The Stories War: What to Make of Instagram's New Release

Does Instagram's new Stories functionality look familiar? Of course it does. Even Kevin said so.


Today, we’re introducing Instagram Stories, a new feature that lets you share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile. As you share multiple photos and videos, they appear together in a slideshow format: your story. With Instagram Stories, you don’t have to worry about overposting. Instead, you can share as much as you want throughout the day — with as much creativity as you want. You can bring your story to life in new ways with text and drawing tools. The photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in feed. You’ll see stories from people you follow in a bar at the top of your feed — from your best friends to your favorite popular accounts. When there’s something new to see, their profile photo will have a colorful ring around it. To view someone’s story, just tap on their profile photo. It’s easy to view stories at your own pace: tap to go back and forward or swipe to jump to another person’s story. If you want to comment on something you see, you can tap and send a private message to that person on Instagram Direct. Unlike regular posts, there are no likes or public comments. Your story follows the privacy settings of your account. If you set your account to private, your story is visible only to your followers. However, you can also easily hide your entire story from anyone you don’t want to see it, even if they follow you. When watching your own story, swipe up to check out who’s seen each photo and video. You can even choose to feature a particular part of your story by posting it on your profile. Instagram has always been a place to share the moments you want to remember. Now you can share your highlights and everything in between, too. Instagram Stories will be rolling out globally over the next few weeks on iOS and Android. To learn more, check out help.instagram.com.

A video posted by Instagram (@instagram) on

Now that the dust has (kind of) settled following Instagram's big mic drop last week, I feel like we've all had time to properly digest the second coming of a Stories format. It's only natural that the world wide web exploded into a million opinions (not dissimilar to this spring's algorithm announcement), but the recovery process from the initial shock is well underway and we can begin to get on with our virtual lives, and figure out what this all means.

In all seriousness though, this update was of nuclear magnitude because no one saw it coming. Not even Snapchat.

Two Birds, One Snap

Here's the thing: users consume the two platforms very differently. While they're both visual, interactive and optimized by way of audience engagement, they intrinsically serve distinct, yet complimentary purposes. With Instagram introducing Stories to their platform, they're basically combining separate tools that folks had previously compartmentalized into two, somewhat disconnected habits.

Instagram is a platform where people put loads of time and effort to curate an impeccable gallery of images that reflect their best lives, or that telegraph a calculated message delivered as organically as possible to represent their brand. Whereas on Snapchat, users only post in real time without being able to make edits, which pretty much hampers everyone's propensity to fake moments. This writer included (shame).

While usage and consumption differ on both platforms, the app that made us addicted to ephemerality was (is still?) experiencing exceptional momentum by winning the popularity contest with the younger millennial set. Aka part of Instagram's market share.

Instagram is positioning Stories as a complimentary function to its main bread and butter (curated photo sharing), thus "validating that spontaneous, vertical video is here to stay," explains our co-founder and CEO here at Dash Hudson, Thomas Rankin. "Now that Instagram has taken the leap to introduce Stories, it's likely that we will see this form of communication replicated elsewhere," he continues, mentioning Twitter might be next.

Instagram Stories for Business

Folks who engage in social media have been trained in spite of themselves to use each network for a particular purpose. What Instagram is evidently trying to do is merge both habits into one single platform by encouraging new behavior from their users, as well as hoping to coax Snapchat aficionados to shift their usage in Insta's favor. Dog filter notwithstanding.

Seeing as most Instagram devotees - businesses included - refrain from posting too frequently in order not to spam their followers, selecting and sharing only the best that their camera roll has to offer, Instagram launched Stories to keep users on the platform beyond that regular habit.

Literally:

Share as Much as You Want
With Instagram Stories, you don't have to worry about over-posting. Instead, you can share as much as you want and bring your story to life with text and drawing tools.

When 2 Become 1

Instagram's all-in-one formula might be its golden ticket. Most users, whether individuals or brands, have spent so much time building a strong, engaged following on Instagram, and the rise of Snapchat required them to begin the tedious process again elsewhere. This essentially meant that accounts had to start building another audience from scratch, devising elaborate strategies to get their followers to migrate over their devotion to them on a new platform...

Needless to say, with Insta Stories, that is no longer the case. Followers are already there for the taking viewing. "The attractiveness of Instagram stories is that you are communicating with an audience that you have spent years cultivating," Rankin asserts.

While a lot of brands have been very successful on Snapchat, the release of Intagram's version was met with palpable excitement. Nearly everyone in our feed gave it a go immediately, making it sound like a collective sigh of relief from brands that had struggled to get on the Snap train for the reasons mentioned above. As our director of brand strategy Mariana Rittenhouse explains, "brands that haven't yet made a significant investment in Snapchat will likely remain Instagram loyal."

On the other hand, the accounts that have invested a lot of time and resources into Snapchat will still need to investigate Instagram's version. Rittenhouse points out that "our favorite Snapchat brands will likely have to invest in both Stories formats for a period of time to see if there’s a noticeable difference in performance where their goals are met, and then adjust accordingly."


The Difference is Discovery

The lack of organic discovery on Snapchat is a factor that has proven to be the most important obstacle for brands on the platform. It makes audience-building and follower growth even more challenging. Rankin brings up that "Snapchat has made it notoriously difficult to discover other people, brands, and publishers through Snapchat Stories," but what's unusual is that it's also the platform that marketers have been prioritizing. "This is where most brands want to invest their time, energy, and dollars because the organic and engaging nature of it makes it so appealing."

The Facebook-owned app's got yet another thing going for its shiny new update: the recent launch of business profiles gives them a leg up on courting companies. Rittenhouse explains that "releasing insights for businesses is proving to be a huge advantage for Instagram, which was really well-timed with the release of Stories, knowing full well that Snapchat does not give access to any of that information."

Snapchat is selling ads and allowing brands to promote their content through Discover channels, but the platform doesn't issue any stats beyond unique views that could help make marketers feel more secure about budget spend. Concurrently, "there are tried and tested ways to grow and engage on Instagram, and ways to measure the ROI of your activities," says Rankin. It seems like Snapchat is going to need to reassess its secretive nature: "To continue to engage and appeal to brands, Snapchat will need to make it easier to build and to measure," he states.

Instagram Stories Snapchat Clone

What Now?

There's no denying the fact that this release was a huge statement from Facebook, confirming the colossal significance of Mr. Spiegels' first born.

Safe to say the Stories war is on. We'll just have to wait and see who comes out victorious.


For all things Instagram and Snapchat, get in touch, we're wise and chatty here at Dash Hudson.