Earlier this week, we reported that Instagram was looking to push mid-roll video ads into Stories content. Today, the platform has confirmed this addition, while also announcing new business tools for Stories content.
Here's what's been announced.
First off, the numbers - along with the launch of new features, Instagram's also updated their daily active user count for Stories, which they hadn't reported on since releasing a DAU figure (100m) less than a month after launch. Instagram says that there are now more than 150 million people using Stories every day.
To put that in context - there are now more people using Instagram Stories every day than there is using Pinterest and LinkedIn every month. And more importantly, that's also the same amount of daily active users reported by Snapchat, though Snapchat was touting that figure back in June. Snapchat doesn't release regular usage updates, but it'd be interesting to see if their user levels have remained steady since the introduction of Instagram Stories in August.
In addition to the usage count, Instagram also notes that one in five stories results in a direct message from viewers, while a third of the most watched Stories on Instagram have come from business accounts.
That stat, in combination with the fact that 70% of Instagrammers follow a business - and 60% report learning about products and services via the app - has given Instagram the confidence to push Stories as a more business focussed tool.
"The momentum for stories from businesses is clear, so today we're unveiling tools that inform ephemeral interaction between people and businesses"
To help businesses capitalize on this opportunity, Instagram is adding Stories-specific data to their business insights options.
"In the coming weeks, Instagram Business Tools will now include insights on stories. For businesses converted to a business profile, you'll be able to see the reach, impressions, replies and exits for each individual story within Business Tools."
Instagram started rolling out business profiles in June, and more than 1.5 million businesses have already taken up the option, converting from a regular profile to a business-specific one, which provides access to a range of analytics tools and profile display options.
Stories insights will add to this - here's an example of the new data options on offer:
Most notably, the new tools offer greater insights than those available on Snapchat - in fact Snapchat make it very difficult to get any real data on who and/or how many people have viewed your content. You can, of course, use third party tools for this purpose, but the addition of native analytics functions within Instagram is likely to help boost the option as a more viable brand tool - and if the audience numbers are the same, and the overall audience exposure potential is better (Instagram has 600 million monthly users), the argument for Snapchat could be significantly weakened with this new option.
Of course, it all comes down to your unique audience, but Instagram's definitely making a strong case for Stories. And that's before we've even got to Stories ads.
Ads in Stories
And the final addition, as reported earlier this week, is the addition of new full-screen ads in Stories. Well, not exactly in Stories, but between them - here's an example of a new AirBnB ad in this format.
Instagram Stories ads will be limited to 15 seconds in length and won't be clickable - at least not at this stage. The ads will be sold on a CPM basis and views will be counted as soon as the ads appear - there'll be no three second view threshold like there is with Facebook video content (this also aligns with how Snapchat counts views). The ads will be signified by a small 'Sponsored' marker at the bottom center of screen (which you can also see in the example above) and will be skippable.
Instagram also notes that the ads will be 'sound-on', which is another departure from Facebook's normal video approach - though the two platforms are, of course, very different.
Of particular note in the Instagram announcement is their emphasis on this being a unique feature of their Stories product.
Twice within the official announcement, Instagram notes that these features are "unmatched in a stories experience today." Clearly, the aim is to highlight that their option is better than Snapchat for brands, but it's interesting that they've chosen to single themselves out like this, with a feature they, in fact, copied.
Stories ads will be tested with more than 30 clients around the world, including Capital One, Buick, Maybelline New York, Nike, Yoox, Netflix, and Qantas, with a view to a wider roll-out 'in the coming weeks'. Instagram also notes that this is just the beginning of business options for Stories, with Sponsored Stories - which would appear at the top of user profiles - being another option the platform is also considering in future.
For users, the addition of ads in between stories - which you can easily skip - seems like a minor intrusion. If they're well targeted with good creative, they could be a welcome addition - the key will be in how well they're executed, which is no doubt why Instagram is rolling out the option with a small set of trusted partners first, so they can monitor the user response and performance.
For brands, the numbers say it all. 150 million daily actives, using the format that more people have been gravitating towards, on a platform with 600 million users. The new tools will no doubt hurt Snapchat's brand viability, but then again, Snapchat is reportedly working on a range of new ad tools and options, like image-recognition triggered ads, which could help them stay in the race (reports have also suggested Snapchat is working on new deep linking and web auto-fill options).. And Snapchat also has Spectacles, which could become a much bigger focus for the company as Facebook continues its push to take over their audience.
But as noted, it's really not an either/or option, it comes down to where your audience is at and what your audience is engaging with. If that happens to be Instagram and Instagram Stories, then today's announcement is no doubt very welcome news indeed.