Instagram Stories: Copycat or Genius


Earlier this month Instagram released the new Stories feature that had everyone seeing double. Why? Because it was eerily similar to rival app Snapchat. There’s no doubt that Insta is cutting Snapchat’s lunch but the significance of the dig runs deeper than merely modelling the success of the photo sharing app.

I use both Instagram and Snapchat on a daily basis and love both the apps! But it looks like Instagram is really trying to steal poor Snapchat’s thunder. The new Stories feature allows users to post videos or photos that will disappear after 24 hours. Sound familiar? Well, that’s because ephemeral (short-lasting) messaging is the fundamental feature of Evan Spiegel’s Snapchat. At least Instagram are not trying to hide the fact that they blatantly copied their rival, CEO Kevin Systrom recently admitted to TechCrunch that Snapchat “deserve all the credit” for the temporary photo feature. Snapchat are yet to comment on the release but Jack Brody, a product designer for Snapchat, has made his opinion pretty damn obvious.

‘What’s the big deal?!’ I bet you’re thinking. Well, you’re right big businesses have always copied/modelled successful features of competitors apps in the past. Take for example Twitter has recently signed deals with Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and Sky Sports hoping to add more live sports to the platform – capitalising on Facebook’s success with their Live feature. Facebook, on the other hand is looking beyond their league recently announcing they will be expanding their search functionality – a direct challenge to search king Google. Even Snapchat has been called out for copying their Memories feature, which allows users to curate a permanent photo feed, from Instagram.

It just seems that in the race to become king of the social media, apps are losing the distinctive features that made them popular in the first place. I mean if you think about it, in the beginning Twitter was about news at the speed of culture, Facebook was connecting with friends and family, Instagram was sharing beautiful pictures and Snapchat was for sharing casual, funny and for some, explicit images with selected friends.

But this time it’s what occurred in the lead-up to Instagram Stories that makes this story juicy! Let’s not forget who owns Instagram! That’d be good ol’ Mark Zuckerberg founder of the all-mighty Facebook. Why does Facebook care about puny little Snapchat who only has a net worth of $2.1 billion compared to Instagram and Facebook’s whopping $200 billion-plus net worth? Well, that’s because Facebook perceives Snapchat as a serious threat!

Mark Zuckerberg has long had his eyes on Snapchat. He even tried to buy out the start-up for a rumoured $3 billion in cash back in 2014. In an interview with Forbes Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel spoke about Zuckeberg’s persistent attempts to acquire his start-up, even once threatening to release a near-identical app in the hope of scaring them into the bid. $3 billion in cash sounds like a good deal to me! Lucky Spiegel had the brains to turn down the offer and was later named Forbes youngest billionaire.

Evan Speigel | 9/9/2013 | Flickr
Evan Speigel | 9/9/2013 | Flickr

Facebook has tried again and again to master the art self-destructive messaging but it seems every attempt has quickly failed and been buried in the sand. In 2012 Facebook launched Poke a stand-alone app that was remarkably similar to Snapchat. They quickly folded Poke and then later replaced it in 2014 with the launch of Slingshot. Slingshot was their second attempt at ephemeral messaging app that only allowed a user to view a sling (incoming photo) if they shot one back to the messenger first. Although Slingshot wasn’t an instant fail it couldn’t match rival Snapchat.

Well, I guess if you can’t join them you beat them. That’s a saying in reverse but you see what I mean! To me, it looks like Zuckerberg is sick of playing nice and decided to do what he can to quash the rival. By establishing the ephemeral sharing feature within an already well-established app such as Instagram, which has over 500 million users, they have taken a real jab at Snapchat. Why bother Facebook estimates 1.59 billion users on the platform compared to Snapchat’s 100 million? Well as much as they don’t want you to know Facebook and Instagram are leaking followers in the millions. Yep, that’s right Snapchat is now the most popular app among teens!

The study ‘Taking Stock With Teens’ showed that in 2016 Snapchat was officially the most popular social media app among teens with 28% of the vote Instagram was a close second with 27% followed by Twitter and Facebook. Over 86% of Snapchat users are under the age of 35 which encapsulates the Millennial market.

You have probably heard me say it 100 times but Millennials are the largest consumer market! So Facebook losing followers to Snapchat isn’t only going to hurt their pride, it’s going to affect advertising revenue. Facebook may still be the dominant player in advertising but Snapchat is proving to be its most formidable competitor. On top of its attractive demographic following, Snapchat also has a high rate of users that are active on a daily basis with over 60% daily participation rate compared to Instagrams mere 20%. From an advertiser’s or publisher’s perspective, Snapchat’s Discover feature is looking a little more attractive than Facebook or Instagram’s paid ad service.

I think we will continue to see Zuckerberg and Spiegel trading punches for a while now, but will they achieve anything from the rivalry? We are a generation of over-sharers and how we are inclined to share is vastly subjective to our personality. I use my Insta for posting group photos with friends or picturesque landscapes, my Snapchat, on the other hand is for funny filtered selfies and quick messages to friends. Don’t get me wrong it’s a smart move on Facebook/Instagram’s behalf but I don’t think they should be stepping on Snapchat’s feet. Stick to pictures of cappuccino art and holiday selfies and stay away from Snapchat.

What do you think? Do you use Instagram Stories or are you a diehard Snapchatter?

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