Nov 14, 2016 / by Jim Dougherty

Origin might not matter as much as which app executes best. – Josh Constine, comparing Instagram Stories and Snapchat for TechCrunch

A few months ago Instagram released its new feature, “Instagram Stories.” By their own admission, Instagram Stories is a derivative of Snapchat Stories (which were introduced three years prior to IG’s version).

Despite its similarity to the Snapchat feature, there may be an opportunity for businesses to leverage transitory content using Instagram Stories for communications, conversions, and sales.

What I want to do in this post is explain what Instagram Stories are, and why the demographics and usability of the Instagram platform may be especially conducive to this ephemeral content. I’ll also discuss the three newest features of Instagram Stories and what you need to do to incorporate these into your Stories content.

What are Instagram Stories and why are they important?

Instagram DemographicsFacebook, Instagram and Snapchat Used Most Often by American Teens

It is easier to grow an Instagram audience than a Snapchat audience. This is why Instagram Stories may be a more viable tool for social content than Snapchat.

Despite the relative difference between the total number of platform users, the biggest difference is Instagram’s deep incorporation into the Facebook ecosystem. Instagram proactively tries to migrate Facebook users to Instagram users. Instagram’s integration into the Facebook Ad ecosystem offers another means for audience acquisition that Snapchat doesn’t. Instagram has more users than Snapchat and its followers are easier to acquire. This is why Stories are more useful for brands on Insta than Snapchat.

Perhaps I’m ahead of myself. You might wonder what are “Stories?”

Stories (on Instagram and Snapchat) are a combination of pictures and media that are grouped together with a 24-hour expiry. In order to habitually create content for Stories, you need the following:

  • An audience – Duh
  • A point-of-view – Stories aren’t accessed on the Instagram timeline; they are accessed on the header of the app.
  • A lot of visual content – From a brand perspective, Snapchat’s Discover content (curated by brands like Mashable, The New York Times, ESPN, etc.) provides a template for a story, most commonly with 6-10 pieces of media per story.
  • Resources to curate and manage story content daily – because of the 24-hour expiry of Stories, they require constant upkeep to maintain.

So we’ve discussed what Stories are, and why Instagram is perhaps a more accommodating platform for content amplification than Snapchat. You may ask why this is relevant to write about. Instagram just integrated three new features into (their version of) Stories:

  • Ability to mention Instagram users within a Story
  • Ability to insert hyperlinks into a Story*
  • Ability to incorporate Boomerang content into Stories

Let’s take a look at how these features can help to create more interesting content for your Instagram Stories.


As Alina Bradford of cnet writes, Instagram “Mentions” are more comparable to being tagged on Facebook than mentions. You can tag up to ten people in a post (by using the text tool to write their Instagram username preceded by an “@”), and they’ll be tagged and notified in their profile.

From a branding and communications standpoint, you may have to get creative to make this feature useful. However, when notable people are in your story or as a cross-promotional tool, this might be helpful.


You can put links in your Stories (*if you are a verified Instagram user). You may wonder what a verified user is, and Instagram verifies accounts “representing well-known figures and brands.” So, if you’re a celebrity or a notable brand: awesome! Link away. For the rest of us, this is a feature that isn’t enabled yet (but may be soon).

All is not lost – although linking would be a helpful way to capture conversions and justify spending resources on Instagram, you can always use an “old school” tactic like promotional codes to capture conversions (and sales) generated through your Instagram content. That said, when Instagram rolls this out to the masses you will appreciate it.




If you’re like me, you may need a refresher on what Boomerang is. It is a mobile app that makes 1-second-long GIF-like videos that play back and forth on a loop. Perhaps they could be thought of as an abbreviated Vine, although they must be filmed in one consecutive burst (and without sound). Despite their limitations, people have done some very creative things with Boomerangs.

There are two ways to insert Boomerangs into you Instagram Stories:

  • Record a Boomerang and insert it into a Story within 24 hours of filming (you can also insert your Hyperlapse content into Stories like this).
  • Record and post a Boomerang directly from the Stories feature in the Instagram app.

While this is a limiting content form, with a little bit of creativity it may add some interesting layers to a multimedia story.


Instagram Stories are an interesting way to create a cohesive content story on the platform. Instagram has added some neat features to their toolbox, and one can imagine some further integration (IG video incorporation, content archiving) natively or with Facebook that might make this an even more powerful type of content to create. Here’s a final rundown of its pros and cons.


  • Offers large, engaged audience
  • Low barrier-to-entry for audience growth
  • High ease-of-use; all of Instagram’s bells and whistles
  • Can tag individuals within a Story
  • Linking feature to be (hopefully) introduced soon


  • Linking only available to verified accounts
  • Limited content; not integrated with Instagram video
  • Requires resource for daily creative

Get more tips that will help you build a strong, relatable presence on social media by downloading Social Listening for PR and Comms Pros. This free guide outlines how to participate on key networks without wasting resources or missing opportunities.

SE-CO-2.6.1 Engage in Social Conversations Around Your Brand

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About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.