Instagram released a major app update on Tuesday, and we need to talk about it.

I’m inclined to not even explain what Instagram Stories are, because if you’ve heard of Snapchat Stories, then you already know exactly what they are. Instagram’s new product is nearly a straight pick up from Snapchat Stories, name included. Users share content to their network of friends for a 24-hour period. And then POOF, it’s gone. In both interfaces, users can add text, doodles and more to their images and videos. This content is strung together in a continuous “story” for easy viewing.a

While the product is obviously similar to Snapchat Stories, which originally launched in 2013, Instagram has simplified the creation process for their users, who skew a bit older than those of Snapchat. Only about 25% of Instagram’s audience is younger than 24, while 60% of Snapchat users are under under 24. I won’t go into detail about Instagram’s platform finesses, because at the end of the day Instagram’s real leg up is its daily user base of 300 million, twice that of Snapchat.

That’s not to say this is the beginning of the end for Snapchat—far from it. Snapchat has made a major impact in the social space, and I would consider them to be the creator of ephemeral marketing. Furthermore, the platforms still have strong points of differentiation between users and platform offerings. For example, Snapchat’s chat feature is way ahead of that of Instagram, and because of their elaborate face-mapping tech users are addicted to flower crowns.

Still, it’s projected that next year over 70% of US companies with 100+ employees will have active Instagram accounts for marketing, and Instagram Stories gives brands a number of new ways to connect with their followers.

5 ways brands can use Instagram Stories

1. Skip the newsfeed algorithm & jump straight to the top

Remember when Instagram introduced an algorithm-based feed? As a result of that update, feed posts are now seen in a jumbled order, or worse, not at all by your fans. The algorithm change caused a panic among users when it was first announced, and hasn’t been well received since its release. Instagram Stories might be the solution to that change because it keeps your content chronological. Here’s the rub: do you want your content chronological, or do you want it to last?

2. Co-branding, takeovers, and influencer partnerships

Time to partner up! The sheer placement of Instagram Stories at the top of your feed will incite active engagement, and the format of Stories allows for richer content experiences and the creation of actual, well, stories. Brands and influencers have been successfully doing this on Snapchat for years by taking over one another’s accounts and sharing content. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.

3. Incorporate direct messages for a 1:1 experience

AMA (Ask Me Anything) is so hot right now. Users can use Instagram Direct to send messages  to a brand while in story content. You can use this technique to have users help lead the storyline, or try it as a Q&A with your brand.

4. ‘Gram in the moment

Live video is certainly on the rise—consider this is a bite-size serving of live video. Play around with the live nature of story footage. Stories, on any platform, are the perfect place to feature behind the scenes content, exclusive access, and bloopers. Try posting an image to your feed that previews what content will be featured in your story to generate buzz beforehand.

5. Keep it authentic

The days of perfect lighting and triple filters are diminishing. Use this forum to have fun and humanize your brand. Remember this is ephemeral marketing. Stories don’t last forever, or even 24 hours.

Lessons learned: Snapchat has influenced social in a major way, and now brands on Instagram have more to do! Be sure to follow Envisionit’s feed to check out our Instagram Stories of posting this blog.

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