A Story of Two Apps: Instagram Goes After Snapchat

Image: Instragram

In 2013, Facebook tried to stem the decline in engagement among its teenage users by offering Snapchat $3 billion for its company. Instagram had been acquired by Zuckerberg’s company the year before in the hope Facebook could monopolise ‘photo-sharing’, however, Snapchat had grown substantially enough by 2013 to be deemed a threat to that. The Snapchat owners, somewhat surprisingly, turned down Facebook’s considerable offer and opted to commit to competing with the media giants rather than be swallowed up by them like those gone before them.

Of course, Snapchat since then has gone to eclipse the mere $3bn price tag placed on them by Facebook. They’ve released endless updates to the app, products and services the social media tool offers – monetising as they went along. However, on Tuesday did Facebook reignite the war?

Facebook-owned Instagram just released its latest new feature following its rebrand earlier this year named Instagram Stories – conveniently similar to Snapchat’s ever-growing in popularity feature of the same name.

Instagram Stories allows you to create ephemeral series of editable and customisable photos and videos in a slideshow style that disappear after 24 hours. Unlike Instagram’s accustomed square viewing window for videos in its newsfeed, Stories has a full-screen viewport, with a shutter button overlaid and two smaller buttons either side very much as you’d expect to see on Snapchat. Also, just like Snapchat you can edit your photos with various doodling tools and effects.

Once posted, they have been added to your ‘Story’ for (depending on your privacy settings) your followers, the public or just you to view. Access to yours and other ‘Stories’ can be found above the traditional newsfeed. But don’t worry Snapchat; they’re in circles lined up horizontally, not vertically like Snapchat Stories!

At this initial stage Instagram are yet to release any lenses to go along with their new feature. But considering this imitation, it’s more than likely they’ll be inevitably added, following the huge success Snapchat has had with them since their 2015 acquisition of Looksery.

Image: Instagram

In a press release blog on Instagram’s site they said, “With Instagram Stories, you don’t have to worry about overposting. Instead, you can share as much as you want throughout the day — with as much creativity as you want.”

Instagram and Snapchat not only sit within the same category of ‘photo-sharing’ within social media, but also appeal to the highly desirable, digitally engaged teen demographic.

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg posted on Facebook on Tuesday saying, “This is the latest step in putting video at the center of all our services…People are already creating and sharing more video, so we’re going to make it even easier.”

Image: Facebook

This Facebook move is in coherence with their successful big push earlier this year with ‘live video’ to go up against Google’s similar YouTube live offering.

Instagram has over half a billion users. According to a statement from the company, over 300 million of their users use the app daily. Whereas, Snapchat announced in April they have over 100 million daily users on their app. However, more than a third of those users are using and creating ‘Stories’ and therefore, they are seeing 10 billion video plays a day on the various user made, in house, and branded stories available to watch.

Instagram has a mammoth following. However, this release clearly says they hope to motivate its users to engage and post more often rather than simply using the newsfeed.

“Instagram has always been a place to share the moments you want to remember. Now you can share your highlights and everything in between, too.”

I’m not suggesting, and I don’t think anyone truly expects loyal Snapchat users to drop the app completely in favour of Instagram’s offering now. However, it’s long been clear that Instagram and Snapchat share the same target audience. You will struggle to find a Snapchat user who doesn’t also have Instagram. Snapchat doesn’t offer a newsfeed or profile style option, whereas Instagram simply didn’t offer the ‘Story’ feature. With this update, now Instagram users have an excuse to never leave the app.

In order for Instagram to penetrate the stubbornly loyal Snapchat users completely, Snapchat users will need to know their friends are now using Instagram Stories. Of course this week it’s been hugely popular, as any new feature would be on an app with a following the size of Instagram’s. However, the devotion and loyalty Snapchat users have for it may have been underestimated by Facebook and less fickle than you’d stereotypically expect from the demographic. It’s difficult to tell whether a look-alike offering in an app that already has its considered expertise and specific use, will be enough to generate a large enough surge to pull across Snapchat devotees.

Instagram have made a bold and disruptive move here, which could reap some big rewards. Conversely, Stories could end being a slow-burner much like some of Instagram’s other releases such as ‘Instagram Direct’: the feature that allowed you to message directly other users.

We’ll have to wait and see how Snapchat react in turn and what features they plan to also roll out. Perhaps they’ll counter Instagram with a Snapchat newsfeed or professional photo editing tools or begin to encourage searchable hashtagging – or even throw in a lawsuit against Facebook for use of Snapchat’s feature name and implementation? Or will Facebook put enough of their weight behind this Instagram move to fully take back the lucrative market that Snapchat has so expertly monopolised since it turned down Facebook’s $3bn in 2013.

They do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Or is this more like flattering to deceive?

Comment below with your opinion on Instagram Stories and what you expect to happen.

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