Instagram adds polling to Stories — but what does it all mean?

A little over a year ago, Instagram copied Snapchat and brought Stories to the non-Snapping masses. Since then, the Stories feature has changed quite a bit. Instagram has added creative ways to reply to stories, live video, and more.

The latest feature to join that list is polling. You can now add polls to your Stories to allow viewers to vote on a binary question. To test this new feature, I ventured into the belly of the Insta-beast. I went undercover as a teen and created a poll. (How do you do, fellow kids?)

I should note: unlike on Twitter, Instagram polling is not anonymous. My girlfriend voted for hot coffee on my head (which I am choosing to take as her encouraging my career stability); a co-worker voted for it to go on my laptop (which I am interpreting as professional sabotage).

But while I was 21 Jump Street-ing myself, I wondered: Why polls? Why in Stories? Why now?

Instagram Stories began as a one-way form of social communication — a single message distributed passively to followers that completely ignored the main feed. With no way to comment on Stories (initially there was a rarely used reply feature) and no “likes,” Stories started as something to be published and then forgotten, bits and bytes scattered to the digital winds.

The new features have inverted this paradigm — they are now the most interactive part of Instagram. Instagram Live (now more tightly integrated with Stories) is a live-streaming tool that thrives on instant and constant interaction between the audience and the streamer. In turn, Instagram Stories itself has been folded into the platform’s direct message system, allowing users to send their friends’ photo and video messages that disappear after 24 hours.

The core Facebook app seems to be a bit jealous of the playfulness that is thriving on their photo sharing platform; Facebook has been testing out syndicating Instagram stories to the main Facebook app.

What does all of this mean for brands and other organizations? It feels like a regression to the early days of Instagram where filters, borders, and casual photography made the platform seem too unpolished to fit with most corporate identities. This time around, organizations need to figure out how to take advantage of this freewheeling, creative storytelling medium, or risk getting left behind. For example, regular users and influencers are already getting more creative than brands with polls. Plus, it’s worth noting that Instagram Stories is the only place you can post while linking users to an external site, which is incredibly useful when you’re trying to drive deeper actions than likes or comments.

As for the results of my poll? The people have spoken: The coffee must be dumped on my computer. I don’t expect the “my followers made me do it” excuse to go over well with the BSD IT department, so wish me luck.


Want to use social media to mobilize your community? Get in touch with us.