It’s the hot topic of conversation right now, and not one to avoid a bandwagon waiting to be jumped on, I figured I’d step in and give my two cents on the matter.
Yes Instagram announced and launched their brand new feature almost a week ago, and despite MUCH furore and ‘OMG Instagram why you want to ruin our lives!!’ being thrown around on Twitter ahead of the launch, it seems the second it appeared on our app, we all swiftly forgot any disapproval we had, and rightly so set about exploring it.
A week in, and (judging by my own feed anyway) it’s already proving popular and pretty much everyone I know has given in and set about finding their feet with this latest craze.
I don’t need to tell you it’s a blatant rip off of Snapchat – we all know what’s occurred and while there’s still a bit of ‘It’s the same!?!’ and ‘How do I do both?’ and ‘where are the filters?’ going on, generally I think we’ve all accepted that fact now and moved on to figuring out which one our allegiance lies with and what we’re going to do with it. I have to admit that the copying element didn’t bother me quite as much as it seemed to everyone else. To me, it’s business. And Instagram have made a business move they know they can probably win. Let’s not forget that this kind of thing happens ALL OF THE TIME in the technology world. Most of the major apps we now know and love would have started as something very different and either evolved or been bought out by a bigger name or morphed into the one we now use. Remember the Hipstamatic app which allowed you to take square shaped photos and make them look retro and old fashioned? Yup, it died a death and was developed into Instagram. And if I remember ‘Facebook’ the movie correctly, Mark Zuckerburg wasn’t entirely responsible for the idea of the Facebook platform was he? Snapchat, in the grand scheme of things, is still a relatively new platform, and while it might have been more widely used than other apps which get overtaken by something similar, it was still open to that situation happening. They could react of course, rebrand, and come back better than ever. But they’ll need a new tactic now. Personally, I haven’t checked Snapchat once since Stories launched.
I do feel a little for the folks who have spent time building a large following on Snapchat (perhaps even larger than their Instagram) but perhaps they’ll successfully manage to bridge the two and use them for different things. For me, I could never really get into Snapchat, so the Insta Stories launch probably has me more excited, and already I feel like I’ll be in favour of this app.
I downloaded Snapchat a few months back and was giving it a good go, but my usage was very sporadic, and in the few weeks before Instagram Stories launched I’d seriously lost interest in it and had all but decided to give it up for good. Generally I had a few big problems with it, which I already feel like Instagram Stories may have solved.
The first was that I felt ridiculously too old for Snapchat. That might have been my own issue but the silliness of the platform didn’t seem to suit either my life or my blog audience. I was actually planning a post around the topic of figuring out which social platforms are right for your blog audience and why to concentrate on building those rather than spreading yourself thinly across them all but perhaps that’s slightly irrelevant now. Anyway the features were FUN don’t get me wrong, but didn’t seem to suit where I wanted my blog to be positioned. Luckily I had very few followers so it wasn’t an issue, which brings me onto the second problem I had with Snapchat; It was way too difficult to find people, and to be found. I had to actually know someone’s exact username in order to start following them, and vice versa I would have to shout my username from the rooftops for people to find me. Did I really want to be one of those people who scheduled 50 tweets a day saying ‘come follow me on Snapchat’? I already do that for Instagram and Facebook and I already know how annoying it is.
Finally, perhaps my biggest issue was that it was a whole separate app, and yet another platform with which to worry about, waste time with, and focus on building to a point that was deemed ‘successful’. Frankly, so much of my limited time these days is already filled with trying to build my current social platforms and get them to a status that mirrors my blog, that I wasn’t sure I had either the energy, time or desire to start a new one. I tried it out of course and did enjoy the unfiltered ease of it, and the fact I didn’t need to worry about who was going to see what. That side of it was liberating. However, on the days I used Snapchat religiously (if I was doing something exciting or out at events), not only did my phone battery life suffer but my other social coverage suffered too. I didn’t have the multi-tasking capacity to be Snapchatting, as well as taking a photo for Twitter and Instagram, and taking ‘proper’ blog photos, and uploading snippets of the day to Facebook. It was all too much.
Anyway, for those reasons, Snapchat wasn’t my bag. So I guess you could say I was a little dubious about whether I’d use Instagram Stories. But so far, I feel as if this could suit me much more than Snapchat ever did. It’s on a platform I already use regularly and have a following on, I don’t need to search for people to follow and I can use it in a way that suits my blog and audience rather than trying to fit in and turn my face into a bumble bee.
Of course that’s not to say there aren’t cons to Instagram Stories, and there are once again a few big things which are currently putting me off, and I’m interested to see how it progresses and how these are managed. I haven’t yet found my feet with it, and have spent the last week trying out different avenues to see which route will be right for me. There are a few people already who are doing a GREAT job of creating content which is exactly right for their existing Instagram profile, and blog/business audience, and I’m also keen to find my own niche, and figure out what I want to do with it.
Anyway below are my main pros and cons to Instagram Stories and my tips for how to use it to suit YOU and YOUR business (tips I haven’t yet followed tbh but will be attempting to implement for myself) and I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on the new platform and whether you’re using it, and if so how?
You already have an audience
Probably the biggest pro for many, is that this feature is built into a platform we all already know and love. We don’t need to get to grips with using another platform, and we don’t need to spend time growing yet another following. Nearly every blogger I speak to is actively trying to grow their Instagram so surely this will only add another element to their content which can interest their audience. Similarly, those who already have a large Instagram following immediately have a bigger audience viewing their Story chats, which may be a lot more appealing than posting out on Snapchat to an audience that may still be relatively small. Most people nowadays do use Instagram, and will therefore have access to Stories and most likely view the content from their favourite profiles, whereas Snapchat was reserved to a smaller group of avid users (in my experience mainly young people and bloggers).
You already have an audience… that you may not want seeing everything that goes on in your life
The down side of this of course, is that your audience on Instagram may be VERY different from your audience on Snapchat. I mentioned above that I did at times find using Snapchat quite liberating. The very fact that I had SUCH a small audience on there (and it mainly consisted of fellow bloggers) meant that I didn’t need to worry about the type of content I shared. No make up chats to the screen? No biggie. A selfie from bed with a flower crown on? Everyone’s doing it don’t worry.
Immediately with Instagram Stories I was much more aware of who could be seeing my stories, and because of that have found myself being more careful about exactly what I share. Now I by no means have a giant audience on Instagram, but there are certain people who follow me on Instagram (brands I’ve worked with, clients, workmates) who I know wouldn’t have ever seen my Snapchat. Does that alter Instagram slightly? Will it end up becoming much more curated? Bloggers for example, as well as sharing content on social for the benefit of their readers, also work hard to produce an Instagram profile that looks professional and appealing to brands who may want to work with them. Instagram is a great tool to be able to do this, and allows a visual portfolio of sorts for your work. Would you necessarily want those same brands who could be potential clients seeing your drunken night out on a Saturday, or seeing what really goes on when you’re ‘working from home’ and ‘too busy to answer an email/ attend a press day’? I do think for that reason, slight curation may be necessary.
For bloggers in particular, it allows a behind the scenes approach for your readers
Following on from the above point, I can definitely see the advantage of this app for bloggers in particular, who really relish the idea of sharing lots of behind the scenes snippets of their lives with their readers. I’ve noticed some bloggers already using the feature to great success. The one who springs to mind so far is Emma Hill who is using the app to do mini shopping hauls and try ons, which is absolutely perfect for her audience who are mainly obsessed with finding out exactly what she’s wearing, how she’s wearing it and where they can buy it, as easily as possible. Similarly for travel bloggers, it can be a great way to host mini vlogs and allow their fans to come along with them on trips and adventures. For food bloggers, they can show a step by step recipe, and so on. For the blogs who have huge audiences, and an army of loyal fans, this will no doubt be just another avenue for those fans to consume more of their idols lives.
Is this behind the scenes approach right for everyone using the app?
For me, the con is that I don’t know if this approach is right for everyone using Instagram, aside from bloggers. Sometimes in blogging we can easily get drawn into the blogging bubble and assume that everyone is as consumed by blogging, and talking to fellow bloggers as we are. But the reality is that some people don’t spend all day every day using social media. Do they need to be documenting their every move? If you work full time in an office, I can imagine that there’s very little of interest to add to your story each day, and the time needed to consume all of the content on your feed non existent.
There are some people I follow on Instagram simply because I adore their photography. I adore the ‘once a day’ beautiful mysterious shot they add to their feed. That might be travel photographers, wedding photographers or whoever, but the point is that I love that slow, curated, edited image. Do I need to see the ten steps it took to get to that image? Or see the untouched reality behind the beauty of that image? I’m not sure that I do, to be honest. I’m happy just seeing the beautiful, visually appealing finished shot. In the same way, there are some Instagram users for whom their feed is about their talent rather than them personally. As bloggers we’re used to showing our faces all over the shop, but what if your business works better being mysterious? What if you have developed an aesthetic where every one of your travel photos is of the back of your head and an incredible view? What if your Instagram is all about your food, or your calligraphy or finding hidden gems in your own city. Do those people now suddenly come to the forefront and start chatting away to the camera vlog style about their day?
That part still confuses me, and I believe there will be a lot of people for whom the Stories feature simply isn’t relevant. So do they just not use it?
You don’t need to find people to follow
Immediately when Stories launched I had access to snippets from all of the 1000+ people I follow – which includes everyone from bloggers across the pond, to my friend from back home to my workmates to that cool couple from Nashville whose lives I’ve stalked for years. And I don’t know about you but one of the most amazing things about Stories was suddenly hearing people’s voices. People whose feeds I’d admired for so long, were now real, and animated, and it felt like they were in the next room rather than on the other side of the world. That’s pretty amazing right?
There’s WAY too much content to consume
Already, I can’t keep up though. There’s SO much content to consume and my usual morning check of Instagram can now go on much longer than it really should while I try to decide whether to scroll through photos first or watch the Stories. I do think Instagram will tackle this somehow. Perhaps we’ll be able to group people, or follow someone’s Instagram feed but turn off their Stories (because like I’ve said some people I follow purely because I love their imagery – I don’t need to see what they ate for breakfast) but until then I’m having to majorly limit my time spent on the app, otherwise I’d get NOTHING done.
It brings back Instagram’s original ‘little moments of your life’ manifesto
For anyone who was growing tired of how curated the Instagram app had become, or who found the platform to be un-relatable (an argument thrown around a lot), this update should surely appease. Instagram have successfully found a way to merge the newer way of using the app, which focuses on a beautiful visual feast for the eyes (that I think most of us secretly love), with the original aim for the platform, which was for people to be able to share daily snippets of their lives as they went through it. I don’t know about you, but I rarely post an Instagram shot at the exact moment the photo was taken anymore. Usually it’s saved, edited and then uploaded when I think it will fit in with my feed. Also, whereas I used to go to a restaurant and post a picture of every course, now I’ll take a bunch of photos (which I’d maybe share in real time on Twitter) and then choose one key shot which summed up my evening to add to my Instagram profile. I think most people have that ‘only the best’ attitude for their Instagram nowadays, so Stories successfully bridges the gap and brings everything back onto one platform. The curated feed, as well as the extra moments in between which aren’t good enough for the feed.
It’s loses the curated visual appeal of the app slightly
For me though, I have to admit that even though the Stories are only around for 24 hours they do already taint the feed a little. Am I the only one who thinks that? I can tell you, that after a few years of resisting I am definitely on camp curation when it comes to Instagram. I love the fact that I can get so much inspiration from beautiful images all day every day. I’m such a visual person, and sorry but a gorgeous, well styled food shot or flat lay will win out over your messy kitchen any day in my book. I know a lot of it is fake, but that doesn’t bother me, because it’s pretty. So far I’ve noticed a lot of people using Stories as a way to kill the facade, break the myth and show ‘Instagram vs reality’ and I’m not loving it – sorry. I like the pretty stuff, I can’t help it!!
It makes people spend even more time on the app, increasing your profile views
There’s no doubt that Instagram have done this as a counter to the murmers that many people were getting bored and losing interest with the app. Personally it’s still my absolute favourite, but I can see how for many, it might not require as much of their time. If you’ve built up a large following then you could perhaps get away with dropping in once a day to share your latest image, responding to any comments and then calling it quits for the day. The amount of time we were spending on the platform may have been going down, and since the new algorithm was introduced, so had engagement. Stories is a quick way to turn this around and start making people want to spend even more time on the app, and therefore (hopefully) in turn begin liking, sharing and commenting more too.
Are the photos getting lost?
Probably my biggest worry with this change however, is that I feel the photos (what, let’s face it is the core of Instagram) are going to become secondary to the Stories content. Already I can notice myself getting so absorbed in people’s Stories that I’m barely registering their feed and I do wonder every time I post a new image whether anyone is actually viewing it anymore. Again I think this will even out with time, and hopefully once it’s not so new and exciting we’ll be able to figure out how to bring the two together and keep the attention on the photos. Because I really hope that that side of it isn’t lost for good.
The unfiltered reality is kind of liberating
Just like Snapchat, I think the quick fire, unfiltered nature of Stories will be popular. In a world where everything is edited and curated and made to look perfect before it’s shared, it’s nice to see blurry images and photos of food that aren’t perfectly staged. And I think people will enjoy sharing those too, and allowing themselves to be a little more carefree.
Are we in danger of sharing too much?
The big con of that of course, is that ease and sense of security could see us all sharing too much. Is it really necessary to share every single aspect of our lives with the internet? Will our breakfast taste as good if we haven’t had the social media seal of approval on it? Who knows, but I know that at the age of 31 and having been on the internet for a good few years with both good and bad experiences behind me, I’ll be treating this in the same way as all of my channels online – with caution. I won’t be sharing anything I wouldn’t tell you in person, and I’ll be careful about featuring other people in my life without their permission. Besides, I’m already doing a LOT of clicking through when people have ten million photos of what was essentially two minutes of their life. I think the people doing it well, are showing an overview of their days with the best and most interesting/funny moments.
MY TIPS FOR FINDING YOUR STORIES FEET
Think about what you use your Instagram for, and set about making your Stories reflect that
As I’ve said above, in my opinion the people who are really winning at Stories already are those who have nailed their audience and aesthetic and are creating Stories which match this perfectly. Xanthe Berkeley, a videographer and colour lover whose feed I adore for all the colourful scenes she shares, is doing mini photo walks and colour searches through her Stories, and using Boomerang lots to create fun video content similar to the stop motion work she produces – spot on and entirely in-keeping with her business and what she’s known for. If you’re a travel photographer who never shows her face, don’t feel the need to start video blogging or using crazy filters, stick to what you do best. Fashion bloggers who are using their Stories for shopping trips, flat lay tutorials or hauls, are working really well, and beauty bloggers doing get ready with me features also works. But a food blogger suddenly taking us through their nightly skincare regime doesn’t work for me. Keep it relevant.
Tie in your Stories with the images you share daily
This is something I’m trying to be conscious of, but I think people like the idea of seeing one image of something on your feed, getting interested in it, and then knowing that they can find out more through your Stories. If your sharing images of one place, but currently somewhere completely different on Stories it might get confusing. I’ll be trying to make my Stories an extension of what my feed is.
Find your niche
If you’re a vlogger anyway then talking to the camera will make perfect sense. If you’re more of a writer/photographer/ behind the camera kind of person then this route might not be right for you, but it doesn’t mean people can’t still enjoy your Stories. I’m still finding my feet, but my aim is to find what works for me – is that images throughout my day, little video clips from travels, recipes shared? I’m not sure yet but I do know I want to make my Stories slightly curated and think about what I share and how I share it so as to find my own niche and make it interesting. Don’t just follow what everyone else is doing, come up with your own quirks.
Be careful how much you share
Not just because we all follow thousands of people and probably don’t have time to look through 50 snippets of the same thing, but because I do think there needs to be some thought over privacy, especially on such a big platform as Instagram. Think about who could see it, and ask yourself whether you really want them to before you share.
Control who’s watching
If you do want to control who watches your content, you can. If your Mum follows your photos but may not be too happy about your weekend antics, or you don’t want your boss knowing why you called in sick today then click the settings icon in the top right of your profile – go to Story Settings – and then Hide Story from – and you can choose people you don’t want to see your Stories.
If you use your Instagram in a professional manner, make your Stories professional
I know it’s slightly school teacher of me, but I do think this one is quite important. If you use your Instagram in a professional manner (i.e. to promote your own business or to sell something/ coach something or even like myself as a blogger and freelance writer with work and clients outside of your blog persona) do maintain a (reasonably) professional manner on your Stories too. They might only last 24 hours, but they’re still as much a part of your profile as your images are. As much as those crazy dog with giant tongue filters (when they finally appear, because no doubt they will very soon) might appeal, they may not be appropriate for you. Perhaps like Snapchat, they’ll introduce the ability to send a private snap to friends, at which point I’ll be all over that tongue filter but for now, not so much.
So there we have it, my (very long winded) thoughts on Instagram Stories. Overall, despite the cons I’ve spoken about, I’ve taken to it much easier than Snapchat and am actually really enjoying using it so far. I’m interested to see how it develops but I think I’ll be continuing with it. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on the feature – are you using it? Have you found your niche yet? What do you think of all the content being shared? Are you still on Snapchat and how on earth do you do both???
So. many. questions.
P.S if you want to follow me on Instagram and see/hear my Stories, find me here.