Like many Londoners, I spent part of last Wednesday morning waiting for the Tube. As I stood on the platform, I combed through my social media feeds to pass the time. When I reached Instagram, I was immediately greeted by the spawn of its latest update: Instagram Stories.
Everyone I know was using the new feature to call it out as a misstep; it was a blatant copy of Snapchat’s own Stories feature. Yet fast forward one week later, and plenty of us have jumped onto the Instagram Stories bandwagon with little to no fuss.
The immediate shift makes sense; users are comfortable with Instagram; there was no major leap of faith to be made. Also, generally speaking, people don't tend to dwell on these kinds of dilemmas. To them, a new feature is a new feature, no matter how it came to be. The question now is this: where does Snapchat end up in all of this?
Earlier this year, with more and more brands showing interest in the platform, Snapchat was presenting some major plans for in-app marketing. Soon, ads will appear between Snapchat Stories, and these ads will be made by third parties with whom Snapchat is collaborating. They are also working on metrics to measure ad performance and user engagement.
According to a recent study, Snapchat's ads "garnered twice the visual attention of Facebook", and "1.5 times more than Instagram". Perhaps Facebook (who owns Instagram) took note of this and decided it was time to catch up.
Instagram is jumping in to all of this with some advantages over Snapchat: it has a much higher user count (to the tune of 300 million daily active users, the double of Snapchat's 150 million), it is more well established, and it is much more efficient for finding and connecting with others.
On the technical side of things, the order in which Stories appear on users' feeds are determined by who they engage with the most. The algorithm used to determine this is based on data from both Instagram AND Facebook. These two social media giants have easy access to much more information that Snapchat may ever have.
There are still two major Snapchat features missing from Instagram: Geofilters and Lenses. But don't hold your breath; if Instagram can knock off Stories as a general concept, it certainly won't be very long before they incorporate these same features into their platform. Besides, Facebook have already launched filters in Canada and Brazil.
In order to stay afloat, Snapchat is going to have to rely on the things that Instagram cannot imitate, things like its private and temporary nature. Snapchat is very much its own social media ecosystem; there's no direct way to share content between other platforms and ALL content on is temporary (with the exception of the new Snapchat Memories, which can be set so that only the user can view them). Instagram, on the other hand, is tied to several other major platforms; just look at the sharing options the next time you're about to post a new selfie. It also allows users to directly share Stories to their regular, permanent feeds.
The benefit of Snapchat's format it that it provides a haven, isolated from other networks where all published content is permanent and often altered. This very benefit may be what helps them keep their current followers and hopefully bring in new ones. As long as Snapchat holds on to this, they may have a chance.
It is too early to tell if all of this spells the end for Snapchat, but one thing is certain: they've got their work cut out for them.
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