Nick Pan
Aug 8, 2016

Instagram Stories: What the new feature means for brands

Whether it's an attempt to copy Snapchat or not, Instagram Stories offers attractive opportunities for brands, explains VML's Nick Pan.

Nick Pan
Nick Pan

Everyone has a story to tell, according to Instagram, which announced early this month Stories, a new Snapchat-like feature that will roll out globally over the next few weeks on iOS and Android.

Instagram Stories allows Instagrammers to share multiple photos and videos in a slideshow format. Similar to the way Snapchat works, these visuals are temporary, and they are programmed to disappear within 24 hours unless the user chooses otherwise. Instagrammers can also personalise their visuals by overlaying them with icons and writing or drawing over them with different brush types and colours.

There has been talk on how closely Instagram Stories resembles Snapchat’s features, and Stories might just be Instagram’s response to the growing popularity of Snapchat among millennials.

Just five years after its launch in 2011, Snapchat has seen its number of active users per month surpass that of Twitter. As more users hop onboard the Snapchat bandwagon, brands have been scrambling to figure out a Snapchat strategy and leverage this rising star.

But with the introduction of Instagram Stories, brands are sure to find a new realm of digital marketing and advertising opportunities. Here are some reasons why:

No two audiences are the same

Despite Snapchat’s growing popularity, more people still use Instagram compared to Snapchat. Instagrammers also tend to be relatively older than Snapchat users, so brands struggling to reach the older Gen X and Gen Y consumers on Snapchat may find this task easier on Instagram Stories. It all boils down to the audience brands want to target, and knowing the demographics that each social media platform attracts will go a long way to helping brands ensure that their messages are reaching the right ears.

Snapchat your followers on Instagram

Brands that already have a loyal following on Instagram can immediately engage their followers in a fun and casual ‘snap-chatty’ way. No longer do they have to direct resources to a completely different app and build their audience base from scratch on Snapchat. Instagram Stories allows brands to seamlessly transition to a new way of engagement and capture their audience’s attention through photo and video moments.

A new wave of innovation

Instagram Stories will open doors to a wave of innovative advertising and marketing strategies. In the coming months, we can expect to see a flood of exciting and creative initiatives on Instagram Stories as brands experiment and compete to outdo one another on the platform. If history is any indication, just as how Snapchat saw the emergence of witty, hilarious and innovative engagement techniques, Instagram Stories is similarly poised to propel the marketing and advertising industry to new heights.

Nevertheless, there still remains a clear distinction between Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Brands have been tapping onto Snapchat’s fun filters to get their branded filters out to a mass of active Snapchat users in a very short period time, and whether or not Instagram Stories will match up to the quick and fun offerings by Snapchat remains to be seen.

It is still early to see what other features Instagram Stories will roll out and how Snapchat will respond to this. But one thing is for certain: Instagram Stories isn’t just for the individuals eager to share their ephemeral, everyday moments. Brands can stand to learn a thing or two from these individuals by capitalising on Instagram’s new offering, and start telling their own stories in a way that is both engaging and entertaining. 

Nick Pan is regional planning director, VML Southeast Asia and India

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