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Instagram recently launched a new feature called “Stories,” a secondary content feed which resembles Snapchat’s defining, identically-named innovation in almost every way. From the content’s ephemeral nature (like Snapchat Stories, Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours) to tools that allow Instagram users to draw directly onto photos and videos (again, like Snapchat), Instagram Stories now places the competing platforms on an unavoidable collision course.
While it may be too early to predict how Instagram Stories will impact Snapchat (or how it will affect brands creating sponsored social media content on either platform), a cursory examination of Instagram’s new feature shows that Instagram Stories are better than Snapchat’s proprietary offering in a number of important ways.
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Instagram influencer Huda Kattan showcases Smashbox Cosmetics’ products for her 14.6M Instagram followers using the new Stories feature.
Snapchat’s lack of search functionality means finding content, friends, Snapchat stars, and brands is a constant challenge for Snapchat users. While Snapchat’s “unsearchable” content may be appealing to some teenagers and Millennials, brands, marketers, and prominent social media influencers have all expressed frustration at Snapchat Stories’ limited reach.
Instagram Stories, by contrast, employs Instagram’s search tool (which allows searches by people, hashtags, and places, as well as providing a general “Explore” option), thus making both content and users far more visible to audiences.
With 500 million monthly active users (TechCrunch) and 300 million daily active users, Instagram currently offers a far more extensive reach compared to Snapchat (which only has 150 million daily active users). With Instagram Stories, Instagrammers and brands who have already amassed large audiences on the platforms can now expose followers to frequent posts and “in-the-moment” content without feeling the need to use Snapchat or spend time building a following on the app.
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While Snapchat’s popularity with teenage and millennial users makes the app a valuable marketing channel for brands, many marketers have griped about the high price of Snapchat advertising options (initial asking price of $750,000 vs. $50,000 commitment fee for Instagram) and Snapchat’s reluctance to offer native advertising options (up until late) replete with traditional metrics, measurement, and campaign data (Digiday).
Both Facebook and Instagram, on the other hand, have spent years creating a robust and efficient advertising platform for brands. When the time comes for native advertising options on Instagram Stories (and it will), Instagram Stories will allow brands to take advantage of Instagram’s extensive metrics, audience targeting options, call-to-action buttons, and more.
Target enlists Harry’s founders Jeff and Andy to take over the brand’s Instagram channel and ask social media audiences shaving-related questions via Instagram Stories.
With near-limitless resources and a user base that dwarfs those of other social media platforms, Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has become adept at taking the best aspects of other platforms and/or apps (like Periscope, for example) and improving upon their original innovations or inventions. With Instagram Stories, Facebook attempted to differentiate the platform’s new feature by bettering some of Snapchat’s functionalities in the following ways:
Instagram Stories includes a “Hide Story From” feature that allows users to keep their Stories from being seen by certain people (even if the Instagram account itself is public).
Instagram Stories appear in a row at the top of an Instagram user’s feed and are ordered using Instagram’s algorithm—accounts that users interact with the most, therefore, appear closest to the beginning of the list. Snapchat Stories, by contrast, are ordered in reverse chronological order.
Unlike Snapchat’s functionality, Instagram users don’t have to be following someone to view their Instagram Stories. As long as an Instagrammer’s Stories are public, they can be viewed by anyone who visits the user’s page and clicks on their profile picture.
Instagram users can hold the screen to pause an Instagram Stories slideshow and tap the left side to go back a slide (unlike Snapchat Stories, which constantly progress).
Simple yet effective, Pizza Hut employs Instagram Stories’ emojis to make audiences yearn for their own pizza party.
While Instagram may have beaten Snapchat at its own game, Instagram Stories still lack some of Snapchat’s most popular features, most notably: Instagram Stories doesn’t alert users when viewers take a screenshot of their content, as Snapchat does; Instagram users can’t tag their content with creative geofilters; and Instagram has not developed interactive lenses for Stories (though Facebook recently purchased MASQRD, a facial recognition face-swap program, suggests that it will).
If recent events are any indication, Instagram will likely continue adding new features (as well as advertising options) to Instagram Stories to draw social media audiences away from Snapchat, perhaps even permanently.