Last week, Instagram released an update adding a new feature that seems suspiciously similar to Snapchat’s proprietary My Story – Instagram Stories. While some may be thinking they don’t need to worry about two similar social media platforms, a large number of brands have already incorporated Instagram Stories into their digital strategy. Instagram’s fledgling feature has already shown its differences compared to Snapchat and could prove itself as an essential marketing tool, especially for travel and lifestyle brands!

The new feature allows users to share picture and video content in a seamless slideshow feature that disappears after 24 hours. These Instagram Stories appear at the top of users’ home feeds and automatically follow the same privacy settings as your account, however, you can easily change who can and can’t view your story even if they already follow you. Unlike regular posts, Instagram stories are not included in the regular content grids and galleries which gives users the freedom to increase their posting frequency.

This comes as an effort to encourage users to share more authentic, in-the-moment content as most accounts are carefully curated and edited. Instagram emphasized this on their blog saying, “With Instagram Stories, you don’t have to worry about over posting. Instead, you can share as much as you want to throughout the day.”

Along with Instagram Stories, the platform also rolled out a change in its feed algorithm, putting what it thinks you’ll be most interested in at the top of your feed instead of chronological order. This update is a major reason for brands to become early adopters of Stories. Since your content might get lost in the feeds of followers who don’t regularly engage with you, it can help keep your brand top of mind and in the eyes of your followers.

Instagram currently has about double the amount of monthly active users compared to Snapchat, giving your content the opportunity to be seen by twice as many people than if it was shared on Snapchat. Instagram Stories allows for brands with an existing following to show less-stylized authentic images and videos that don’t feel like strategized advertisements, yet are still able to build a strong brand lifestyle.  For travel brands and hotels, this translates to an opportunity to provide an “inside look” at the experiences your property has to offer.

Travel brands like Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure have jumped on this update and are already including Instagram Stories into their content strategy. Giving followers a more authentic, “behind the scenes” look, these media companies are incorporating influencer takeovers, hotel tours and event coverage into their Instagram content.  

Another benefit to using Instagram Stories is the target audience age range. Snapchat is primarily used by a younger audience with 71% of users being between the ages of 13 and 34, while almost half of Instagram’s users are over the age of 30. In this sense, brands might find it useful to target their Stories to an older audience while keeping their Snapchat content focused on a younger demographic.   

Instagram Stories is still in its nascent stages and will be widely tested among different brands and industries in the coming months, but instead of waiting to hear feedback from other brands’ campaigns, it is worth embracing how to stay ahead of the ever-changing social media game. Instagram Stories provides a low risk opportunity for brands as content lives for only 24 hours on the platform and there is an inherent expiration date. After all, 76% of millennials are likely to incorporate Instagram into their vacation decisions, so wouldn’t you want to be one of the first brands they see at the top of their feed?  

-Tiffany Licata

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