How to use Instagram Stories (hint: it's a lot like Snapchat, but different)

In what some might think is a very bold move, Instagram has introduced Instagram Stories - a feature that allows users to post short images and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Kind of like Snapchat, but different.

Love it or loathe it, Instagram Stories is here to stay. You can sit around and complain about change, or you can grab a hold of it with two hands, and make the most of it! 

So what does Instagram Stories mean for those wanting to market their blog, personal brand or business?

First of all, let's talk about the how.

How Instagram Stories works

First thing is first - update your Instagram app!

Instagram Stories will appear in a bar at the top of your feed. You'll be able to scroll across and see the little circles that represent the stories of every single Instagram account that you follow. When an account has updated its story, the circular profile picture will have a colourful ring around it.

Viewing the story is simple - all you need to do is tap on the profile image, and the account's story will appear before your eyes. The content will play out in time order. Once you're viewing someone's story, you can tap to go to the next part of the story (just like Snapchat), or you can swipe to jump to the next person's story. Although you can't comment or like these stories, you can send the account a message in reply to their story, which will simply show up in their DM box.

How to create a story

At the top left corner of your home feed, you'll see a tiny circle with a + sign in it - click here to add media to your 'story'. Or you can simply swipe right to reveal the camera.

Simply take a picture, use the drawing tool to add some colour, or the text tool (Aa) to add some words to your post. And then swipe left to add a filter. Once your post is good to go, simply tap the tick bottom (bottom centre) and the post will be added to your story. It's that simple!

Once your story is live, you can view some basic analytics by clicking on your story, and scrolling up to see how many times each post has been viewed and who has viewed it.

You can also choose to feature a particular part of your story by posting it on your profile so it will appear within the feed. To do this, tap the upload button (highlighted in the below image).

You can also post a particular part of your story to your feed - simply go into your story, swipe up, and tap the upload button!

Instagram Stories - the game changer

Since its introduction in 2010, Instagram has been the go-to place for beautiful, perfectly-curated images. What made Instagram stand out from the rest was that it wasn't a place to post about the messy details of your 'real life'. But this ended up being a hindrance. Snapchat filled the void that Instagram had created, allowing users to share snippets of their lives - from the good, the messy, the behind-the-scenes and everything in between! And as humans who have not-so-perfect lives as we would like others to believe, it's a little comforting to be reminded that others don't lead picture-perfect lives either.

So the introduction of Instagram Stories is a real game changer. It now not only allows users to connect with their audiences on a 'real life' level, but it also allows users to connect with their existing following base that they've worked very hard to acquire!

Where so many Instagram users have been directing their Instagram followers to add them on Snapchat, they can now reach people where they're already following them - on Instagram.

With that said, Instagram Stories will prove to be a fantastic way to engage on a much deeper, authentic level with a much larger following. For businesses, brands and bloggers, this provides unprecedented opportunities.

So what should you do?

Talk to your Instagram audience! If you want your Instagram account to be front of mind, then post regularly throughout the day, because the stories that have been updated the most recently will appear first. And you don't want to risk being lost among the sea of users.

And before you post, think about what you're saying - does it add value to your Instagram followers? Will they find it interesting or will they just swipe left to the next story? Think about how you can capture their attention, and keep them coming back for more.

What does this mean for Snapchat?

Well, while Instagram Stories have included the basic features of Snapchat, so far there are no face filters, time stamps, geofilters, weather or speed gauges. But Instagram Stories will surely integrate some of these capabilities in the near future.

Is it the end of the Snapchat game? I'm not so sure. I think Snapchat still has a lot to offer, and it's sure to add more enticing features in the future. Let's just see.

What do you think? Do you like using Instagram Stories or do you prefer Snapchat? Will you give up the ghost and jump ship to Instagram Stories, or will you make use of both platforms? What Instagram Stories tips and tricks have you found effective? Share your thoughts in the comment section.