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Instagram Stories: A New Era for Organic Marketing

Robert is a student at Swarthmore College interested in politics, current affairs, and public relations.

Instagram Stories is a critical tool marketers can use to post raw, unedited content.

Instagram Stories is a critical tool marketers can use to post raw, unedited content.

Instagram Stories Is Ideal for Marketers

Since Instagram launched Stories in August 2016, brands such as L'Oréal and Nike, and stars from Taylor Swift to Serena Williams, have posted to the platform bound to change social media forever.

The similarities between Snapchat and Instagram Stories are undeniable. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said, “They [Snapchat] deserve all the credit… This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.” Marketers certainly can put their own spin on Instagram Stories, as it is an ideal platform for organic, natural marketing.

Instagram is inherently geared towards garnering followers through manicured posts, whereas Snapchat caters to friends sharing fun, carefree “snaps.” Since the dawn of Instagram Stories, however, Instagram has Snapchat’s raw, upbeat functionality to complement its users’ finely-crafted visuals. Marketers still post the standard, polished content while sharing “Stories” that are more unfiltered and appealing.

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Social Media User Behavior

The changes in Facebook user behavior paved way for the rise of Snapchat and Instagram. During the initial popularity of Facebook, its users liberally posted status updates, sometimes once or more times per day, often conveying mundane thoughts such as, “I’m heading to the mall,” or “What a nice, sunny day it is today.”

Over time, Facebook became less suitable for unexciting updates. Those regular statuses were replaced with opinionated political commentary and important events like graduations and weddings. Millennials transferred their communication of everyday moments—who they’re hanging out with, what they’re eating—over to Snapchat.

At the same time, Instagram blossomed into the stage for perfection, exemplified by its trademark photo filters. In fact, aligning with Instagram’s elevated expectations, celebrities including Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian have been accused of photoshopping their personal photos to look slimmer.

Brands and users alike post bulky photo albums on Facebook, and from those photos, would cherry-pick only one or two photos for Instagram, propelling it as the social media outlet to project one’s best public image.

For public figures who officially or by default act as brand influencers, Snapchat offers an exclusive window into their “real” lives. Fans feel special knowing what Rihanna does when she’s not on stage or on the red carpet. Snapchat provides this unique “glimpse” into the lives of influencers.

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What Does Instagram’s Snapchat-Like “Stories” Mean for Marketing?

Marketers now have the best of both worlds. The airbrushed, crème de la crème content of Instagram posts will live on. Meanwhile, related content for the “Stories” complement those photoshoot posts with unedited freshness, thus conveying to consumers a “human” connection and a trustable, grassroots feel.

Massimo Dutti, the global fashion house under Zara’s Inditex group, had Sean O’Pry, the world’s number one male model, as the face of their autumn/winter 2016 collection. Dutti's autumn/winter 2016 campaign—branded video ads and photos fit for a Vogue spread—constituted their Instagram posts. Massimo Dutti continued with those stylized photos and videos but simultaneously used “Stories” to deepen their organic connection with consumers.

For example, an upbeat selfie video of O’pry wearing one Massimo Dutti sweater in his apartment would work jointly with a post in which a posing O’pry sports Massimo Dutti head to toe.

Similarly, Ivy Park, an activewear partnership between Beyoncé and Topshop, could see the Topshop and Ivy Park Instagram accounts post branded content starring Beyoncé while having untouched clips of the singer rehearsing in Ivy Park attire as “Story” clips. We “glimpse” at what Beyoncé, the performer, does behind the scenes while appreciating what Beyoncé, the phenomenal influencer, does front-and-center in a high-quality fashion ad.

Instagram Stories, like Snapchat Stories, disappear after 24 hours, reinforcing the consumer's “exclusive” feeling from viewing such content, whether posted by celebrities, brands, or from “micro-influencers” such as bloggers or campus personalities.

Mr. Systrom says the aim was to “lower the bar for sharing all types of photos and video—and not just the carefully planned and painstakingly touched-up photographs that are typical of the service.” That high bar, for brands, was associated with traditional advertising, which is now largely ignored by consumers.

With the bar now lowered through Instagram Stories, we have arrived at a marketer’s dream platform. Orchestrated ads can work hand-in-hand with compelling “Stories” content from the human heart, humor, and everything in between. It’s the new era of organic marketing.

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