Want to ask the online community which outfit you should wear on Saturday night, spark debate by requesting political opinions, or settle, once and for all, the correct pronunciation of the word scone?

Or maybe, as the Instagram blog proposes, you need help making the all-important choice between a sprinkled or sugared doughnut (a non-problem, really…unless there’s a national shortage of ring-shaped pastries that we aren’t aware of).

Well, you’ll be glad to know you can now do all of the above from your favourite photo-sharing application, simply by adding a ‘Poll’ sticker to your Instagram Story.

To add a poll, share a photo to your story and place the sticker anywhere on your image; you can write your own question and customise the response choices too. Once you’ve asked your burning question, you can follow the results in real time and monitor which option is in favour – see this by accessing the viewers list for that part of your story.

Twitter introduced a similar feature back in October 2015, however, there is a key difference worth mentioning. Instagram Polls are not anonymous, and the poll creator can see which of their friends and followers voted, and which option they chose. Instagram says this enables you to “compare votes from the friends and followers whose opinions you trust most”. Though this transparent approach is clearly stated in the blog announcement, some users were unaware – saying it led them to make ‘embarrassing choices’. A prime example of when honesty or, in some instances, poking fun – is not the best policy!

For most users, this new feature is tongue-in-cheek fun, but it could prove a useful engagement tool for brands to compare and contrast their products and concepts, or to run contests.

This new feature comes in time for the platform’s seventh birthday, alongside a colour picker for text and brushes, and an alignment tool for text and stickers.

We may also see more from Facebook Stories in the near future, as Instagram launches a feature allowing users to cross-post Instagram Stories to Facebook, though not vice versa. Having tested the development on a small group, the feature is available in the US – meaning we can expect it to reach us soon.

For brands, this further enables a ‘create once, publish everywhere’ approach, useful in allowing you to reach audiences who favour one platform over another. Nevertheless, taking care not to bombard those dwelling in the crossover region with reams of duplicated content, should be a key consideration.

Alongside the recent increase in characters on Twitter, the developments indicate platforms’ commitment to keeping things fresh, and we are reminded how quickly social media norms can be shaken up. But how important is it for brands to stay abreast of these advancements? Whilst being aware is imperative, the application should be carefully considered. Being the last float at the parade isn’t a good look, but pouncing on a new trend with no strategy in sight isn’t ideal either. Timing aside – the aim should always be to utilise new tools in a way that adds value to your message.

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