In a move strikingly similar to its rival Snapchat, Instagram has launched ‘Instagram Stories’, a feature that will allow users to share all the moments of their day, without having to post directly to their profile.
Stories disappear after 24 hours, while reactions and conversations stay private. Users can also be selective of who they want to send their story to, with incoming ‘Stories’ highlighted at the top of a feed.
Although the update has only been live for 24 hours and does not yet hold any features specifically for brands, the likes of ASOS, Net-A-Porter and Zalando have already jumped on the Instagram Stories bandwagon.
Speaking to Marketing Week, Instagram was keen to reiterate the function can be used by brands. It believes that brands have always been a key part of its community since the start. The platform says it has “always been inspired by the creative ways brands have used Instagram, both in feed and through advertising”, in order to express themselves visually and connect with consumers.
Instagram Stories means that people and brands can capture and share their highlights and all the moments in between. The company says it is looking forward to seeing how businesses will experiment with Instagram Stories, use the creative tools and share their stories in a new way.
Instagram also hopes brands will use Instagram Stories in a variety of creative ways including sharing behind the scenes content.
Facing off with Snapchat
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the move has been compared to rival Snapchat’s popular ‘Stories’ function, which has been utilised by brands including Burberry, Boohoo, Wimbledon and ASOS. Each use the feature to communicate their brand values, promote key events and create excitement around future collections, or in the case of Wimbledon, matches on centre court.Instagram owner Facebook has a history of integrating its rival’s best features, having added Twitter-esque hashtags and live streaming over recent years. Paolo Pescatore, an analyst at CCS Insight, says Snapchat should be flattered.
He explains: “The battle among social providers is immense. This move is clearly a massive compliment to Snapchat. It is hard to be novel in this market when it is so easy to follow.”
Instagram is not alone in adapting a similar feature to Snapchat’s Stories, with smaller platforms such as Snow and Musical.ly also following suit. Jan van Vonno, an analyst at IDC, says Instagram is smartly integrating its rivals best bits in order to win the attention of an important millennial audience.
He notes the launch of Instagram’s Boomerang and how it works very similarly to Vine, and also how Instagram’s new instant messaging function works similarly to Facebook’s own.
“Instagram is trying to identify specific functionalities that resonate with its target audience and to put them on its own platform to avoid users looking elsewhere. It has been around longer than Snapchat so might think it can offer a more personalised experience.”
Ecommerce opportunities and a focus on fun
A recent Verdict report suggests Instagram Stories might have more potential for ecommerce than Snapchat. From a survey of 10,000 online shoppers, Verdict’s e-researcher e-tail report showed more use Instagram than the story-led Snapchat to research purchase decisions, despite the heavy presence of retail brands on both platforms.
According to the study, over the past year, 22% of shoppers have regularly used Instagram to browse products, compared with 14% of shoppers that have used Snapchat for the same function. By adding Stories, Instagram will be hoping to up this figure even further.
Ecommerce potential aside, Andrew Hall, a retail consultant at Verdict Retail, believes Instagram Stories will help brands generate more “fun content” – opposed to the high resolution images it is famous for – therefore bringing more balance to the platform.
“Instagram stories might stimulate a higher level of content generation, as the 24-hour feature removes some of the pressure for the perfect picture,” Hall explains. “Some brands have grown purely via the huge followings amassed on Instagram and new features such as stories will be another tool in their arsenal.”
In an interview with Techcrunch, Instagram CEO, Kevin Systrom, admitted that Snapchat pioneered the format. “They deserve all the credit,” he said.
Ultimately, if Stories helps Instagram to grow its 500 million active users, he will not care too much about the Snapchat comparisons.