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The battle for social media supremacy is heating up between Instagram and Snapchat, two of the world’s most popular apps. Though Facebook (Instagram’s parent company) is no stranger to copying the innovations of other social media apps and platforms, the rollout of Instagram’s newest feature, called “Stories,” may prove to be the knockout blow in the grudge match between the photo- and video-sharing heavyweights.
Instagram Stories allows Instagram users to enhance content with comments and drawings, publish multiple photos and videos throughout the day, and combine content into one narrative “story” which disappears after 24 hours—in short, Instagram Stories provides everything social media audiences love about Snapchat Stories. When questioned about the similarities between Snapchat’s content sharing model and Instagram Stories, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told Tech Crunch’s Josh Constine:
“Totally. [The people at Snapchat] deserve all the credit.”
Systrom went on to explain that, while invention is important, putting a unique spin on a feature or format is no less necessary to innovation and can result in improvements upon the original idea. “You can’t just recreate another product,” he said in the interview. “But you can say ‘what is really awesome about a format? And does it apply to our network?’”
Today, we’re introducing Instagram Stories, a new feature that lets you share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile. As you share multiple photos and videos, they appear together in a slideshow format: your story. 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. You can bring your story to life in new ways with text and drawing tools. The photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in feed. You’ll see stories from people you follow in a bar at the top of your feed — from your best friends to your favorite popular accounts. When there’s something new to see, their profile photo will have a colorful ring around it. To view someone’s story, just tap on their profile photo. It’s easy to view stories at your own pace: tap to go back and forward or swipe to jump to another person’s story. If you want to comment on something you see, you can tap and send a private message to that person on Instagram Direct. Unlike regular posts, there are no likes or public comments. Your story follows the privacy settings of your account. If you set your account to private, your story is visible only to your followers. However, you can also easily hide your entire story from anyone you don’t want to see it, even if they follow you. When watching your own story, swipe up to check out who’s seen each photo and video. You can even choose to feature a particular part of your story by posting it on your profile. 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. Instagram Stories will be rolling out globally over the next few weeks on iOS and Android. To learn more, check out help.instagram.com.
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Though the full impact of Instagram’s newest feature remains to be seen, the threat Instagram Stories poses to Snapchat cannot be understated. Following the rollout of Stories, Snapchat no longer has a monopoly on ephemeral, off-the-cuff content, and Instagram’s 500 million users (three-fold the number of users Snapchat claims) will have less incentive to spend time on Snapchat now that Instagram offers the best of both worlds—curated, highly-edited photos along with impermanent photos and videos of users’ daily life.
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Because many of the world’s best brands and top social media stars have already amassed millions of followers on Instagram, the new feature lets Instagram users/companies bypass Snapchat altogether and focus, instead, on making Snapchat-like content for their pre-existing Instagram audiences. Snapchat’s originality may have led to breakneck growth up until this point, but the similarity of Instagram Stories has the potential to dampen Snapchat’s popularity and relegate the app back to “niche” status.
The similarities between Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories means brands will likely use Instagram’s version in much the same way they used Snapchat. Early adopters, including organizations like Nasa, are already leveraging Instagram Stories to give their 14 million followers a behind-the-scenes look at Mission Control and new Robonaut technology. And, just like on Snapchat, Nasa’s Instagram Stories are adorned with creative captions/drawings and will disappear after 24 hours.
For marketers, Instagram now offers a way for brands to capitalize on the popularity of temporary, “in-the-moment” content without requiring a company to build their audience anew on Snapchat; good news for brands looking for creative ways to reach audiences, but a potentially disastrous development for Snapchat (as well as for those who have invested in building large followings on the platform).
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