Instagram Stories Sends A Clear Message To Digital Marketers

Instagram Stories Sends A Clear Message To Digital Marketers

Kyle Wong
4 August 2016

Instagram took aim at Snapchat with the launch of its Stories platform, which allows users to post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. The news should light a fire under brands that have yet to embrace ‘ephemeral marketing’.

As Instagram has evolved into the place to post highly stylized, curated photos of “perfect moments”, Snapchat took off with young people who just want to share the little details of their everyday lives — things they buy, what they’re wearing, stuff they’re eating, and who they’re hanging out with. Now, with Stories, Intagram hopes to “lower the bar for sharing all types of photos and video — and not just the carefully planned and painstakingly touched-up photographs that are typical of the service,” said Kevin Systrom, co-founder and CEO of Instagram.

For marketers, Instagram’s launch of Stories underscores the importance of creating a new type of less-stylized brand content for these 24-hour social platforms. Snapchat, and now Instagram Stories, get closest to the holy-grail of marketing: the ability for brands to share authentic photos and videos that don’t “feel like ads” but still build strong brand lifestyle. When brands post content on Snapchat, it’s opt-in and interactive. Users choose whether they want to see the content, and can doodle on it, share it, or insert it into their own stories.

But these ephemeral social platforms also pose a huge challenge to marketers: creating enough of the right type of content. Whereas brands are accustomed to scheduling regular posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest – often using social media marketing platforms to create and manage content flows – Snapchat is more reactive, immediate, and constant. The highly-curated and staged posts brands are used to creating (or, more often, having their agencies create) for Facebook have no place on 24-hour platforms. Instead, Snapchat users want to interact with light, lower-bar content that paints the brands they love in a familiar tone. “Blooper” videos, behind-the-scenes photos, or user snapshots taken at live events are popular types of brand content on Snapchat.

So what can brands do to get ahead of the curve on the newest social marketing platforms? The first order of business is to bring more of their creative services in house, because timeliness will become a lot more important. Instead of scheduling two or three posts a week, with Snapchat and Instagram Stories, brands will have to post content at least once a day. Instagram Stories are also a good opportunity to leverage brand influencers. A popular tactic on Snapchat stories is to collaborate with an influencer to do a Snapchat takeover. Brands can do the same on Instagram. Influencers visiting the brand HQ can give viewers a behind the scenes look from their perspective for the day. The outcome is mutually beneficial: an influencer’s trusted content validates a company’s brand, while generating publicity and recognition for the influencer.  Brands will have to mimic the type of fun, unstaged, interactive photos and videos that young millennials themselves post on these platforms.

Second, with Instagram Stories brands will have to start treating candid, less-staged photos as real marketing material.  Brands can still operate within style guidelines, but will have to accept a broader range of content within those guidelines. On 24-hour social platforms, brands must move from airbrushed to authentic, skipping the polished and glossy images to instead include more raw and spontaneous posts. A great way for brands to increase these type of posts is to include user-generated content in their marketing arsenals. Consumers who post photos and videos of brand products are valuable influencers; marketers can re-share some of these posts on Snapchat and Instagram Stories to create an authentic, grassroots feel to their marketing content.

The rise of Snapchat, and now Instagram Stories, is a prime example of a shift that was already underway in marketing: Today’s audiences crave authenticity from brands. Young people in particular largely ignore traditional ads, instead expecting their favorite brands to engage with them in fun, personal, entertaining ways. The launch of Instagram Stories proves the time has come for marketers to loosen the controls on what’s acceptable brand content. Whether Instagram  Stories can catch up to Snapchat remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: authentic, visual brand storytelling is the future of marketing.

Kyle Wong is the founder and CEO of Pixlee, Software for Authentic Marketing.

This article was written by Kyle Wong from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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