Instagram’s 2016 launch of ‘Stories’ can undoubtedly be counted as a hugely successful product launch for the social media platform. The short photo and video updates only stay online for 24 hours before disappearing. Every day, over 400 million Instagram users around the world open the app’s Stories section and scroll through the updates, both personal and sponsored, with targeting based on interests and previous activity. Stories has been such as success that Facebook, which has owned Instagram since 2012, has replicated it on its own social media platform.
The popularity of Stories is twofold. Firstly, the greater depth and nuance they offer over basic posts means users can inject more of their own personality and ‘voice’ in Stories updates. Secondly, in a maturing social media age of users having learned to become wary of what they publish existing in the digital space for eternity, the ephemeral quality of Stories that disappear without a trace after 24 hours is appealing.
We’ve all had a little cringe over something we’ve shared on social media years ago that seemed like a good idea, funny or insightful at the time and would be quite happy for such posts to vanish forever into the mists of time. Sometimes a misjudged post, while perhaps not intentionally or overtly controversial or offensive, can be damaging to reputation as well as just embarrassing, especially if dragged up years later in the context of the norms of the present.
The advantages of Stories’ limited lifespan and greater engagement has also not been lost on brands, with the functionality proving popular for advertising and brand building. However, having to regularly come up with engaging new Stories updates which only last for 24 hours is also a challenge for social commerce and marketing teams.
However, with every problem comes an opportunity. Several companies which specialise in helping brands create Instagram and Facebook Stories have recently come to market and the niche has become a multi-million global business. While Instagram itself offers Stories templates via its Layout app, other companies have taken it upon themselves to develop more sophisticate third-party alternatives which are proving popular.
The most used of these Instagram Stories templates providers is Unfold, which has stormed to 11 million users and 100,000 downloads a day. Unfold offers page templates from five series of differing aesthetics. It provides a smooth user experience, allowing for text, images and videos to be uploaded and edited with direct publishing onto Instagram when complete. It actually started out as an app for designers until a pivot turned the company into an Instagram Stories marketing service. Users can make use of some templates for free and add others from $0.99 through a Freemium model.
Unfold is also now rolling out a professional service for companies which involves the custom crafting of templates specific to their business and industry. High profile clients and users include influencers such as the actress and singer Selena Gomez and Real Madrid footballer Sergio Ramos as well as companies including the upmarket gym Equinox, Top Shop and the Four Seasons hotel brand. The latter’s templates were developed through studying fitness photography trends and combining them with the brand’s style of interior design and gym architecture.
Unfold expects to see 2018 revenues of $2.6 million and employs a team of just 12 people. Others companies in the space include Canva and Adobe Spark, who also offer Instagram Stories templates, though they are less specialised and also offer templates for other social media posts.
The success of Unfold and its peers and competitors both mean a flourishing new business niche as well as a welcome helping hand for brands struggling to keep up with the responsibility of keeping their social media brand fresh and engaging. Using Unfold templates, Stories are created in an average of 4 minutes – a welcome reduction in time commitment for rushed marketing departments compared to manually crafting high quality posts.