I’m never one to shy away from owning up to a mistake, so it’s with relatively little embarrassment that I’ll admit I was wrong about Instagram Stories. Yes, they are a shameless clone of functionality that Snapchat made cool but, having given the Instagram version a proper go over the past week or so, I’ve come to a conclusion…
Instagram Stories are good…really good in fact.
I recently saw Instagram described as having quickly become the ‘dad-rock’ of social media, which I guess makes Snapchat a grimy little punk band whose stock is highest in the underground.
Now, normally I’d back the punks all the way – heck, I run a podcast championing exactly those sorts of bands. But, we’re not in Kansas anymore and I’m not talking about music – this is social media and, when it comes to Stories, Instagram is crushing it…to the point where influencers are increasingly jumping ship from Snapchat.
But, why is Instagram’s stolen version of Stories doing so much better? Well, I’ve got a few ideas…
It’s so much easier
For a start, creating a Story on Instagram is just much easier than on Snapchat. It’s more intuitive, the options for text captions – in my opinion – look far better and the ease at which you can post content from the last 24 hours of your camera roll without the shame of it being time-stamped, as if to broadcast in capital letters that your photo or video hasn’t been shot right there and then is just liberating.
Such functionality on Snapchat would have made my Stories experiment last August far easier.
Add to that the fact that is far easier to watch Stories too – particularly re-watching stuff – and you can see why Instagram is doing so well.
Discovery is a doddle
Then there’s discovery – the process where people actually find your profile, so they can actually watch your Stories. Again, Instagram wipes the floor with Snapchat here. You can search for people by name and check their profile to be sure you’ve got the right one before clicking follow. No awkwardness and no faffing with a glorified QR code either.
Location and Hashtag Stories give your discovery an added boost
The recently rolled out Location and Hashtag Stories offer you the chance to broaden your reach and get more eyes on your content, in what seems to be a much easier way than similar location-based stories on Snapchat work. Just by adding a location sticker I’ve regularly had my content feature on Stories not just for the city I’m in, but also for the whole country and even the whole of the UK.
Pinning is, well, pin-point
I love having the ability to pin a caption or a sticker to a particular element in your Story, and doing so on Instagram is by far the superior experience. You can actually scroll to the exact parts of the story you want and pin away – it feels much smarter and more precise and is another string to Instagram Stories’ bow.
Tagging is great
I love having the ability to tag other users in my Stories and have those tags appear as links to that person’s profile. It just encourages wider discovery, feels much more overtly social and even harks back to the Instagram of old, where there was a real sense of community.
Add onto the tagging function the fact that more and more accounts are slowly being given the functionality to add links to their Stories and you can really see great potential for them becoming a brilliant way to help drive traffic from Instagram – something that has been notoriously difficult in the past.
Brilliant black and white
The black and white filter on Instagram Stories is really, really nice.
Sometimes it’s the simple things!
You just know that Instagram will continue to up its game
There are still a few aspects of Instagram Stories that lag behind Snapchat; the filters and lenses on the former are better, while the whole geofilters thing is also excellent – both the community filters and the very cheap on demand ones.
But, the thing is, Instagram won’t stand still on all of that. After all, the whole Stories feature came from copying Snapchat, so they’re bound to add in features to keep up. They could probably have rolled them out already to be honest, but if they stagger each feature’s release then they guarantee themselves a longer spread of coverage, don’t they? It’s the same reason music festivals drip-feed their lineup announcements rather than, like they did in the good old days, just throwing out the full thing and being done.
And then there’s Spectacles. Yes, Snapchat, and only Snapchat, has them right now, but do you really think that will stay so? I have no doubt that Instagram will come out with something wearable at some point to further enhance their offering – they’re probably just trying to come up with a snappy (no pun intended) name.
Instagoggles? Gramsses? Or just go with their previous method and call them Spectacles…I’m sure we’ll see them at some point. (Also, my attempts to come up with a name show you exactly why I’m not in product design or branding!)
It still rubs me up the wrong way and makes me feel dirty when I think about how Instagram approached the whole Stories thing but it’s hard to argue that they’ve done a pretty darned good job with them. By taking the key part of Snapchat that was enticing people over to the little ghost to have a play, Instagram has not just kept people in its own yard – it’s thrown open the gate and welcomed in a load more people to come and join in the fun. I know I’m not the only person in my contacts list who can’t remember the last time they posted on Snapchat.
Ethics aside, Instagram is clearly winning the Stories battle. And, with Snapchat’s download figures having dropped 22% over the last couple of months, you have to start to wonder if Instagram has finally found the key to winning the war too.