Why Instagram’s Stories Feature Is So Much More Than a Snapchat Clone

If you’re one of the 300 million people using Instagram on a daily basis, you’ve probably noticed that Instagram Stories are a thing now.

It’s one thing if you don’t care about this as a user, but if you use Instagram for your marketing, Stories should definitely be on your radar – because the feature is already a hit.

(But first, for the uninitiated – what’s “Instagram Stories” mean, again? In three sentences or less, please.)

Instagram Stories is a way of sharing images and videos outside of your main Instagram feed. When you share something using this feature, it gets added to your “Story,” which is kind of like a little album that people can quickly flip through. The images and videos you add to your Story will stay there for 24 hours, and after that, they disappear.

You can access other users' Stories from the top of your feed.

You can access other users’ Stories from the top of your feed.

If that sounds a lot like Snapchat Stories, that’s because…well, because it’s basically the same thing.

Even so, Instagram Stories is already proving its value as a marketing tool – so if you aren’t caught up on the how and the why, now’s the time to get on board.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s up with this new feature!

Instagram Stories isn’t killing Snapchat

Instagram already scores about twice as many daily users as Snapchat (about 300 million versus 150 million, respectively), so when they launched their Stories feature in August 2016, it looked like Snapchat may have been dealt a killing blow.

(Or at least a really, really painful blow. Like, a kick to the shins, or something.)

So far, though, Instagram Stories hasn’t hurt Snapchat at all.

BuzzFeed reports that in the first month after Instagram Stories launched, neither Snapchat’s nor Instagram’s usage metrics really changed.

What the heck, right?

Don’t worry – there’s an explanation.

For one thing, new features like this typically take some time to gain popularity. For another, though, people just plain use Instagram differently from how they use Snapchat.

Instagram’s Explore tab, search function, and Facebook connectivity all make it much more discovery-oriented than Snapchat, for example. (Snapchat’s tools are much more limited to people you already know – more on that in a second.)

For now, at least, Instagram and Snapchat are each holding steady, no matter how similar certain features may be.

That doesn’t, however, mean that Instagram’s audience hasn’t been affected…

Instagram users are behaving differently now

Within just a few weeks, 100 million people had started using Instagram Stories – that’s about ⅓ the app’s daily users.

(So, a lot.)

In fact, in one study, nearly ¼ of users reported that viewing Stories had replaced skimming their feeds as their main activity when using the app. The introduction of Stories may also have played a part in a global drop in Instagram engagement for traditional updates.

Instagram stories isn’t siphoning users from Snapchat, but it might be drawing Instagram users away from their feeds.

Flipping Through Stories

People aren’t spending less time on Snapchat, and they aren’t spending more time on Instagram – but they’re spending their time on Instagram differently.

And here’s the thing about that:

Instagram Stories will only get bigger

Remember how we said that discovery-oriented tools are a big deal?

Instagram is embracing the things that make it different from Snapchat, particularly how easy it is to use the network to find and connect with new people and brands.

Now they’re giving the Stories feature some valuable real estate in the Explore tab, where it can offer users suggestions for Stories they might like.

This is where Instagram has a huge advantage over Snapchat.

Unlike Snapchat, where everything disappears, Instagram offers both the temporary updates of the Stories feature and the permanent updates of your feed.

That means Instagram knows a lot about you and your interests – the things you choose to Like and comment on, the things you search for, the hashtags you use, and more.

Hashbrown No Filter

It gives Instagram the ability to curate better and better recommendations for Stories you might like, and users you may like to follow. (And ultimately, the ability to create an easier and more rewarding experience at an individual level.)

It may seem like a small difference, but by leaning into the things that make it different from Snapchat, Instagram is establishing its Stories feature as more than a simple copycat – and it’s only going to keep that up in the future.

What’s all this mean for you?

Instagram has always been a social network that prefers live, in-the-moment posts. Unlike other networks, for example, they don’t grant API access to scheduling tools for automated posting – you have to do it yourself.

(Some tools have elaborate workarounds that usually amount to saving post drafts and sending you push notifications reminding you to upload them live. It’s kind of a half-solution, but the bottom line is that Instagram doesn’t like automated scheduling.)

By implementing a Stories feature, Instagram is embracing that identity even more, establishing itself as a place where you can post frequently and spur-of-the-moment – a place where you should be sharing and interacting live, rather than posting only things you planned far in advance.

Different social networks want to be used in different ways – and this is Instagram’s way of showing how you should use it.

Just like how Facebook has encouraged adding live video to your repertoire, Instagram wants you to loosen up and share more and more – with the encouraging caveat that nothing you share via Stories will be preserved on your actual feed.

Moral of the story? If you use Instagram as part of your marketing, Stories is definitely a feature you should keep a close eye on, if you aren’t using it already!

But what’s YOUR experience been like with Instagram? Have you tried using Stories, either personally or in your marketing efforts? Does it feel unique enough from Snapchat? Do either of them matter to your business at all?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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