Instagram Stories is a Game Changer for Brands: Here’s Why

When Snapchat came on the scene three some odd years ago, it had marketers stumped. What started as an ephemeral photo-sharing app quickly became mainstream among younger audiences. Meanwhile, in the social media marketing world, brands had just gotten used to perfecting content calendars, manufacturing the share-ability factor, and meticulously crafting strategies to “rise above” their competition.

What Snapchat encouraged was just the opposite: rawness, realness, and real-time. To users, snaps of their friends’ night out and the guy on the subway with his “behind” showing will always be more entertaining than the day-to-day of your corporate headquarters. Add to that Snapchat’s lack of usability and trackability features, and you’ve got yourself a platform that has most marketers on the fence.

Enter Instagram Stories. At first glance, this feature appears to be a direct rip-off of Snapchat. Some have gone as far as to call Instagram Stories “The Snapchat Killer.” To that, I say, “Not so fast.” Snapchat will still be a favorite among besties. But for everyone else, Instagram Stories might just be a game changer.

Here’s why:

1. Instagram Stories allows you to build greater brand engagement with your existing audience.

To users who follow your cropped, filtered, and captioned content, a dimension of your brand’s “human” side may be just what is needed to build a stronger connection. Psychologists in the 1950’s coined the term “parasocial relationships” to describe the phenomena of audiences developing one-sided relationships with the media they consumed. A “parasocial interaction” occurs when an audience member engages with a persona as if the relationship was reciprocal. Think about it. The objective of social media marketing, in a nutshell, is to foster parasocial relationships. Instagram Stories is a powerful medium for which you can do this.

2. Instagram Stories lets you achieve a social engagement loop similar to that of Snapchat without its UX drawbacks.

Virtually every Snapchatter I know has their “Contact Me” setting to “friends only.” This is because the Snapchat inbox is a sacred place, usually reserved for snaps from friends. However, on Instagram, replies to your Stories are sifted into two different inboxes: one for those you follow and one for those you don’t. This small difference can have a huge effect. The “message” feature in combination with inbox filtering will make brands more inclined to invite, monitor, and interact with responses to their Story. In this way, brands can achieve a social engagement loop similar to that of Snapchat without the UX drawbacks.

3. Instagram is richer in audience insights.

Both Snapchat and Instagram show you the usernames of people who have viewed your Story. On Instagram, however, you can take it one step further by tapping on a username straight to the user’s feed. Discounting accounts that are set to private, you can usually draw basic insights about a user just by looking at their profile. This information could be useful in informal sample surveys and market research. Instagram (Facebook, Inc.) will likely monetize Stories soon, and with it will come richer analytics.

Bonus: If you’ve seen a dip in your Instagram engagement as a result of the new algorithmic feed, Stories is an opportunity for you to get noticed again. How? As of now, Stories appear above the news feed in the order in which they were updated.

There you have it: four reasons to take advantage of Instagram’s new Stories feature. Last Wednesday I posted my first Instagram Story offering my thoughts on the feature (surprise, surprise!). A number of you messaged back sharing your thoughts. This blog post is the result of our collective effort.

(99% mine and 1% yours. 😉)