If you follow social media trends at all, you've surely heard that Instagram has stepped into the ring to take on Snapchat. If not, here's what happened.
Snapchat offers a feature called Stories, which enables users to post a series of photos or videos that disappear after 24 hours. Instagram has replicated this feature, allowing Instagram users to share pics and videos that won't show up in their profiles and instead disappear later.
What is Instagram Stories?
Instagram has copied Snapchat Stories, right down to the name. Instagram's Stories feature is similar to Snapchat Stories in that the Stories are available for a mere 24 hours before they disappear into the wild.
The Instagram Stories feature is Facebook's way of trying to compete with Snapchat's growing popularity with teens. This has been especially problematic for Facebook and Instagram as Instagram's engagement has been on the decline. Facebook offered to buy Snapchat for $3 billion in 2013 - Snapchat, however, rejected the offer. Facebook owns Instagram, so in order to compete, both Facebook and Instagram are now offering similar services to Snapchat.
Snapchat is one of the most popular social media apps on both the Android and iTunes app stores, so Facebook and Instagram had to go big in order to compete. What better way than to imitate Snapchat's ephemeral photo feature? You know what they say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
How to Create an Instagram Story
It's pretty easy. Follow these steps once you've opened Instagram and are on the home screen of the app:
- Click the plus sign at the top left of the screen
- Take a picture or video clip (you can also swipe down to see all the pics you've taken in the last 24 hours and add those to your Story)
- Click the pencil to draw on the image or the "Aa" button to add text. You can also click the down arrow at the bottom right of the screen to download the picture. If you're not satisfied with any of your changes, you can click your smartphone's back button or cancel to start over.
- Swipe left or right to add filters
- Tap the up arrow to upload the photo to your story.
- If you uploaded a photo or video by accident (like I did while testing out the steps in this list), tap on your story at the top of your Instagram home screen, tap until you get to the video or photo you want to delete and click the three dots at the bottom right to delete that image or video.
- To feature a particular part of your story, tap the story and the part you want to feature. Click the up arrow to share that image or video to your profile.
How can small businesses take advantage of Instagram Stories?
The roll-out of Instagram Stories is great news for businesses. Since Instagram's algorithm recently changed to show what Instagram considers the "best" posts first (those most likely to engage followers), this meant businesses had less of a chance of always showing up in followers' feeds.
Stories provides brands with another opportunity to reach their followers - while the Stories each user sees on their home page are also defined by a similar algorithm, the Stories feed uses auto-advance, meaning Instagram automatically shows users the next story available after one set ends. That means your Stories are more likely to be seen by your followers if they are watching other stories.
Wondering what kinds of Stories you should post? There are many ways to drive Instagram follower engagement by posting stories, and here are just a few ways you can do that:
Behind the Scenes Posts
For our first Instagram Story, we took some behind the scenes photos to show what it's like to work at RevLocal. Behind the scenes photos help consumers as well as potential employees get to know who your current employees are and give followers a chance to see what your day-to-day looks like.
Not only can this enhance audience trust by giving your company a human face, but it can also provide people with more context to decide whether or not they want to work with (or for) you.
Show off products and services
Show off what makes your business special. If you own an ice cream shop, add photos of delicious looking mint chocolate chip waffle cones to your Story. Run a clothing store? Create an attractive display, take a pic and add it to your Story.
If you have a new product that's about to launch, you could also add images of the product to your story.
Offer a time-sensitive discount specific to Instagram Stories
Not only will it create a sense of urgency since the image is gone in 24 hours, but it will make your Instagram followers feel special knowing they got in on a secret discount.
What does this mean for advertisers?
Since both apps allow for local targeting, advertising your local business on Snapchat or Instagram could be profitable.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of Instagram and Snapchat users are 29 or younger. (Snapchat says that 50% of its users are below the age of 25.) However, it's a safe bet that both applications will continue to look for ways to attract older users.
Although Instagram Stories was just released, it's expected that Instagram will quickly develop a way to generate revenue from it, which means it will probably take another page from Snapchat's book.
Snapchat's ad options are relatively new, but with 150 million daily users, businesses are taking notice. And while Snapchat advertising has made a splash with big brands, the company recently lowered its advertising costs, which could signal a move towards more affordable advertising options.
One Snapchat advertising option that local businesses are already taking advantage of is Geofilters. Geofilters are photo overlays users can add to their Snapchat photos. Geofilters are location-specific, so it's only visible to Snapchatters taking a photo or video inside a specific geofence. However, with Geofilters costs starting below $10.00, the feature could be an inexpensive way to market your business (analytics are even available to see how many views and uses your Geofilters receive).
Because of the popularity of Snapchat Geofilters (over 800 million are viewed per day), it's likely that Instagram will soon offer a similar feature to users and advertisers (it copied everything else). Keep an eye out for that.
What does this mean for social media?
The question everyone is asking is, "Will Instagram Stories kill Snapchat?" And the reason for Instagram Stories is (at the very least) for Facebook and Instagram to compete with Snapchat by offering similar features. Still, the long-term effects remain to be seen.
While the idea of the new Stories feature is probably to keep users on Instagram longer (why go to Snapchat to create a story when you can do it all on Instagram now?) it doesn't seem to be hurting Snapchat too much. Some say Snapchat will need to improve its platform or suffer the consequences, but many people are only using Instagram Stories to ask followers to follow them on Snapchat as well.
Facebook and Instagram will surely continue to push Snapchat in order to gain back some of Instagram's declining user engagement. For example, Facebook's currently testing a filter feature for profiles, enabling users to put masks and image alterting overlays onto their photos.
Will Instagram Stories kill Snapchat? Probably not. Snapchat is hugely popular, and it'll likely take more than one new Instagram feature to bring down the ephemeral messaging app.
While Snapchat will have to stay on its toes and continue updating its features now that it has some real competition, that doesn't mean Snapchat is dead (or even knocked out). It'll simply have to work harder to keep users on the platform now that Instagram can do what it does and more.