Instagram Stories get mixed reviews from marketers

Earlier this week, Instagram moved its Snapchat-like Stories to the Explore tab and announced that the feature has about 100 million daily active users. Now that Stories has been out for a few months, brands have had some time to form a few opinions on the feature.

Like any new platform feature, brands are still in test-and-learn mode, using it for everything from rough-and-ready coverage of live events to brand video. But while some see momentum, many marketers struggle with getting much scale from their efforts or solid metrics to justify spending money (and time) on yet another new way to push out content.

Kerry Perse, U.S. director of Omnicom subsidiary OMD Word, said her agency has used Stories for a handful of clients, which are mostly in retail. Clients have used Stories about once a week and they have been structured around live events and “retail moments” such as when a celebrity visits a store or a product debuts.

Engagement for Stories has been similar to what OMD has seen on other live platforms like Facebook Live and Periscope, Perse said. Another agency said that if a Story runs at the same time as a related standard static Instagram photo, the related photo tends to see its views increase by a few percentage points compared to other regular Instagram photos.

Razorfish has run Stories about once a month for a financial-services client and for the for-profit education firm Education Corporation of America. For ECA, Razorfish has run Stories around recruiting and community events. Engagement for ECA Stories has been about 2.3 times greater than engagement for other ECA Instagram content, said Tammy Pepito, Razorfish senior director of social media.

For its financial services client, Razorfish has run Stories around events that the client sponsored, like the Chicago Triathlon. One Story run during the race followed an athlete throughout, capturing moments from the event as they occurred chronologically.

Although a few agencies have seen promising engagement from Stories, the majority of agencies Digiday spoke with did not yet have plans to use the feature. One agency said clients “are interested, but the majority are waiting for a paid product before they use it because a paid product is the only way to get the scale they’re looking for.”

Brandon Billings, director of digital engagement at Bernstein-Rein, said that aside from the lack of ads in Stories, clients are also deterred by its similarities to Snapchat. Because many influencers use Snapchat and clients are already familiar with creating content for Snapchat, it’s difficult for Instagram Stories to differentiate itself and justify investment, he said.

“Many clients do social in-house and are slower to adopt [new features],” Billings said.

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