To Be or Not to Be Permanent? On Instagram Stories and Brand Identity

August 18th, 2016

Instagram recently challenged Snapchat’s popular impermanent photography platform by introducing their own take on stories. Now, users can decide whether to permanently upload photos to their profiles or have them disappear after 24 hours.

Currently, Instagram is one of the most effective brand engagement platforms available. In 2015, Instagram had the highest per-follower brand engagement ranking at 4.21 percent, compared to Facebook and Twitter, both ranking at less than 0.1%.

From the average user’s perspective, Instagram’s features prove rather attractive: permanent and temporary photos and videos with the ability to interact through commenting, messaging and tagging. Brands can further establish a presence and streamline contact with their followers, especially with the new business profiles the app now offers. It’s a perfect formula for audience engagement.

However, by introducing its own version of impermanent photography, Instagram has redefined its purpose from a promotional perspective. This new feature raises a couple of rather important questions that need to be answered in order to fully realize the advantages one can gain from implementing both types of image-based content.

Stories: Instagram? Snapchat? What’s the Difference?

Instagram and Snapchat stories share noticeable stylistic similarities. Both offer similar editing options, such as drawing over the original image and the ability to overlay text captions. However, the difference doesn’t lie in the aesthetics, it lies in the audience.

According to Business Insider, the audiences play a key role in differentiating Instagram and Snapchat stories. Snapchat proves more popular with younger audiences, with a 28% reach with teens, as compared to Instagram’s drop from 32% in 2015 to 27% in 2016. The quick photo sharing and instant messaging offered by Snapchat allow friends to communicate in private with their content guaranteed to disappear.

Still, Instagram proves itself the winner for branding purposes. Simply put, it has large-scale advantages that Snapchat doesn’t offer, such as hashtagging, the option to upload both permanent and impermanent content, and 400 million active monthly users. This, along with commenting and direct messaging, makes it the more well-rounded of the two. While it may not appeal younger audiences as much as Snapchat, Instagram has the ability to reach broader audiences, regardless of age.

Make the Decision: Which Content Should be Permanent and Which Should be Temporary?

Before Instagram introduced its own version of stories, there was no efficient way to feature impermanent content on its platform. To remove content at a later date, the user had to log in and manually filter the photos and videos that were to be kept or deleted. Doing so creates clutter and inconsistency in profiles’ aesthetic quality and interferes with audience expectations.

Here, the challenge is to decide which types of content deserve a permanent archival and which should only be uploaded for a day’s length of time.

Consider permanent uploads as a catalog of a brand’s core values, practices, character, and associated lifestyle. These are the pieces of content that are perpetually relevant and should be accessible regardless of posting date. This strengthens brand identity and communicates worth to followers.

Instagram stories are best used as complements to permanent content. Photos and videos designed to promote timely events or to enrich the core values behind your brand can add fun and interesting elements to your profile. Plus, the story feed is always at the top of the screen, so audiences will have no trouble finding it!

So, did Instagram Make the Right Decision?

Instagram made the right decision to introduce stories. Impermanent photography complements and rounds out the visual delivery methods the platform already offers. Using the feature as a catalyst to host timely, intentionally temporary content can result in cleaner brand presentation and strengthen the appeal of permanent visuals. The challenge that needs to be addressed, however, is to communicate content that is authentic and engaging across both approaches.

It will be interesting to see how Instagram continues to evolve and build upon this notable inclusion. Though it has declared its war on Snapchat, the true victor of the battle still has yet to be decided.

Michael Bateman

Michael Bateman handles social media, content creation, and media relations needs for multiple accounts at Springboard. When he's not working in the office or sitting in grad classes, you can find him blogging, exploring Asbury Park, or watching New York Islanders games.

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