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Instagram Announces New Feature, Challenges Snapchat

Instagram on Tuesday introduced Instagram Stories, a new feature that lets people share photos and videos having a life span of no more than 24 hours. Users can decorate the content with text or drawings, and then combine the images and videos into a story. The stories can be designated public or private, and users can choose if they want only a subsection of their followers to view them.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because rival app Snapchat offers the same feature. Snapchat Stories allows users to combine photos and videos into a constant stream available for 24 hours. Brands such as Cosmopolitan, ESPN and Buzzfeed have leveraged the platform for digital advertising, offering daily stories to Snapchat users who don’t even have to follow the brands.

While this new Instagram feature poses a threat to Snapchat, it’s really Facebook issuing the challenge. The social media juggernaut purchased Instagram in 2012 for about $1 billion in cash and stock, and then made a $3 billion acquisition offer to Snapchat the following year, which was rejected. Since then, Facebook has attempted to clone the disappearing message start-up with apps such as Facebook Poke to ultimately limited success.

With Instagram’s more than 500 million users and Snapchat’s more than 150 million users, it’s easy to see why distributors are increasingly flocking to social media to build their businesses. In Counselor’s 2015 State of the Industry survey, 27% of distributors reported that they rely upon social media as a source for finding new business, up from 19% the previous year. Furthermore, small industry distributors reported that 33% of new business was generated through Facebook and Twitter posts last year, behind only referrals as a source of growth.

Digital marketing expert Patrick Allmond says that promotional product companies should give Instagram Stories a shot. “Facebook is good at inheriting features from other networks but has a much bigger audience,” says Allmond, owner of Focus Digital Marketing Agency and a regular education speaker at the ASI Show.

Danette Gossett, president of Gossett Marketing (asi/212200), plans on joining Instagram to expand the success she’s had with Twitter. “It seems to be where everyone is shifting,” Gossett says. “It’s going to have such a huge impact with millennials.”

Gossett joined Twitter about six years ago after enlisting a social media coach to teach her the basics. She then used the social media platform to promote her blog posts and establish relationships with fellow distributors and even a few clients. “Social media is going to constantly change. You can’t get too comfortable with just one platform like Twitter because there are so many other opportunities,” Gossett says.