate.

However, anything that offers more opportunities for personalisation is likely to do well in today’s customer-centric market. Non-Snapchat users may be excited to see this feature on a platform they are already fully-versed in, and embrace the chance to try their hand at creating a new style of content.

What this means for brands

The update is also big news for brands. Those who may have previously avoided Snapchat due to the challenge of creating effective, short-form content now have the opportunity to experiment on a platform they are well acquainted with, and have already established a strong following on. Unlike Snapchat, Instagram provides users with an option to discover other people using the app, suggesting images and videos for individuals based on posts they have previously interacted with. This means more exposure for brands, and therefore increases their chances of generating meaningful engagement with their target audience.

Initially, measurement of ‘Instagram Stories’ will mirror that of Snapchat – no likes, no public comments, just a simple view count. Yet, with Instagram’s penchant for inciting ecommerce, (22% of shoppers have regularly used the platform to browse for products), it may not be long until further functionality is added to these posts, with the possibility of tracking users through to a purchase decision seeming appropriate.

Whatever the initial success of ‘Instagram Stories’, it will be interesting to see how this feature develops within Instagram, and how its growth may differentiate it from Snapchat. Despite the similarities between the two apps, the way they are used, and by whom, may turn out to be very different.

Sources:

Global Web Index Social report Q2 2016

AdWeek, 2016

Verdict’s e-researcher e-tail report.

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