Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
Instagram has pretty much copied Snapchat with their new Stories – and everyone just needs to get over it.
Instagram Stories live at the top of your newsfeed, allowing you to upload a stream of photos that expire after 24 hours. From creation through to browsing the finished article, it all stinks of Snapchat.
However, when the indignant masses simmer down, it’s fair to say that Instagram has done an Apple here: watched, waited and imitated with marked improvements.
First up is the intuitiveness of the Instagram platform versus the lesson in Morse code that anyone pre-millennial needs in order to use Snapchat. Stories have lots of editing options, but these don’t get in the way of publishing your content – and things are signalled far more readily than on Snapchat.
For example, rather than the up swipe on a Snapchat photo required to send a quick reply, Instagram has an explicit Send Message button. All of this amounts to a less agonising user experience for first timers.
To reduce confusion, Instagram Stories focuses on obvious, labelled buttons, instead of swipes, offering information on where you are exactly in the app right now. There’s always context for what you’re looking at and where to go next – which is something that’s frequently lost in Snapchat.
What’s even more compelling is Instagram’s state of connectedness in the social mix: it’s already got a network full of people actively using the app to make friends, follow new people and discover different parts of the world. That’s the killer feature that search-by-username-only Snapchat doesn’t have: the sense of community.
Are Stories good news for brands? Absolutely… but probably moreso from the brand’s housekeeping perspective than that of the consumer. Stories allow a brand to display ephemeral content, which will most likely be thematic. Given that the content will erase itself after 24 hours, there’s the possibility of targeting messaging at people without confusing or saturating the brand’s Instagram page in the long run.
From the consumer’s point of view, the likes of Stories are only going to add to the volume of branded noise out there across social media.
This leads me to my predictable but necessary parting advice: Instagram Stories are a gift; so don’t abuse them for trite content. Instead, seek to surprise and delight your fans with sneak peaks, exclusives, or something that boldy departs from the norm of the content churn.
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