When the Instagram Story feature was first introduced, users were skeptical. Most claimed that the addition was simply copying the Snapchat Story. However, as Instagram Stories approaches its one year anniversary, it’s clear that it has changed the nature of the app. Instagram has grown to 250 million daily users, continuing to widen its lead over Snapchat which currently has only 166 million daily active users.

Instagram stories allow individuals to share more candidly than they would in a post.  Users can choose between different filters, location tags, and stickers to add to their uploaded picture, video, or the ever-popular Boomerang in their story. The story feature was created with the sole purpose of encouraging people to share more. These 24-hour posts give Instagram users an additional creative outlet separate from the usually glamorized and perfected photos on their “insta-grid.”

These informal and personable stories are extremely beneficial for brands and the continuously growing network of influencers that have a strong presence on Instagram.  These well-known companies and individuals have a chance to connect further with their audience through their story content. Their followers get an opportunity to learn more about them aside from weekly #MotivationModay posts or perfected product pictures. Instagram Stories are most often used as a place where these individuals can address their followers via video or even candidly record their day, allowing fans to see them as real people rather than a business or brand.

One of Instagram’s newest story features is the addition of Instagram Live.  Originally, viewers had to watch the live feed as it was happening or they would miss it completely.  This gave a sense of urgency for followers to view live videos.  However, it made the videos more inconvenient and easy to miss. Now, followers have the chance to watch the Instagram Live for up to 24 hours after it was created.  As the live video is streaming, viewers have the opportunity to type in questions or reactions for the video creator to view and answer during the feed.

This is a huge benefit for brands who have a higher following on Instagram than on Facebook, or for those brands who want to grow their Instagram followers.  Brands also have the opportunity to engage their viewers. By promoting the Instagram Live beforehand, they can also promote an incentive for their followers to engage with the live post.  When brands pick the right incentive for the right audience, people will feel compelled to get involved.

Instagram is also trying its hand in advertising in stories.  While advertisers are questioning the result of their ad spending on Snapchat, Instagram is gaining advertisers by offering them free trials and credits.  Slowly but surely users are seeing short ad videos and graphic designs while they are scrolling through the stories of those that they follow.  Advertisers always need an active audience, and right now all eyes are on Instagram stories.

Instagram Stories will continue to grow in both users and viewers. This powerful new tool focuses solely on the user experience and is beneficial to both sides.  Brands and individuals have an enormous platform to share and connect with their followers while the viewers have a chance to directly engage with them.  Simply put: Insta Stories are (Insta)mazing.