Initial thoughts on Instagram’s New “Stories” Feature
With Britain pulling out of the EU, and Trump being declared the Republican Party’s Presidential nominee, the bar for what constitutes earth-shattering news has been considerably raised. Yet you have to admit that Instagram essentially stealing Snapchat overnight does mark somewhat of a watershed moment in the history of social media.
In less than 24-hours of Insta-stories existence – which is not an insignificant time period given the platform it is trying to imitate – it’s obviously too early to give a verdict. So instead, here’s sharing my insta-thoughts.
Ethics and egos (seriously Zuckerberg, does it kill you to not dominate every single sphere of social media) aside, there are some considerable benefits of having a Snapchat like feature inbuilt into Instagram.
For bloggers and brands, Instagram is a key platform for visual content, whether it is to alert their readers about new blog posts, products, create brand recall, or simply tell stories through a visual medium. While my experience as a blogger has taught me that one’s Instagram followers do not necessarily correlate with ones actual blog views, they do signify a degree of influence in the blogosphere. The same is true for brands, although there may actually be a direct correlation with sales, especially for niche fashion brands.
Until now, my problem was that I am more of a writer and less of a photographer (which is believe it or not actually becoming uncommon among bloggers, in part thanks to platforms like Snapchat and Instagram). So every time I want to share a new post whose topic isn’t visually friendly, I often forego an Instagram opportunity, because there simply aren’t insta-friendly (read: filtered until they’re borderline artificial looking) pictures that can capture what I want to say. After all, a post about why Modi’s Selfie With Daughter campaign promotes feminine-bashing rather than gender equality, is not really instagrammable.
Evidently, the social media struggle is real. What Insta stories gives me – and possibly other bloggers/brands who faced similar issues – is an opportunity to leverage the fan-base that we have painstakingly created one photograph-followed-by much-pondering at a time and share content that is more authentic, and relevant to our brands.
Another advantage that Insta-stories offers is the ability to communicate more frequently with fans. After Instagram implemented its new algorithm, which prevents all of your followers from seeing your posts, it became all the more crucial to ensure that you do not post content too frequently at the risk of lowering engagement, and decreasing the reach of your posts. Stories allow for more spontaneous updates that (hopefully) don’t require as much beautification as a regular Instagram post.
But before brands and bloggers start thinking that social media life is now hunky dory, let’s consider the downsides. The most obvious one is that if brands take the ‘now-we-can-share-everything’ logic too far, they will risk losing followers. Losing Instagram followers ultimately comes at a higher price than losing Snapchat followers, because the number is publicly displayed. Come to think of it, I barely know how to track my Snapchat followers, let alone bothering if I lose one. With Instagram, it’s a slightly different story.
This brings me to the second drawback of Insta-stories, which is the very public nature of Instagram. While there is the option of keeping your profile private, the logic of following someone on Instagram is fundamentally different from Snapchat. Instagram is about the final product, while Snapchat is about what goes into making that product; it’s more ‘behind the scenes,’ if you will. So while I might follow a travel blogger because I like seeing the places s/he visits, I may not necessarily want to see every visual detail behind the scenes of his/her trip, from packing their bag, driving to the airport, and of course the mandatory in-flight selfie.
The same is true with brands. In fact, I only follow a handful of brands on Snapchat as compared to those on Instagram. So this morning I woke up to an inundation of Insta-stories from brands whose behind-the-scenes posts I was now automatically subscribed to. A similar logic applies to my Insta-stories, which people that I have little connection or relation to, can now view. Calling it an invasion of privacy may be an over-stretch but it certainly is overwhelming!
Like I said, it’s too early to conclude whether Insta-stories is pure evil or genius, or predict whether brands will benefit or lose out in the long run. Maybe Instagram will eventually include a separate option of subscribing to one’s stories and following them for their regular posts. After all, the social media world is full of surprises.