One year ago, Instagram introduced Stories, a feature for publishing ephemeral content that does not show up in a user’s feed or profile, but only at the top of the app.
The feature, near enough a direct copy of Snapchat’s own Stories feature, was slow to take off at first. But a year later, Instagram’s move seems justified, with a growing audience and a good number of users preferring Instagram Stories over Snapchat, as “that’s where their friends are”.
What does this shift mean for marketers and brands? What’s the best way to benefit from both platforms when creating Stories?
Here’s an overview of both platforms, how Stories can be used for marketing and the features that set each social network apart from one another.
Snapchat introduced Stories back in 2013 as a way to create content that only lasts 24 hours. This idea was very appealing to a younger audience, who felt free to be visually creative with content that is not meant to last more than a day.
Stories soon became popular as a means of covering live events, and brands and influencers jumped on its trend to enhance their social profiles. Snapchat now counts more than 166 million daily active users and it seems that despite all the changes over the past year, it still has popular appeal.
Here’s six ways your brand can take advantage of Snapchat Stories.
6 reasons for brands to create Snapchat Stories
1. Targeting a young audience
According to Statista, Snapchat was the most popular social network for 39% of US teens, while Instagram came second with 23% and Facebook was fourth with just 11%. This means that despite Instagram’s growth in the last year, teens still seem to have a preference for Snapchat, which is a very interesting observation for marketers trying to understand them.
Thus, if a brand wants to target a younger audience, then Snapchat is certainly the best platform. This doesn’t mean that the audience is instantly ready to be exposed to promotional content, as Snapchat users have even higher expectations for branded content.
It’s a good idea to learn how to use the app before you try to reach them, to ensure that you find the best way to communicate with them.
Snapchat users spend more than 30 minutes each day in the app. Engagement has always been key for Snapchat, and this doesn’t seem to have been affected by Instagram’s growth.
An engaged audience offers more chances for brands to reach them where they are, provided that they are able to speak their own language and find the right balance between authenticity and value.
3. Live event coverage
Snapchat is probably the best app to offer a great second screen experience during big events. As it was the first app to try to create a community of user-generated content during live events, brands were eager to offer behind the scenes content and exclusive previews for their audience.
Thus, more people were eager to become publishers on their own, by streaming the experience through their own eyes. Snapchat is aware that this still differentiates it from Instagram, which means that brands that want to create live content may consider Snapchat over Instagram as part of their strategy.
4. Growing advertising potential
There was a time when Snapchat didn’t have a fully-fledged advertising platform for marketers to analyse their performance. This is not the case anymore, as the growing advertising potential can be analysed to the detail through the platform.
It’s now easier than ever for marketers to create their own Snap Ads, and the fact that you can customize and measure them depending on your goals makes it even more effective. From brand awareness to app downloads, there is a success story for each campaign.
5. Direct links
Snapchat has introduced the ability to add direct links to Stories. This addition is particularly welcome among marketers who want to cross-promote their Snapchat content on multiple channels.
In fact, it could be to Snapchat’s advantage that Instagram is only allowing a similar feature to verified profiles and business profiles with more than 10k followers. If you are a smaller brand with a smaller following, Snapchat is probably more useful for your Stories if you want to make use of direct links.
6. Less competition
As Instagram’s audience keeps growing, so does the competition. How can you stand out from your competitors? Snapchat offers a less crowded playing field, but still boasts stable growth.
If your brand is still new to ephemeral content, then how about trialing Snapchat until you find the best way to create engaging content? It may turn out to be even more successful than you expected.
Instagram introduced Stories in August 2016, and we all quickly spotted the resemblance to Snapchat’s Stories. Even Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s CEO, admitted that they were ‘inspired’ by Snapchat.
According to Statista’s survey in August 2016, 27% of people preferred Snapchat Stories, while only 12% of respondents were picking Instagram Stories.
Since then, however, Instagram has chosen to focus on ways to improve the feature, which led to an impressive growth of user base, engagement and creativity just a year later.
Here are six reasons for your brand to consider creating Instagram Stories.
6 reasons for brands to create Instagram Stories
1. Daily usage
Instagram counted 200 million daily active users in April 2017, seeing an impressive growth since October when it had held the audience with 100 million daily active users. This growth was significantly affected by the launch of Stories, as it allowed Instagram to tap into a new type of content that was already popular on Snapchat.
The impressive growth of this audience highlighted the appeal of ephemeral content, which has led more brands explore this new format.
2. Growing audience
Instagram reached 700 million monthly active users in December 2016, and the app’s penetration rate in the United States in 2016 was 27.6%. We can only assume that these stats will be even higher in 2017, with Instagram’s popularity increasing month on month.
As the audience keeps growing, there are more opportunities for brands to highlight their creativity, provided that they are able to keep up with the changes.
3. Brands and influencers are already there
It’s to Instagram’s advantage that it was already quite a popular platform among users, as it was easier to introduce Stories to the audience. Despite the similarities to Snapchat’s Stories, it was a big advantage to have a large number of brands and influencers already present.
Mediakix did an experiment on how influencers use Instagram and Snapchat Stories, and deemed Instagram the winner. This is an interesting point to note for companies seeking brand awareness, as the array of influencers on Instagram offers more opportunities for partnership and wider promotion.
4. Focused on user experience and new features
It’s safe to assume that one of the reasons that Instagram Stories became so popular over the last year is the fact that the platform was determined to offer the best user experience, both for everyday users, but also brands.
The combination of stickers, filters and mentions along with Boomerang and live video made Stories more interesting. Moreover, Instagram’s focus was on making the feature as easy to use as possible, a problem that Snapchat faced when trying to explain Stories to a larger audience.
5. Advertising potential
Facebook’s support means that we should expect a growing advertising potential for Instagram. It’s important for companies that they can create ads through Facebook’s Ad Manager or Power Editor, as this makes the advertising experience more powerful.
The introduction of ads into Stories was the first step towards appealing to marketers, while the ability for brands and influencers to add links to their Stories, as mentioned previously, offers another opportunity for commercial benefits.
We can expect Instagram to come up with even more advertising options, and it’s certainly something that all marketers should keep an eye on, especially as the userbase continues to grow.
6. The growth of stories as a new content type
The biggest win for Instagram when it introduced Stories was probably the fact that it managed to make a new content type accessible to a wider audience. Although it was a feature that was copied from Snapchat, the fact that it was presented to a way larger audience offered the opportunity to encourage more users and brands to explore their creativity through ephemeral content.
Thus, it offered a content opportunity beyond the user’s feed, which was quickly embraced by an increasing number of brands. While Snapchat seemed more complicated or too focused on a niche audience for Stories to take off more widely, Instagram managed to convince companies to try out the benefits of Stories, and we are already noticing the impact.
Story wars: is there a winner?
Instagram’s growth over the past year and the adoption rate of Stories are both huge achievements – but this doesn’t mean that we have a clear winner yet.
Snapchat wins in:
- youth appeal
- consistent engagement
- links to Stories on every account
Instagram wins in:
- growth rate
- brands’ and influencers’ support
- advertising potential
- frequent feature updates
It’s good to test out both platforms to see which one works better for your company. The verdict will depend on your target audience, your goals, each particular campaign.
Who knows – you may be surprised by which one ultimately works better for your brand.