Do you use Instagram? You probably do, at least on occasion, right? I use it mainly for my almost-daily posts about branding, design, and business. Its photo-based platform is interesting to me because the content is so visual and so simple. You could argue it’s a minimalist app in some respects.
How about Snapchat? No? I don’t blame you, I’ve only just started poking around the app myself. You might know it as a multimedia messaging app, but they recently rolled-out a new feature called Stories. This feature allows you to compile images, videos, and text into a daily feed of your content that everyone can see. It expires after some time (24 hours?) so once people start tuning in, they’ll want to come back every day to see more of your stuff.
The thing I’ve found most fascinating about Instagram and Snapchat that is completely different, or at least much less obvious, than other social media platforms is that they say something profound about human engagement.
Look at it this way. Instagram has 75 million daily active users, and Snapchat has 100 million. That’s a ton of people using these apps on a daily basis, and even more so for Snapchat, which hasn’t even had time to mature yet. There’s something about these apps that is engaging people. Actually…more specifically, there’s something about the content on these apps that is engaging people.
What I’ve gathered about these apps that makes them different from any other mainstream social media platform is that Instagram and Snapchat are ideal for storytelling.
The grid-of-photos (and videos) format of Instagram favors consistency of all kinds. Consistency in the frequency of posting, the descriptions and hashtags used, and even the look of the photos and images. The story a user can tell is both long-term and instant, because a person can look at their feed of photos and immediately recognize a pattern, a style, a theme. We can absorb a lot of information about that person or brand in a very short amount of time. Still, a long-term follower can develop an intimate relationship with the content and build a deep understanding of the values of the person or brand.
This storytelling blooms further because of how little the Instagram interface competes with it. Compare your experience on sites like Facebook or LinkedIn with that of Instagram or Snapchat. The first two contain the content within their own context, but Instagram and Snapchat minimize their own branding so the story can really be told.
On Snapchat, consistency plays a role, but what I’ve found is that frequency and personality/informality are king. Where Instagram may have whetted our appetite for the intimate details of a person’s life, Snapchat brings the buffet. The story gets even more real here than ever before. An audience can pick up on one’s personality, values, style, and life experience from tuning into one or two Snapchat Stories, and it’s addicting. Think the next version of television.
Not only that, but Snapchat is reinventing video production as we know it. Where the only acceptable way of shooting a proper video was landscape (i.e. turning your phone sideways), now portrait style videos are becoming more and more accepted. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if short films are already being created using portrait video; that’s how profound an impact Snapchat has had on our culture already.
I think what’s really happening here is we’re finding out how we naturally prefer to learn about each other. Think about it…all of this social media stuff is just real-world experiments showing us what we respond to the most.
So what does all this real-world data mean for you, the business owner? People respond to stories. They respond to personal details, uninhibited values, and raw personality. They’re not necessarily concerned about carefully crafted TV commercials or ad campaigns, they just want to feel they’re getting the honest truth about who your organization is.
I’m not saying you should definitely use Instagram or Snapchat—those are just channels. I’m saying we should learn from how the world has reacted to and embraced these platforms and the way they work, because they’re finally showcasing the stories that people want to hear. Some might just call it the honest truth.