Nick Westergaard

By Nick Westergaard on August 17, 2016

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Instagram Stories: Better for Users, Better for Brands

As I mentioned last month, Instagram is a powerful social network. So I was a bit surprised last week when they announced that they were stealing a feature from social juggernaut Snapchat. In fact, they didn’t even bother to change the feature’s name.

Like Snapchat Stories, Instagram Stories offer users the chance to captures moments via photo or video, add some text and scribbles, and drop this into a chronologically organized slideshow. These stories also disappear over the next 24 hours.

Is Snapchat doomed? Is Instagram the Snapchat killer or is all of this hype? Let’s cut through the clutter and take a look at what this means and why it matters for your business.

Why Instagram Stories Are Better for Users

Make no mistake about it, Snapchat is a social media giant. They essentially own the millennial demographic, as Edison Research noted in their Infinite Dial study earlier this year. This is big news as Facebook has had a solid foothold on every demo over the past decade.

So it’s not that surprising that Facebook would use their visually focused social network (Instagram) to make the most aggressive and obvious attack on Snapchat. They have a bit of history with this kind of thing. Remember when Twitter launched Vine’s six-second looping videos to popular acclaim only to have their growth stunted a few months later by Instagram’s 15-second videos?

It’s easy to say that Facebook is simply stealing. However, in both cases, they made the product better. They beat Vine in both video length and by adding filters. Instagram Stories similarly strike at Snapchat’s Achilles’ heel — design.

While Snapchat is bold and engaging, it eschews standard social network design conventions. I don’t want to sound like the old, non-millennial but Snapchat isn’t intuitive. It isn’t easy to use. That’s a problem for growth. Instagram’s sleek stories are easy to access edit. A plus icon at the top or a simple swipe right reveals the photo screen to start a new story.

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Why Instagram Stories Are Better for Brands

This intuitive design provides a good segue into why Instagram Stories are better for brands. The home screen for the network features horizontally scrolling icons across the top for users with the latest stories.

For most brands, their logo is their social avatar. This provides an immediate and powerful brand touchpoint, reinforcing top-of-mind awareness. As the feed — now powered by Instagram’s first algorithm — gets more crowded, standing out is essential. Stories provide a great way to reinforce your core message.

Another brand-centric feature is that all of this is happening on Instagram — an established social network used by 94% of the Interbrand 100, as reported by Simply Measured in their 2016 State of Social Media Marketing Report. If you already have a presence on Instagram you can build on that.

It’s also easier for users to find and follow brands on Instagram. With all of the hype, it’s easy to forget that Snapchat still requires users to search for an exact username — no spaces, no exceptions (e.g. foxmovies does not show up in a search for ‘fox movies’).

What This Means for the State of Social Content

“Good artist’s copy; great artists steal.” It’s easy to misinterpret this Picasso quote as an endorsement of blatant theft. A copycat simply parrots the original. The stealing done by great artists is usually taking something that exists and reinventing it with either new features or context (the iPhone made the existing tech of the MP3 player better).

While Instagram Stories streamline some of Snapchat’s design shortcomings, they provide new context for the story as a powerful and transcendent form of social content. Facebook pioneered the feed, which is now a widely accepted social standard. Stories  provide the perfect intersection of realtime, personal, and visual content.

A powerful tool for both users and brands. What’s your story?




Nick Westergaard
Email Brand Driven Digital

is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, where he helps build better brands online. He also teaches at the University of Iowa and is host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.


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