By Brian Leigh
By now, you've surely heard of Instagram Stories, the Snapchat-inspired update that Instagram announced last Tuesday.
Rather than competing with or buying Snapchat — two tactics it had previously explored — Facebook, Instagram's parent company, decided that it was time to tip its hat and sincerely flatter its biggest competitor.
But Instagram Stories is more than just a carbon copy of Snapchat. The differences are minor, but in time they could prove important to social media marketers. Here are three reasons why.
1. Stories Are Displayed Based on an Algorithm
Unlike Snapchat, which displays stories chronologically, Instagram displays stories based on an algorithm. The more you interact with someone, the more likely you are to see their story at the front of your queue.
The good thing about an algorithm is its secrecy. Everything takes place behind a curtain. And when everything takes place behind a curtain, there's wiggle room for brands to insert themselves.
Ipso facto, it might not be long before Instagram Stories becomes a promoted version of Snapchat. It will be hard to serve stories to non-followers — that would seem too overt — but promoting to beat the algorithm is plausible.
That alone would be a big win for brands.
2. Brands Already Have an Audience
The biggest hurdle for most brands on Snapchat isn't creating content...it's getting content seen. Ads are the only form of promotion, and users are more interested in following friends than companies. Brands can try and try, but it's a hard platform on which to feel native.
Instagram Stories circumvents that problem. Brands that already have an Instagram following can start producing Snapchat-type content without the risk of too few people seeing it. Because they have that preexisting audience, they can worry less about speaking to the wind.
This doesn't mean that followers become the new major metric on Instagram; in general, they still matter far less than people think. But if brands are interested in toying with Snapchat-style storytelling, this is definitely one way followers can help.
3. Users Can Pause or Navigate
Once you start a Snapchat story, it all flows downhill. If you miss something or accidentally skip a slide, you have restart the story to go back and view it. Depending on the length of the story, that can get pretty annoying.
Instagram is far less ephemeral. It wasn't founded as a place where things disappear. So even though it's moving in Snapchat's direction, it introduced a function where users can pause or scroll back and forth within a story.
How does that help brands and marketers? Send that note over to the creatives. With one less limitation, they'll have a field day.
Maybe there's a way to make these stories interactive? Maybe you can choose your own adventure? Like any new update, this feature opens a wealth of possibilities, and the first few brands to crack it will be lauded for their innovative thinking.
So what are you waiting for? Go be one of those brands!