Using Instagram’s Latest Feature: Stories

September 09, 2016

Instagram’s newest feature that you need to know about.

On August 2, Instagram made waves by rolling out its latest feature, Stories. According to Instagram, Stories is a way to “share all the moments of your day.” Users create a story by sharing multiple images and videos that are presented in a slideshow format. Drawing and text tools let users add a dash of creativity to their stories.

Stories appear at the top of the Instagram feed, and story components do not show up in the user’s profile page like permanent images do. Users can browse through the moments shared by friends and brands with a single click before they disappear 24 hours later.

The goal of this latest feature is to allow users to share the fleeting moments of their lives. Stories share the everyday moments, while the permanent profile houses the highlights. For a brand, this means providing a behind-the-scenes look at promotional events, day-to-day activities and giving viewers a chance to connect with the brand.

If this all sounds familiar, you’re not the only one scratching your head. Brands and individuals are all asking themselves whether Instagram Stories can compete with Snapchat. With Instagram reporting 300 million active daily users and Snapchat coming in with 150 million daily active users, it is quite possible that the answer is “yes.”

Both Instagram and Snapchat are image-heavy platforms, but before Instagram Stories, that is where the similarities ceased. With the introduction of stories, Instagram can do almost everything Snapchat can and is more versatile.

What does this means for businesses? Will this mean that using both platforms is no longer necessary? Is one platform more effective for small, medium or large businesses or will anything change at all? While it’s still too early to tell if one platform will be pushed aside, here’s what we do know:

The two platforms have taken different approaches to organizing stories.

On Snapchat, stories are presented chronologically. The most recent stories appear at the top of the viewer’s feed with older stories gradually being pushed to the bottom. Instagram has chosen to display stories at the very top of the newsfeed. It uses an algorithm to determine which stories the user is more likely to want to see.

Instagram’s drawing tools are more advanced.

Instagram offers more drawing tool options that are more precise than Snapchat’s offerings. Lines are more precise and colors are easier to choose. Snapchat is still the king of emojis, however.

Hashtags aren’t functional in either platform’s stories.

You read that right. When the user creates a story on Instagram or Snapchat, it can use hashtags to indicate content topics or commentary, but tapping on those hashtags does nothing. Most social media users are accustomed to tapping a hashtag to explore all content associated with that tag. This is not the case for story hashtags. This is a flaw in both story platforms. Instagram’s permanent feed allows the option of tapping a hashtag to explore related content.

Taking these three points into account, you may find yourself wondering if there is much of a difference between Instagram stories and Snapchat stories and which one is best for your business.

With both platforms providing virtually the same story experience, the choice seems impossible, but early adopters of Instagram stories rave about it. Big-name media companies like CNN, Food Network and Cosmopolitan jumped at the chance to use the new feature and claim to see solid early viewership numbers. With its easy-to-use controls and familiar interface; Instagram has made it easy for brands to seamlessly begin using stories to supplement their current Instagram strategy.

In these early days, it looks like Snapchat’s clunkier, more complicated user experience may be its downfall. In the same breath, it remains to be seen if all or a majority of Instagram users will embrace the new stream of “less than perfect” images. Only time will tell which social media powerhouse will prevail.

For business marketers, the choice should be related to audience rather than usability. If you’re target audience spends time on Snapchat rather than Instagram, you should stick with Snapchat stories. If your target audience is on Instagram, the new Story feature is likely the way to go. If your target audience shifts from one medium to the other, business marketers will need to follow.