Everyone has a story to tell, and Instagram on Tuesday announced Stories, a new way for users to tell theirs.
Stories allows Instagram users to string together images and videos for a dynamic slide show presentation that can be shared with friends or the entire Instagram community.
Rather than sharing pictures and videos individually with others on the platform, a user can choose to share them through a story. Someone following the story simply taps the new story icon on the Instagram interface to see the latest addition or to watch it from beginning to end.
Story content can be enhanced with a number of text and drawing tools. The content is ephemeral: It disappears in 24 hours unless a user chooses to preserve it.
Stories from people a user follows appear in a bar across the top of the app’s feed screen. When there’s something new to see, a colorful ring appears around the person’s profile photo.
To view a story, a user taps a person’s profile picture. Moving backward and forward through a story can be performed with a tap. Movement from story to story can be accomplished with a swipe.
Users can comment on something seen in a story through a private message on Instagram Direct. There are no “likes” or public comments on story content.
Sharing options for a story are governed by a user’s privacy settings. For example, if an account’s settings are limited to private, only people following an account will see its stories. However, stories can be hidden selectively from followers, too.
When watching a story, the user who created it can see who else has been watching it with an upward swipe.
Instagram will roll out the Stories feature globally on iOS and Android in the next few weeks.
For Snapchat users, Stories no doubt seems familiar.
“It has the same name as Snapchat’s stories, and it seems to be a direct copying of what someone else has done,” noted Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.
Similarities aside, Stories will enhance the Instagram user experience, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
“Stories allows Instagram users to easily create narratives using a variety of content and multimedia,” he said. “The result is a far more dynamic form of sharing and storytelling than they previously had.”
Stories meets a need for Instagram users, said Jackdaw’s Dawson.
“If you spend a day doing something, you may have a bunch of pictures you want to share, but you don’t want to ‘overgram.’ So you only post one or two pictures and you feel sad you didn’t post more,” he told said.
“This allows you to post a bunch of material with people without crunching up their feed,” Dawson added.
In introducing Stories, Instagram hopes to capitalize on Snapchat’s success, said Elizabeth Lampert, president of Elizabeth Lampert PR.
“This is a big move for Instagram,” she said. “Snapchat has shown us there is a huge market for live sharing moments of our lives.”
It’s not only users who will welcome Stories, Lampert added. Marketers will, too.
“Stories will give brands — if used well — a means to produce live video content on the platform and make their Instagram the place to go for fun and meaningful and social content,” she said.
Though Instagram users may welcome Stories, the feature is not likely to siphon folks away from Snapchat, observed Erna Alfred Liousas, an analyst with Forrester Research.
“Instagram will certainly learn quite a bit about their users with their new feature, but Snapchat users are on Snapchat for the totality of their experience, not just one component of it,” she said.
Snapchat in 2013 spurned Facebook’s US$3 billion acquisition offer. Since that time, Facebook has been using another of its properties, Instagram, to compete with Snapchat, said Andreas Scherer, managing partner with Salto Partners.
“Facebook’s strategy vis-à-vis Snapchat is obvious. If it is not able to buy the company, then it will try to take the most successful concepts and mold them for the benefit of its own audience,” he told said.
“Instagram is the perfect fighting brand for that strategy.” Scherer said. “In the best case, Facebook will be able to marginalize Snapchat over time. Minimally, it will try to get its fair share of this particular segment of the Internet audience.”
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