So there was this kinda major bombshell dropped on the social media world recently: Instagram Stories. The world freaked out. Like, seriously freaked the eff out. You are either in love with this new feature or you really don't like it. There are few who hover on the fence - it's really all or nothing in terms of people's emotions on this topic.
Of course, within hours of the update announcement, I had countless people reaching out and asking my thoughts on this and how it would impact businesses. If you follow me on social media, especially Instagram, you probably read my thoughts already. I also shared a LOT more of my raw thoughts with my exclusive Instagram community, Jenn's Friends.
To be honest, and I'll share my thoughts with you here, I do NOT like this update.
Don't get me wrong, I completely understand why Instagram did this and I see absolute benefits for so many businesses, brands, and people to take advantage of this new feature (I'll talk more about this so hang tight). But, personally, I really do not like this feature.
You know I'm not slow to adapt to changes and usually embrace them readily. I am usually very supportive of Instagram updates and do everything I can to avail the benefits of each new update to you so that you can maximize your Instagram strategy. I will talk about those benefits here. But first, my personal thoughts.
This is Instagram. It's not Snapchat.
There's a reason I'm not using Snapchat. It doesn't work for my business. It doesn't reflect my brand well and doesn't translate for my strategy. I also don't "get" Snapchat. I don't find the filters "fun", I don't find the majority of the content "funny" or "entertaining", and I don't like the interface. That's ok. That's my choice. But now I have Snapchat on my beloved Instagram and it's messing with my world of normalcy.
Of course, right now Instagram Stories is the shiny new toy everyone wants to play with. So everyone is uploading random content in an attempt to "try it out". I understand this is contributing to the lower quality content in everyone's Instagram Stories and the randomness that's prevailing. I'm hoping that, in time, this will calm down and people's Stories will have more content of value and maintain the purpose of their Instagram strategy.
But, for right now, my Instagram account has literally more than a hundred new Stories waiting for me to waste my time on. And I just won't take the time to watch them.
You might have noticed this too, but it's annoying me that people aren't posting to Instagram nearly as much since Stories was released. They're so involved sharing their Stories, that they aren't uploading regular content to Instagram.
We've turned the platform into two types of users: those who love the Instagram feed the way it was, and those who love the Stories.
People who love the "original" (can I even call it that?) Instagram are still posting to Instagram like normal and are scrolling through the feed like normal. They aren't checking the Stories.
People who love the Stories (the new Instagram?) are so focused on this that they aren't posting to Instagram, aren't scrolling through, and aren't engaging like they used to.
This is just one more reason why I don't like this new feature - it's taken away the interaction and engagement that we're used to. I'll talk more about how this affects you as a business in a little bit. But you can assume you'll need to figure out which group your target audience falls into.
To be completely honest, I understand that Instagram (ahem, Facebook) did this in an attempt to take down Snapchat. Duh! Ok, I get that. But here's something to think about... and I may be proven wrong, but I think they may actually benefit Snapchat in the long run. You see, so many people are scared of Snapchat because they just plain don't understand it or the interface. But, now that they can get used to it on Instagram, learn more about the interactions and interface, they may get so comfortable with it, that they will be more willing to jump over to Snapchat and build an audience there too.
Ok, have I whined enough now?
Look, those are my thoughts, and I don't plan to embrace the whole Instagram Stories part of Instagram. Yes, I will use them on occasion, and I will encourage clients and others to use them. Why? Because of all these reasons...
People Love Snapchat, and Now Instagram Stories
We can't avoid it. This is a medium of communication that a ton of people just down right love. And as long as your audience is part of that group, you need to embrace it and start using it.
Find out why they love it so much, how do they use it to communicate, and embrace those methods as a part of your strategy for Instagram Stories.
Instagram Has the Dominant Audience
We all know how hard it is to build an audience from scratch. And starting new on Snapchat is a long, tedious process to build up a new audience. Using Instagram, especially if you've been on the platform for a while, is just so much easier. The global audience is larger, your audience is larger, and it's easier (in general) to grow your audience on Instagram.
So, why not take advantage of this and target that audience right here on Instagram?
Instagram Likes Marketers
I won't say Instagram loves marketers (we're still lacking a lot of features we'd like to see), but they sure do like them. With new business profiles, the ad platform, and a long-standing relationship with marketers, we love it on Instagram already. We are comfortable here and we have figured out how to market our businesses effectively (if you haven't, that's ok, contact me to find out how to do this!).
Snapchat isn't currently conducive to marketing and isn't really marketer-friendly. Why go somewhere you aren't openly accepted if you can stay on Instagram and benefit from all the tools already at your disposal?
It's Easy To Use
Hey, if you are already used to Snapchat, then this is a piece of cake. It's pretty much all the same movements and processes from taking the photo/video, editing, and uploading. And, if you don't currently use Snapchat, Instagram made a super easy tutorial to teach you everything you need to know.
Instagram even drops in hints along the way and offers a quick tutorial in the app to get you started. They have made it easy to use and more intuitive than Snapchat.
Take Advantage of Instagram Direct Messages
Let's face it, not many people really use Direct Messages on Instagram. In fact, I've gone weeks without checking mine, only to find out I have pending requests hiding in my inbox.
Since there's no direct way to interact with someone's story, you have to message them (the option is in the lower left corner of the story). And this sends a message via the Direct Message inbox on Instagram. Now that this is the common way for people to interact and engage via Stories, it's also going to open us up to using Direct Messages more often for other communications.
Share the Raw, Real Side of Your Brand
Remember when Instagram started and it was all about instantaneous posts. Photos and videos as they happened in our lives and businesses. The content was raw and unpolished. It was casual and comfortable without the pressure for perfection.
Of course, Instagram has evolved since then. It's now still about organic and authentic content. But it's filtered, edited, and staged content that puts us in the best possible light. But Stories goes back to that raw element many users long for on Instagram. It's the chance to be completely unpolished and authentic with your audience.
From behind the scenes type posts to every day content, the expectation for imperfections, poor lighting, or unedited script is a welcome relief for many.
Share As Much As You Want!
If you feel restricted to share limited content on Instagram, then you'll love Stories! We always talk about not posting too much on Instagram and spacing out your posts so as not to overwhelm your audience. Well, fret no more, my share-aholics! Instagram Stories is your salvation 🙂
Seriously though, you can upload as much as you want and share so much more without offending or upsetting your audience. This is especially valuable for conferences, live events like concerts or sporting events, community programs and charity events, and so many other situations where you have a ton of content you want to share but don't want to crop down to only a post or two.
I give you a lot of compelling reasons to embrace this, don't I? I know!
Look, it's a great strategy for the right brand with the right audience. If this is you and you want to start incorporating more Instagram Stories into your Instagram strategy, I offer this suggestion for consideration:
Have a damn strategy!
I can't tell you how many ridiculous, crappy, waste-of-time posts I've seen already. Just because you "can" share whatever random things happen to you each day, does not mean you should. Remember, this is still your brand, this is still a reflection of your business. You MUST post with your strategy in mind. How are these Stories supporting your Instagram strategy? How are they furthering your brand message? How are they impacting your strategic goals to drive traffic or revenue for your business?
If your Stories don't support or enhance your Instagram strategy, don't freaking post it! It's honestly that simple. And if you violate this, I promise you, you will lose followers. People will start unfollowing you if you are not providing content of value so think twice before you post that next morning coffee shot or weekend excursion.
Another consideration you need to be aware of is where your audience is interacting on Instagram. I mentioned earlier that this is dividing Instagram into two users: those who watch Stories predominantly and those who scroll through Instagram predominantly. You may even have some of your audience in both places. But you'll need to figure out which one is the dominant choice for your target audience. And then you will need to focus your Instagram strategy on creating the right content for that audience. If your audience isn't choosing to follow your Stories, then this should not be your dominant content generation. Yes, you can still create them, but if they aren't generating significant results, you shouldn't be investing significant time.
If your audience is embracing your Instagram Stories, then it's time for you to embrace this aspect of Instagram. You'll need to revamp your Instagram strategy to include this method of communication and posting schedule. Your content MUST be value-added and not just random updates. You must post regularly as your Stories disappear after 24 hours. This will be a significant change to your strategy as you think about the content you're sharing, and how often you are sharing it. There's also no ability to like or comment on your Stories so you lose that interaction unless people choose to message you directly. This may make it difficult to report back on the success of your campaigns or establish what content is performing best for your audience.
I know this is a lot to digest. That's why I waited a week to write this and give you my full perspective. I wanted time to review the update personally, and grasp the value of it, given my initial (negative) reaction.
I know a lot of people are downright in love with this new feature, and if you are too, that's great! Embrace it and build your brand with it. But if you don't like it, that's ok too. The great thing is that Instagram is allowing us as users to choose which method of posting/interacting we choose to use. Once you know what works for you, and what works for your audience, you can adapt accordingly!
But, I would love to hear from you. What do you think about the Instagram Stories update? Are you loving it or hating it? Are you using it or ignoring it? Sound off in the comments below!