Is Instagram Stories a Snapchat killer?

Just as I finally started to figure out Snapchat – yes, I was a late adopter – in pops another platform – Instagram Stories. With the launch of this new feature this past August, Instagram took some major heat for its “Stories” feature, but the platform has been quite successful.  This topic has recently become an ongoing discussion during my weekly digital strategy meetings at work.  How should we be utilizing this platform? Should we be sharing the same type of content as we do on Snapchat? For this reason and after listening to Digitas’ Lindsey Sutton speak in class last week, I decided to further investigate Instagram Stories and its future impact on the social media world.insta1

What is Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories is a feature that is included in the Instagram app and launched on August 2, 2016.  Many have dubbed it the Snapchat for adults.  It works almost the same as Snapchat, allowing users to post pictures and videos of themselves that disappear after 24 hours. However, the stories that are posted appear at the top of Instagram’s newsfeed, which is the genius behind the feature.  This allows current followers to see what has been posted and avoids needing to build a new audience base, equaling automatic network effects.

With overall content sharing being down 15% year over year, Facebook wanted to increase posts of more original, off the cusp content.  Instagram stories, like Snapchat, encourages more sharing because each post doesn’t need to be picture perfect like the typical mindset for Instagram. It creates a place for users to share that not so perfect photo or video, knowing it will be deleted in 24 hours. Facebook had other attempts of solving this problem with different apps like Instagram Bolt and Poke, but no one was interested in downloading an additional app.

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The Differences

While the Stories feature is very similar to Snapchat it also has some key differences. Besides the location of where the stories appear (as I pointed out previously), Stories are also sorted by who you interact with most, not just in chronological order like Snapchat. Additionally, if your profile is public, anyone can view your story.  Unlike Snapchat where you need to follow someone to see what they post. Instagram stories also does not have location filters (a huge bummer!), 3D effects, speed effects or native selfie lens filters.

Other differences include: You can’t add old content, Stories has three brushes to customize your slides while Snap has one, you can’t see who screenshotted your story, and you can’t save your whole day’s story, but you can save individual posts to Instagram. Truth be told, I didn’t realize that there were this many differences – even though they are pretty minor!

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Why is it Successful?

Instagram Stories’ success lies in its open network and user-friendly interface.  Additionally, Instagram’s powerful established user base and relationship with top-tier brands, allowed for it to seamlessly integrate the Stories feature.  Within days of its launch, brands and users alike were flocking to Instagram stories.  For brands, it is much easier for users to find brands compared to Snapchat where you need to know the exact user name.  It also allows both brands and users to leverage their existing followers on Instagram to share additional content with them. Lastly, it allows them to continue using the same platform, instead of moving between two. These reasons are why after just two months Instagram Stories has over 100 million daily active users, 2/3 of Snapchat’s!  And with the recent announcement that Instagram is now adding stories to its explore feature, which means more visibility and views for brands, it is likely that it will continue to have more growth and success.

Will Instagram Stories kill Snapchat?

Many are calling Instagram Stories a Snapchat killer, but Snapchat is in its infancy, so I wouldn’t go that far just yet.  It is still slowly expanding globally, while Instagram has been in the game since 2010, and it is in HIGH demand (it currently takes 4 weeks to get a meeting with Snapchat). I do think; however, it will force Snapchat to expand more rapidly as it needs to keep up with Instagram.  Moreover, most of the growth that Instagram is experiencing is not Snapchat users switching platforms, it is additive to the medium.

Snapchat has pioneered a new way for people to express themselves in a pressure-free, imperfect, real life type of way.  I think we will continue to see more copy cats popping up trying to capitalize on this new trend.

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In terms of how brands should react to this new Instagram Stories, I believe they shouldn’t be just re-using Snapchat content.  The key to effective social media engagement is carefully understanding the makeup of your audience on each platform.  As I discussed earlier, most Snapchat users aren’t just jumping ship to Instagram stories, meaning that it is pretty likely that your audience on Instagram Stories would more closely align with your Instagram following not your Snapchat following.  Thus, you should use a test and learn mentality where you see what types of content users respond to best and adjust from there.

While I don’t have a huge Snapchat following, I am still a loyal user.  What’s odd about this is that I have a much larger Instagram following.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on Instagram Stories.  Do you use both? Or are you a loyal user to one?

9 comments

  1. dabettervetter · ·

    I think a lot of companies are struggling with the same questions as you. Do you use different content for each story platform? You cannot reasonably ignore Instagram stories because you could miss an opportunity to distribute content to loyal Instagram followers. I think as long as a company is actively using both platforms they will be set for when one pulls ahead in the story game.

  2. Wow–I had no idea Instagram Stories even existed, let alone had 2/3 of Snapchat’s following. It seems like it will be important for brands to curate accounts on both platforms, ideally avoiding overlap, like our guest from Digitas strongly emphasized. I wonder whether Snapchat’s recent rebranding and move to wearables is a direct response to this pressure to innovate. Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing how these firms compete and adapt in the future.

  3. rohansuwarna · ·

    Great job! I really enjoy talking about this comparison between Instagram and Snapchat stories. I feel like right now Snapchat still has the upper hand in this feature because of the geotags and filters they provide. However, I can Instagram also had these aspects to their stories. I think since Snapchat is built off of instant image messaging they will continue to prosper, but I have already seen more and more of my friends using Instagram stories. I think since the Snapchat platform is also easier to use it makes users feel more comfortable. But it’s an interesting addition to Instagram’s platform. For near future I still see Snapchat as the dominating app in this feature.

  4. This is pretty interesting…today by coincidence I opened an instagram story for the first time. It was pretty easy to just happen upon it as I was scrolling though instagram. Interestingly, I post content to snapchat (usually user to user | not content to my story) than I do to Instagram. I might even open and view content more often on snapchat than on instagram. That said I have about 10x more followers on instagram than I do on snapchat. If I want to reach a larger audience, I can simply post to instagram. I have yet to do it, but I am tempted.

  5. Great analysis of Snapchat vs Instagram stories and it’s implications on brand strategy. I had no idea that Facebook tried to launch some competing apps. I agree with your thoughts on the availability of Instagram stories on the “Explore Page”. This almost works like free Ad space for companies because it places it prominently above all the other content on the page. By keeping Instagram stories as an open platform, companies can target new customers/followers that may not even know about the company. I can see how this would be a privacy issue for individual users, but I think it’s a great strategy for companies.

  6. gabcandelieri · ·

    I currently only use Snapchat, as do most of my friends, and have yet to post my first Instagram Story. When Instagram Stories first came out I did not see users like myself seeing much use for it since we already had Snapchat, which is widely popular due to its geo-filters and up-and-coming messaging feature. However, I did see an influx of bloggers who I follow on Instagram use the Stories feature, which has been an interesting experience to follow as a fan of their posts and the products they endorse. Not only does Stories allow bloggers and influencers to exploit brand partnerships though a new medium, but now their followers can experience them in real-time as opposed to static photographs. It gives life to their experiences and the places they travel to and dine at that I previously had not experienced and would most likely not experience since their Snapchats are private. The new interaction Stories provides can, in turn, increase influencers’ followings. Additionally, I think it was incredibly smart to place Stories at the top of each users newsfeed. For example, when Snapchat’s Discover feature, which disseminates news from a variety of publications such as BuzzFeed, Vogue, and the WSJ, launched, Snapchat unintentionally “hid” it from the main interface and most people did not even know it existed. Snapchat eventually realized its mistake and moved the feature to the top of its feed to gain more visibility. Instagram skipped a step–it learned from its biggest competitor’s mistake and created a successful feature.

  7. cmackeenbc · ·

    I was just thinking about this topic today, as I have recently noticed more of the Instagram accounts I follow adopting the story feature. I think it was especially notable because I follow almost no brand or influencer accounts, only people I know. Most of these people additionally use Snapchat, so to see the Instagram stories beginning to rise in numbers indicated that people are moving away from the snap-loyalty they may have once possessed. I think the tool is especially useful for influencers or companies who might have a large following on Instagram, but less so on Snapchat, as followers can then get a better glimpse into their identity. I do think there is a likely difference in demographics for Snapchat and Instagram users, so brands should be aware and cautious of the audience they are engaging with (also, please create separate content for each platform for no other reason that if I follow both your Instagram and Snapchat accounts, I do not want to see the same content twice). I think that Snapchat is quickly realizing that the platform itself is not all that financially valuable, and Instagram stories are further proving this and encouraging Snapchat’s expansion and innovation as they move toward an IPO. It will be interesting to see how both platforms progress, as it is additionally rumored that Instagram will add on a “live” video feature (think: Periscope) as a part of Instagram stories sometime in the near future.

  8. ikechukwu_28 · ·

    I had no idea that Instagram Stories were growing so rapidly. Neither me or my friends use this feature, so I was quite surprised to learn that its user base is 2/3 of Snapchat, especially given the fact that it was just launched this summer. Great Post!

  9. Great post. I’ll be interested to see where this feature goes. FB has been more than happy to copy (or buy) their competitor’s good ideas over the years.

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