The frenzied buzz you might be hearing? That’s the sound of social media marketers everywhere, scrambling to make sense of Instagram’s latest update.
The app’s newest feature—“Instagram Stories”—offers a different experience for the image-sharing platform, allowing users to share unvarnished, in-the-moment content that lives for 24 hours in a separate “Stories” section. Content posted here won’t appear in your audience’s feed or alongside your true Instagram content, and users can choose to add doodles, emojis, or text to their posts.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because Instagram stories is a near-exact clone of Snapchat’s stories feature.
Which brings us to the question: Why? And what can Instagram offer that Snapchat can’t?
Whether you find yourself itching to try it out or scratching your head at the rationale, Instagram Stories is now live and ready for all to use. So let’s take a look at what it might mean.
Live Video is not a gimmick
In the beginning, there was Snapchat. Then Facebook started betting big on live video. Now, Instagram is throwing its hat in the ring.
If the old adage is true—that once is an event, twice is a coincidence, and three times marks a pattern—then live video has truly arrived as a content trend.
While it’s still too early to tell if or how businesses will use Instagram’s stories feature differently than Snapchat, major brands like Nike, General Electric, Maybelline, and more have already begun to explore the new feature.
Bad news for Snapchat?
If Instagram Stories is virtually identical in both form and function to Snapchat, what will be the draw for brands?
Here’s the thing: Snapchat has always been a bit tricky to wrangle. It has a less-than-intuitive interface, and it can be difficult for users to find a specific person or channel to follow. Instagram, on the other hand, is far cleaner and easier to navigate. But more importantly, most brands already have an established presence there. With a stable following already in place, Instagram Stories can offer brands the chance at creating a Snapchat-like experience—without asking followers to find you on a different platform. While it’s true that Instagram lacks Snapchat’s hit “augmented reality filters,” even those may not be far off.
Good apps copy, great apps steal
Ultimately, Instagram Stories may breathe new excitement into the channel, while hindering the momentum Snapchat has worked to build. Instagram now offers the best of both experiences—a clean aesthetic within the feed, paired with the in-the-moment authenticity of live video and temporary content. Pair that with a comfortable user experience for marketer and audience alike, and it’s hard to see how Snapchat will prove worth the extra effort.