Instagram Stories: what they are & how to get started

Just last week, Instagram made a major update and introduced Instagram Stories.

It took all of two minutes for both brands and businesses to jump on Instagram Stories and start creating behind-the-scenes, creative content in order to generate a deeper connection to their online audience.

Understanding Stories:

So, what are Instagram Stories?

Think Snapchat on Instagram; essentially, Instagram took Snapchat’s functionality and added it to their platform.

There are a ton of features that are exactly the same between the two platforms:

  • Video & Photo capability: Upload either photos or 10-second video clips.
  • Upload from your camera: Both platforms now let you take photos and videos on your camera roll and upload them into your stories.
  • Auto-play: When you play one person’s story on Instagram, the story in the queue afterwards automatically starts playing after the first story ends.
  • Expiration: Both platforms have stories expire after 24 hours.

There’s no doubt that Stories on Instagram are an exact replication of Snapchat’s functionality.

However, there are some aspects to Stories on Instagram that are different when compared to Snapchat:

  • Filters: There are only a few color-tint filters on Instagram Stories compared to the dozens of animations and geo-filters available on Snapchat.
  • Follower count: The majority of people on Instagram follow thousands of people. That’s not nearly as common on Snapchat, making it harder to capture views for your stories because you’re essentially competing against thousands vs dozens.

So, why did Instagram introduce Stories?

Facebook is a smart business; they want you to spend all of your time on their channels.

In order to compete with YouTube, Facebook launched Live Video; there’s a ton of functionality now for video on Facebook, including re-targeting, analytics and playlists.

And since Facebook owns Instagram, in order to compete with Snapchat, they launched Stories.

My Thoughts:

My initial thought was pure disappointment; the functionality of Instagram Stories is replicating functionality that exists on another popular social media channel. That’s not innovative.

However, while I do love Snapchat, I’m excited about the potential of Stories on Instagram.

I love that Instagram stories are featured on the home screen, giving them prime placement. 

I also like that you can now click on someone’s Instagram profile picture; when you do, you access their story.

When you visit someone’s profile, if their photo is outlined by a rainbow circle they have an active story that you can watch by clicking on their face. If their profile photo isn’t outlined by that rainbow circle, they don’t have a story.

Just like with any major social media update or platform introduction, there are pros and cons.

Some of the benefits of Instagram stories are:

  • We’re tired: Instagram Stories takes the functionality we love on Snapchat and brings it to a channel that most of us are using more in our marketing mix on a daily basis. It’s hard enough to manage your Facebook page well, let alone Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. If we can cut down on the channels we spend time on, we save time to do the work that matters.
  • Great for influencers: There are a ton of Instagram influencers with large, engaged audiences that never made the leap to Snapchat due to the reason above. Now these individuals have the ability to give their fanbase a deeper look into their daily lives, businesses and personalities!
  • Deliver different content: My FAVORITE thing about Stories is that I can now deliver more topical, value-based and behind-the-scenes content to my audience without ruining the look of my feed. I LOVE to share daily social media tips on Snapchat, and now I’m doing that on Instagram too! As a stickler for style, I only post a select number of photos on my Instagram feed as a way of maintaining my desired look and color palette. Now I can share more personal photos, as well as daily tips on social media, without over-crowding my feed.

The downsides of stories are:

  • Lack of innovation: It’s nothing new, and people don’t like imitation. Plus, there aren’t those fun filters that Snapchat had. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Snapchat, it’s that us ladies like to rock a flower crown.
  • Too big a following: We’re used to following a lot of people on Instagram. If you follow hundreds of people, let alone thousands, it’s going to be impossible to have time to catch up on everyone’s stories before they expire within the 24-hour period.


Stories on Instagram are definitely going to give Snapchat a run for it’s money, because there is a larger audience of daily active users on Instagram.

It’ll be interesting to see how the two channels continue to evolve in their effort to convert more sporadic users into loyal ones on the platform.

What do you think:

Are you going to ditch Snapchat and adopt Instagram stories? Are you going to stick solely to Snapchat? What’s your plan for using these two channels as a part of your social media marketing mix?

Share your thoughts in the comments below for the chance to receive a 10-minute FREE strategy call with me! 

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