By Sean Beckingham
Social media applications today have a very similar story to the smartphones they find themselves downloaded onto: You finally learn how use it, you get used to its features and then three months later, a shiny newer version comes out with features both new and old.
Meanwhile, popular photo sharing application Instagram has added an interesting yet familiar feature to their application, Instagram Stories.
An Instagram story is a separate entity from the app’s regular photo and video feed as it allows users to share moments in real-time which will also disappear after 24 hours. Within the application, these stories are shown in a slideshow format upon the user’s profile picture being tapped in the new header area, as opposed to being shown in the main news feed we’ve been scrolling through. This is the biggest news update from Instagram in recent memory since their $1-billion sale to Facebook in April of 2012, back when it was a 13-person photo filter start-up just shy of its second birthday.
If the concept of Instagram Stories sounds familiar, that’s because it is. This is a near-perfect replication of a service Snapchat has been offering for the past five years. The impact of this similarity now shared by these apps could not be more different however. If a typical everyday Millennial has been a heavy user of both Instagram and Snapchat, having Snapchat’s only valuable use suddenly integrated into Instagram may cause this user to cut their digital workload in half by opting for the sole app that offers both the vanishing uploads and the regular news feed postings, Instagram. This person may also eventually get bored of the Stories feature, experiencing the feeling of been there, done that, and go in search of the next best or newest thing, like we do with many digital or product trends.
What can the food service industry take from this? We are under ZERO obligation to jump on all the social media trends that roll into the station unless we have the time and the resources to invest in the ride for the long run. However, with any new technology or digital marketing tool, there can be more cons than pros, depending on the strategies and goals of your business. Here are some examples you may want to take into account.
Following and being followed
Within Snapchat, finding new people to follow, and be followed by, can be the most difficult aspect of using this social application. The only two convenient adding options are by entering a username you already know or selecting active users from your address book who have synchronized their accounts with their phone numbers. This can be detrimental to your time and efforts if part of your social media strategy is discovery of, and by, users and customers. It is also very unlikely you’ll see guest experiences posted to Snapchat unless they’ve added and shared these snaps and stories with you.
Meanwhile, Instagram has more potential for discovery and engagement. You can still easily add Facebook and device contacts but you can also find customers and other users by exploring public posts and tagging (username tags, hashtags and geotags).
Finding the right story
One advantage Snapchat has over Instagram Stories is accessibility and the overall layout of their stories’ feeds. In Snapchat, you have two separate feeds; one for snaps sent directly to you and from you, the other for the publicly submitted stories of people you follow.
Instagram Stories has been given that one row header above the main feed and finding a particular person’s story isn’t as simple as clicking their readable printed name. You have to scroll, which is time consuming when following large amounts of people, and eventually find the small bubble with their profile photo inside and their username underneath. They’re not alphabetical order or in any type of order based on activity or engagement.
A main issue here regardless is that there is no guarantee you’ll find a story about you or your business after spending all this time scrolling and watching, unless you find out beforehand, “Hey, I posted a story/photo/video of you,” which is very unlikely in most cases.
Your website won’t benefit
If you’re logged into Snapchat and you send a fun snap of your latest dish or a hero moment at your place of business, once it has been watched, there is no clear next step for the viewing user. They’re most likely going to move on to watching the next snap in their feed or will just close the app all together. The problem is that there is no place within your snap or your profile to provide a working link to your website, or any website in general.
On Instagram, there is no link integration with their storytelling feature either, although there is a space on your IG profile to provide one. Overall, with no link-to-story integration or analytic connection to go by, there is no easy way of knowing if any of your website traffic was driven by proper use of storytelling application marketing, unless a user is somehow able, and willing, to provide such feedback or proof.
One of the original reasons for Snapchat’s existence was the ability to share content with others without risking the content being shared externally. Today, through both Snapchat and Instagram Stories, unless your marketing segments are captured via screenshots and posted, there is no easy method for users to actively share your content with other people. They’ll be able to watch and re-watch over 24 hours and then they’ll be gone.
Big brands, big investments, big returns
Despite the setbacks mentioned, they are not to say brands can’t benefit at all from these stories; bigger brands just benefit better. These brands can afford the time, money and other forms of assistance needed to produce great storytelling content while making sure this content is in line with their brand. The bigger the investment, the bigger the advantage, thus the improvement in likeliness for a return on said investment.
Recently, famous burger franchise A&W chose to incorporate Snapchat into their “Burgers to Beat MS” marketing initiatives. Knowing their Millennial targets were still into Snapchat, the franchise not only invested time into Snapchat but also purchased their own custom snap filter, allowing users to impose branded burger stacks over their photographs and videos.
“We’re not telling them something, we’re just being in the space they’re in,” explained Ruth Murray, account director at Vizeum Canada, A&W’s media agency. Murray believed that Snapchat would be the least intrusive method of connecting with the 18-to-30-year-old consumer demographic they’d desired for a number of years.
Writing your next chapter
Big brands and bucks aside, one would never say a smaller business couldn’t benefit from the use of either of these storytelling applications. Both Instagram Stories and Snapchat, when used properly, could still increase awareness of your restaurant’s brand, products and services in real time. They can also allow other users to inadvertently market for you via on-location snaps, videos and photo posts to their feeds and/or friends, especially when official brand name tags, hashtags or filters are included. You might not always know when you’ve been posted or snapped about, but by being open to it, and by being social back, you’re in your demographic’s digital territory which is still a beneficial place to be, with or without trackable analytics.
Keep in mind that not everyone who logs in daily is actually posting or sharing something. Many users are simply invisible without being inactive, swiping through stories whether out of boredom, entertainment or interest in finding out what’s current or trending at a given moment. These lurkers are still important to consider as they can still influence, and be influenced by, the subjects and users at hand.
In the end, whether you’re using these stories to highlight products, staff, events or other aspects of your business, be sure your efforts are in line with your marketing and branding on other social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Consistency is key, but so is experimentation and fun.
About the author:
Sean Beckingham is president of Branding & Buzzing, a social marketing agency established in 2011 that specializes in the food and beverage category. For more information, visit www.brandingandbuzzing.com.