When Instagram unveiled Instagram Stories earlier this month, the interwebs flooded with debates about the close similarities the new feature bears with Snapchat’s own Stories feature. Headlines like Huffington Post’s “Is Instagram Stories the Nail in Snapchat’s Coffin?” and The New York Times’ “Instagram Take a Page from Snapchat, and Takes Aim at It, Too” define much of the chatter generated by Instagram’s new release and today, Florence Lujani, J. Walter Thompson London‘s Social Team Lead & Head of Influencer Relations, joins in with her own take on this social media boxing match.
Instagram has had some big changes in the last 12 months: in August 2015, it started supporting landscape and portrait formats, in March they introduced a new algorithm similar to Facebook which prioritizes content from people we interact the most with, and in May they reimagined the app design and logo.
But the introduction of Instagram Stories is the biggest update of the platform, as it offers a brand new vehicle for creating and sharing content. With the new feature came a bit of controversy as the similarities between Instagram Stories and Snapchat Stories had the media and industry influencers labelling Instagram’s latest update as a rip-off. (Casey Neistat’s video makes a hilarious point on the controversy)
So, how do Instagram Stories work?
If you’ve ever used Snapchat, then this is already pretty familiar ground. To create a story on Instagram, you have to tap a new “+” icon at the top left-hand corner of the screen, and then take a photo or record a video, as you would normally do on Instagram. You can add text and drawings, and when posted, all content is compiled into one story that can be watched until it disappears 24 hours later. All users can share stories, and when there’s something new to see, their profile photo will be encircled by a colourful ring. Users can also add pictures they’ve taken in the last 24 hours, so that allows people to upload both live content or images/videos from their camera roll.
Instagram Stories and Snapchat Stories might look the same, but Instagram has a huge advantage, and it’s all in the size of its community. Instagram announced in June that they have 500 million users, and more than 300 million use the app every single day. According to eMarketer, Snapchat has 150 million daily users worldwide, so the Instagram community is significantly bigger. Snapchat proudly advertises that on any given day, it can reach 41% of all 18 to 34 year-olds in the United States. But Instagram’s community is a lot more diverse, covering 53% of users between 18-29, but also 28% of people between 30 and 49. This means the content on Instagram Stories can reach a larger and more diverse audience. For now, Instagram Stories are 100% organic, but I’m sure they are exploring to offer Sponsored stories from brands.
I think a major difference between the two – a difference that is leaning clearly in favour of Instagram – is the penetration of brands in Instagram. According to Simply Measured, 86% of top brands have Instagram accounts, and celebrities and media outlets are also huge players for the platform.
We’ve already seen stories from celebrities Serena Williams, Karlie Kloss, Taylor Swift, news outlets like Time, NBC, E!News, and brands J. Crew, Mercedes-Benz and Starbucks. Only 15% of B2C marketers plan to use Snapchat to promote their business in 2016, against a whooping 88% that will use Instagram for the same purpose.
For now, Instagram Stories lacks the most beloved features of Snapchat: geofilters and lenses. But that might change in the near future, as earlier this year Facebook acquired start-up MSQRD, which had developed a very similar technology used on Snapchat’s lenses.
Personally, I have completely stopped uploading content to Snapchat and moved over to Instagram stories, as most of my friends are there. I only use Snapchat to watch content from the publishers (MTV and Vice are my favourites) or try out the daily lenses, and maybe send them to a friend or two.
This new Instagram update puts Snapchat in a very uncomfortable situation, so I’m looking forward to see what they do next. I think a smart move would be for them to keep focusing on the publisher’s activity, and create live stories from relevant events around the world.