Social POV: Instagram Stories

The hottest news in digital this week? Instagram has added a new “Stories” feature, which enables users to publish a feed of content that stays live for 24 hours before disappearing. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is copied nearly wholesale from Snapchat’s feature of the same name. In fact, “Stories” was the feature that propelled Snapchat from being a niche messaging service mostly used by teens to the juggernaut it has become in recent years. This is also Instagram’s second naked attempt to copy Snapchat. The first was Instagram Direct, which allowed users to privately send photos and text messages to one another within the Instagram platform.

But Instagram isn’t the only culprit here: Twitter and Facebook have been stealing features from each other for years. At this point, the differentiation between platforms is more about norms than feature sets.

So, why does Instagram want to be Snapchat?

Snapchat has gotten a foothold in culture—especially youth culture—unlike any other platform. Part of Snapchat’s early appeal was that it felt kind of like a secret club; people over 25 generally did not understand how to use the app. Its uniquely personal nature and amateur quality made it the first social network to deliver on the promise of making users feel like they’re actually connected to the celebrities and companies they follow. On the other hand, people across generations are already using Instagram, and now it has adopted Snapchat’s most salient feature, along with a much clearer user interface.

Also, the aesthetic quality of many Instagram accounts has become intimidatingly high; Instagram says that Stories allow users to fill in the gaps between their high-quality posts with a stream of more intimate, unfiltered content.

What does all this mean for brands and nonprofits?

Organizations already active on Instagram should absolutely begin to test out the Stories feature. Brands and nonprofits of all kinds have have already jumped in—giving their followers behind-the-scenes access, more playful content, and personal encounters.

Given the amount of devoted, influential Instagram users with large followings, Instagram Stories are poised to take over the casual sharing/messaging space. Snapchat has reached the point where brands, celebrities, and even nonprofits feel pressured to be on the platform—but why learn to use a new (and deeply confusing) app and devote resources to building a new audience, when you can simply leverage essentially the same feature with your existing audience?

This feature rollout enables you to answer that persistent question, “So why aren’t we on Snapchat?” with the answer, “Because Instagram Stories is even better.”

It’s important to remember that Stories don’t always need a sparkling, high-quality edit. In fact, the raw, behind-the-scenes aesthetic is what made Stories such an appealing mechanism on Snapchat. Even a fairly mundane Story that showcases your staff’s personality can make your organization seem relatable and endearing. Intimate views of the people you serve, the change you enact, and the difference you make in the world can be even more powerful here. Because these Stories are ephemeral, you should also make sure to save pieces of the Stories to publish as evergreen Instagram content for lasting discoverability and engagement.

Companies considering Snapchat activations (who are already active on Instagram) should test out Stories on Instagram first before starting up a Snapchat presence. A trial run on Instagram will show you whether or not your audience is engaged with this type of content, and let you try out a less formal creative production process without investing in building up a brand new community.