Launched on August the 2nd, Instagram Stories is the latest weapon from Instagram in its quest to take over the world.
It’s been two days since Instagram launched Instagram Stories, and everyone has spent the whole time discussing how much they’ve ripped off the ephemeral messaging platform loved by teens across the globe: Snapchat. For one of the world’s biggest networks to be so open about imitating a rival is definitely bold. But as T.S Eliot once said: ‘Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal’. So perhaps this isn’t a case of bad manners, maybe it’s just a move of ingenuity.
For anybody unfamiliar with Snapchat, the platform works by allowing users to offload the unvarnished contents of their life, and the twist is that these posts have a severe shelf life. Text messages disappear immediately, and multimedia posts only last for 24 hours. Instagram Stories offers the exact same 24 hour lifespan except they won’t appear in your grid, and instead of crudely imitating Snapchat’s interface, Instagram has simplified it and made it accessible to adults like us. Being so transient, Instagram Stories will allow everyone from Adidas to your best friend to post pictures of their breakfast, lunch and dinner without clogging up their polished feed. Because the stories aren’t there forever it means that you can go ahead and share every meal, every holiday and every outfit change without worrying about posting too much in one day. And this is all contained within one application that is already being used by grown up, professional communities – something that Snapchat is missing.
Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom is no idiot. He cleverly pointed out that “Gmail was not the first email client. Google Maps was certainly not the first map. The iPhone was definitely not the first phone.”
Systrom didn’t post to his feed for a whole six days recently, because, despite being a billionaire machine, his content just wasn’t worthy enough. And so came the realisation that Instagram was missing a niche – one which Snapchat was filling. This lifecasting is a way of life for millenials, but not so easy for the older generation who are a little reluctant to engage so freely with strangers. And so Instagram Stories was born, where you can vet users, check out their perfect, bountiful lifestyles…and now you can also see all the delicious imperfections inbetween. The thing that wasn’t cool enough to post this morning, now you can see it; all these perfect people are now human just like you.
This is also why Instagram Stories is already a brand favourite over Snapchat – because with all these fleeting, disappearing images comes a whole identity, as these stories are attached to an account that is permanent and searchable. While Nike’s best video got over 60,000 Snapchat views, their Instagram Story drowned it with 800,000. While Snapchat is for your friend whose username you happen to know, Instagram is for brands, heroes and new followers. Instagram Stories would also work brilliantly for live events, brand and celebrity collaborations, or product launches – imagine being able to follow Kate Moss backstage at a fashion show, and all the hype that would be caused by a 24-hour-only-access stream.
Predicting the ‘OMG!’ backlash from Snapchat fans, Systrom explained the methods behind Instagram Stories:
“When you are an innovator, that’s awesome. Just like Instagram deserves all the credit for bringing filters to the forefront. This isn’t about who invented something.
Facebook invented feed, LinkedIn took on feed, Twitter took on feed, Instagram took on feed, and they all feel very different now and they serve very different purposes. But no one looks down at someone for adopting something that is so obviously great for presenting a certain type of information.
Innovation happens in the Valley, and people invent formats, and that’s great. And then what you see is those formats proliferate. So @ usernames were invented on Twitter. Hashtags were invented on Twitter. Instagram has those. Filtered photos were not invented on Instagram.”
Systrom also highlighted how Instagram Stories could eventually be the key to event coverage for brands: “I think that businesses and interest accounts, celebrities, etc, especially businesses, will find a tremendous use case. They post three times and they think to themselves ‘Aww, should we really be posting that fourth photo?’ And this just opens the floodgates on events.”
Instagram Stories is currently living at the top of your app – if you can’t see it, you may need an update. When your friends have new stories to post, a colourful ring will appear around their picture. Tap it and the story opens up full screen, then swipe left and right to move to the next or previous story at your own pace. Swiping up replies in a direct message so everything is kept private.
Used in conjunction with live streaming, Instagram Stories could be the best thing to happen in 2016.