August 2016

Is Stories a Page Instagram Should Be Turning?

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Snapchat should feel pretty good right now.

We know that the majority of social media users are engaging on more than one platform, and that they turn to different outlets for different functionalities, audiences and connections. There's no expectation that any one platform should be the end-all and be-all, and yet Instagram clearly sees Snapchat's features as enough of a threat to adopt an almost identical functionality with the Stories feature — complete with their own version of disappearing content.

The incorporation of a Stories feature — which takes selected photos and places them in a slideshow-type video that sticks around for just 24 hours, complete with the ability to “annotate with doodles, text and emoji” — is aimed at shifting our perception of Instagram and the way we use the platform. The move also begins to blur the lines between two apps that have traditionally occupied very separate spaces: Snapchat as a messaging app, and Instagram as a social app. Stories seems to be the first indication that Instagram thinks it can seriously compete in territory that has belonged to Snapchat for years.

Instagram has always been about curated content, with users typically reserving their few best photos to post there. Even Instagram has said that they realize not every photo is deemed “worthy of the main feed.” So, given this, can we really expect users to turn to Instagram to chronicle events as they do on Snapchat? Maybe.

Some users are already doing this (albeit, to the annoyance of their friends) but it's not common practice on Instagram to post so frequently. It remains to be seen how Stories content will be filtered throughout the platform and if the functionality will evolve as the Snapchat Discover feature has. It is clear, however, that the move is a great way to offer users another way to share, this time off the main feed.

So what does this all mean? For marketers it's a great opportunity. Instagram is a much easier and less expensive platform to advertise with than Snapchat, as it's part of Facebook's ad platform. And if these changes mean more frequent use of the platform, more time spent browsing and more consumer engagement, then even greater marketing opportunities will spring from it.

The move also has technical implications. Adding this functionality to Instagram not only makes it a stronger platform, it creates healthy competition for Snapchat. We can hope that Snapchat sees this as a “shot across the bow” and takes this opportunity to expand the functionality of its own platform, as well as to improve upon some of its deficiencies. Namely, a user experience that is intentionally obscure and the lack of a public API, which restricts integration to Snapchat's preferred vendors and content creators, and also comes with a hefty price tag.

Users are emotionally connected to their favorite platforms, so there's already backlash about the fact that Instagram didn't even bother to change the name of the feature. However, Snapchat CEO, Evan Spiegel, has embraced the change and claims it shows that Snapchat invented a new category of content to be shared, regardless of the platform or app it's used in.

With the new overlap in functionality users will have to decide which platform gets their Story. Ultimately it will come down to how seamless it is to use and, like everything else, if their friends are doing it.

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By Kristen Clough
VP, Strategy & Analytics

By Kevin Conklin
VP/Group Director, Technology