Instagram is eager to borrow some of the tricks that have made Snapchat so successful—and so far, brands are loving the changes.
Instagram Stories, swiped directly from Snapchat, allows users to share moments from their day in a slideshow format. Users can add their own creative touches with text and drawing tools, similar to those in Snapchat. Again, like in Snapchat, users can swipe forward and back to jump to another story. And, in the most obvious nod to Snapchat, the photos and videos created as stories will disappear after 24 hours.
By copying Snapchat’s features, Instagram is essentially taking parts of the Snapchat experience mainstream. Despite being one of the fastest-growing messaging apps, Snapchat is still the domain of mostly younger users; Snapchat’s largest segment of users is between ages 18 and 25, eMarketer reported.
That smaller, more age-specific user base may make it difficult for some brands to justify devoting resources to the platform, especially when they can now find the same features on Instagram. Snapchat boasts about 150 million daily users, Ad Age reported, while the most recent figures put Instagram’s user base at 300 million. (For comparison, Facebook logged 1.13 billion daily active users in June.)
Instagram may also be more brand-friendly. It’s easier for users to discover brands through searches on Instagram, whereas on Snapchat, users need to know a brand’s exact user username in order to follow it. On Instagram, users can easily “like” brands’ posts and tag their friends in comments, helping to amplify content. But these differences are perhaps the point: Snapchat is about messaging friends, not brands. As Dan Grossman, vice president of platform partnerships at VaynerMedia, said in Ad Age: “Instagram is a follower platform where Snapchat is more of a best friend platform. Snapchat hasn’t encouraged brands to build up huge followings.”
Another recent tweak to the Instagram experience is the ability to pinch and zoom in on images. So, instead of simply looking at a photo or video, users can interact with the content by zooming in and focusing on certain aspects of the video. This has opened up another area of creativity for brands that are banking on Instagram Stories as a way to evolve their social media strategies and capture audience attention.
For marketers who are thinking of taking the plunge into Stories, but haven’t quite developed a strategy, here’s a little Insta-piration. Check out these five brands that are using Stories in new, innovative, brand-aligned ways.
Nike’s Jordan brand latched onto the Instagram Stories feature the day it debuted. On its @jumpman23 handle, Nike posted 16 photos and videos showcasing the new uniforms for the Michigan Wolverines, the first college football team to be outfitted by the brand. Within a 24-hour period, the story amassed 800,000 views, according to Digiday. The brand sees potential from the feature particularly when it comes to live events and product unveils, Digiday reported.
National Geographic’s Travel handle, @natgeotravel, is typically devoted to stunning photography in far-flung locales:
But in its Stories, it’s got a Snapchat-like approach with video, text, and emojis used to bring different locations—most recently Patan, Nepal—to life. National Geographic typically uses video and captions to describe the scenes it highlights.
General Electric is among several brands that have used the zoom-in feature in creative ways. The company shared a photo from Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Vincent Laforet of a GE locomotive. GE challenged users to take a closer look, asking “How many rail cars can you spot?”
By asking users to interact with the content, GE earns a social engagement boost while staying true to its brand.
Taco Bell’s first Instagram Story gave a cheeky nod to Snapchat. Using video heavily enhanced with the drawing tool, Taco Bell employees entered the Instagram Story world. (“This isn’t Snapchat!” one employee quips.) The Taco Bell team then asks Instagrammers to offer their take on what they’d like to see most on the feed—food, games or behind-the-scenes content.
Lowe’s easily swapped its In a Snap DIY videos, originally made for Snapchat, to the Instagram platform. In the videos, Lowe’s shows DIY projects in just a few seconds, like how to refresh a bathroom or install a shower head. For brands already invested in both platforms, the ability to repackage content for a different channel gives each piece of content more reach—although it’s worthwhile to note that because the audience makeup is different on each platform, not all content will be interchangeable on both sites.
Instagram’s bid to offer more Snapchat-like features could hurt Snapchat as it attempts to bring more brands (and their advertising dollars) to the platform. Instagram’s larger user base and more brand-friendly features will make it easy for some brands to stick with the more established social media networks, rather than experimenting with the newer social network in town. If brands continue to find success with Instagram Stories and other new Instagram features, they may be less inclined to devote resources to Snapchat’s more niche audience. At the same time, the two platforms serve different purposes and different audiences. As always, brands must go where their audiences live—and whichever platform your audience prefers is where you need to spend time and money.