It's been three weeks since Instagram launched their bold new, Snapchat-cloning "Stories" option for all users, and the tool already seems to be resonating with Instagram's audience. Stories provides a new way for people to share content on the platform, enabling them to showcase another side of their personality or add additional context to better connect with their Instagram followers. And, as many have noted, most people already have more followers on Instagram than they do on Snapchat, which makes Stories an appealing consideration. And for brands, that appeal may be even more so.
According to data from TrackMaven, brands have seen bigger follower growth over the past year on Instagram than any other social channel, which means that many have already established sizeable followings on the platform. And when you also consider that Instagram has been around longer than Snapchat, and that Instagram offers wider audience appeal (in the broader demographic scope of its audience), it makes sense that the platform's going to hold more precedence for many businesses.
Given this, you can see how Instagram Stories could be a great compliment to a brand's on-platform strategy - but how have businesses actually been using Stories so far? Instagram's published a new blog post which looks at how five brands have utilized Stories to extend their brand message and add a new dimension to their Instagram presence.
Here are the examples they've highlighted.
1. Promoting a sale
The first brand Instagram highlights is J.Crew, which used an Instagram Story to highlight a recent one-day pre-sale of its new "Jane in Pink"" sunglasses.
As you can see, it's relatively simple, highlighting J.Crew staff wearing the sunglasses in a pink-themed photoshoot, but it's a great way to extend the marketing message of the upcoming sale in a still very Instagram-centric way - i.e. focused on interesting visual content. In using Stories, J.Crew is extending the interactive and engaging elements of their Instagram presence in a way that'll help draw their Instagram audience in, as they'll be alerted to the Story either in their home feeds or when they come to visit their profile, giving J.Crew another way to boost awareness of the event.
2. Behind the scenes
The most successful brands on Instagram are already posting great photos and images - that's really what the focus of the platform is all about. In line with this, Mercedes-Benz has used Stories to extend the appeal of that content by providing a behind the scenes glimpse of how they've actually gone about creating those great images in the first place.
Now obviously not every brand has such extravagant photo shoots, but Mercedes-Benz's Story shows how the option can be used to extend the appeal of your content by providing your audience with another perspective. In this instance, the video reminded me of Top Gear or something along those lines, a sort of documentary of how Mercedes goes about producing their visual content, which, in itself, underlines some of the company's key brand messages around attention to detail and embracing the spirit of adventure.
This could be a consideration for any brand - how do your regular photo shoots reflect on our brand mission and approach? Or not even photo shoots - you could show the behind the scenes work that goes into your latest product whilst also showcasing the product itself in a still image on your regular Instagram feed.
3. Extending brand themes
That became the most popular Snapchat Lens to date, so it makes sense that Taco Bell would look to extend that fun, quirky take to Instagram Stories, which they've done, this time, through creative use of Instagram's drawing tools.
As you can see from the final frame, Taco Bell has offered their community a way into the Story by asking them what they want to see more of on the platform. Based on those responses, Taco Bell's social media team have tailored their Stories content to highlight more of what they want to see, extending the brand's low-fi, entertaining approach to social.
4. New ways to connect
Travel media brand AFAR Media generally posts beautiful, inspiring travel images to their Instagram feed, taking their viewers on a sort of visual journey.
Stories has enabled them to extend that - AFAR used their first Instagram Story to take viewers on a trip around Germany's Mosel Valley.
It's a bit less polished than AFAR's regular feed images, but it utilizes a similar artistic eye and extends the theme to real-life, showcasing beautiful scenery and travel content and giving their audience a way in. AFAR has also taken the opportunity to promote their upcoming awards with the final shot of their Story, enabling them to use it for additional promotion.
5. More engaging promotion
And the final brand highlighted by Instagram is Starbucks, which has used the new Stories option in a more basic, promotional way.
Using seasonal trends, Starbucks has showcased some of their top drink picks for warmer weather, and used Instagram's drawing tools to give the Story additional movement and colour. It's a more basic approach, but again, it helps the brand extend its messaging and reach their audience in a new way - which can only be beneficial in their wider promotional efforts.
These are some great, early examples of the ways in which brands are experimenting with Stories which highlight the opportunities for brands in the new tool. And while it's only early stages for the new offering, it's worth brands taking the time to consider how they might be able to use Stories to expand their on-platform messaging, particularly as Instagram will no doubt be looking to provide new advertising opportunities through Stories in the near future.
And while it's too early to tell yet whether Stories will supplant Snapchat (recent data from marketing intelligence company SensorTower showed that Snapchat usage is still strong, despite the hype around Stories), the competition between the two platforms is largely irrelevant from a marketing perspective. It's very likely that both Snapchat and Instagram Stories will be able to co-exist and cater to different audiences - whichever your audience prefers is the one you should be spending more time with.