Some social media experts initially lampooned Instagram Stories as a blatant rip-off of Snapchat’s feature by the same name. Since its successful and well-received launch on August 2nd, however, the industry knows that if they don’t follow suit, they might get left behind.

Stories was a successful feature that set Snapchat apart — but it had always been a novelty unique to that network. Now, it seems clear that what Forbes calls “ephemeral marketing” just might be the future of social media.

Instagram Stories Emerges as a Powerful Marketing Tool

Instagram Stories: Because Audiences Love the Authenticity of Snapchat

Instagram was always billed as a place to showcase and share stylish, highly produced images that represented users’ best work. Users fell in love with Snapchat, on the other hand, because it let them share spontaneous, fleeting details of their lives that — thanks to Snapchat’s disappearing content format — were gone as soon as they were consumed.

Now that Instagram has parroted Snapchat’s boldest feature by releasing its own Stories tool, marketers are seeing the value of under-produced content designed for a short lived, or ephemeral, shelf life. Instead of having to start from scratch building an audience on Snapchat, or working with Snapchat influencers to promote their content, they can leverage the audience they’ve spent years building on Instagram. The bonus of using stories for their established account is massive, eliminating the need, expense, and time required to build an audience on Snapchat.

The format plays into the hands of marketers who are trying to give audiences — especially young audiences — what they seem to crave: authentic content that is not as staged, not as polished and not as glossy as the stylized image format that built Instagram’s brand.

Instagram Stories Emerges as a Powerful Marketing Tool

With the arrival of Instagram stories, marketers that learned to exploit the un-staged, grassroots feel of Snapchat can now apply the same principles to Instagram’s much larger audience.

Migrating from Instagram to the New Instagram

Instagram Stories so closely mirrors Snapchat stories in feel and function that marketers who made an effort to develop a Snapchat presence will intuitively understand how to use it.

What Instagram understood — and what marketers should strive to understand — is that the Snapchat format works, but it just doesn’t have the global reach of Instagram. The launch of Instagram Stories could stem the massive flow of users — especially young users — to Snapchat. For the many Instagram-savvy marketers who had avoided migrating to Snapchat, Stories presents a real opportunity to engage users they may have otherwise missed.

In order to succeed, however, marketers must adjust by breaking some old and ingrained Instagram habits:

  • The Stories format allows marketers to post far more content without overwhelming their followers’ feeds. With Instagram Stories, there is no such thing as over-posting.
  • There is also no such thing as likes or shares. The only way users can engage content creators is to send private messages. This gives marketers an unprecedented chance to collect raw, unfiltered responses to their campaigns.
  • Since the content disappears after 24 hours, marketers can use Instagram Stories to test new campaigns. Then, they can get rid of what doesn’t work and use their regular Instagram account to permanently showcase their successful content.
  • Stories works both ways. Since an Instagram user’s privacy settings dictate who will and won’t see their stories, marketers should follow users in their target audience so they can view their stories and “listen” to what they like and enjoy.
  • Marketers should use Stories as an analytical tool to determine which content is worth repeating. They can see not just how many people viewed their story, but exactly who viewed what part and when.

Use Snapchat-Tested Strategies to Get Ahead of the Game

Many marketers might be scrambling to figure out how their brand will translate on Instagram Stories. But since the format fits so closely to that of Snapchat Stories, safely assume that some tried-and-true Snapchat strategies will work well on Instagram’s new platform.

Snapchat-savvy marketers use takeovers to gain traction, followers, visibility and credibility. The concept is to identify influencer marketing opportunities with large followings in the brand’s target audience. They then turn their account over to that influencer for a few hours, or even a full day, and give the influencer carte blanche to create their own stories on the brand’s account. Wherever influencers create content, their audiences follow.

Another Snapchat classic is live video. Although you can’t stream live as long on Instagram Stories as you can on, say, Periscope, creative marketers can make their Instagram accounts the place to go for promotions, contests and one-on-one engagement in a live video format.

Instagram Stories Emerges as a Powerful Marketing Tool

At a glance, Instagram Stories is a carbon copy of Snapchat Stories; even Instagram’s CEO gives complete credit to Snapchat. The difference: Instagram is a global force with 500 million monthly users and 300 million daily users. Instagram is, in the words of Vanity Fair, crushing Snapchat in users. Now that it can do everything Snapchat can do, the Instagram brand may have just found new life as a marketing powerhouse.