Are we facing an 'RIP Snapchat' reality?

On the 2nd of August, Instagram, the second-most-popular social network among 18-35 year olds globally according to Facebook's most recent data, launched a major new feature. 'Stories' is a functionality that lets users create a rolling montage of pictures and videos that only last 24 hours. After displaying for a day, Stories aren’t saved like normal Instagram photos—instead, they disappear forever. Sound familiar? Well, that’s because it’s pretty much mirroring Snapchat’s offering.

Those moments in-between:

Facebook wants to own more of the raw, of-the-moment, shared content. In early 2016, the platform reported that the posting of personal content was down 15% year-on-year. Stories gives Instagram a place where it can offer edited shots with all the glamour of a glossy magazine, alongside the more immediate and playful ones, more similar to reality TV. It gives people somewhere to put photos and videos that aren’t ‘Instagrammable’ or don’t fit in with their other photos. Brands who have already invested in Instagram, but never used or succeeded with Snapchat, now have the ability to produce ‘of-the-moment’ content using this new functionality.

Let the battle commence:

While Instagram, with 300 million daily users, has twice as many daily users as Snapchat, the two apps have been battling for the lucrative mobile first, young users. As Steve Jobs once said, ‘good artists copy; great artists steal’ and this is exactly what Instagram did. With Instagram essentially creating a carbon copy of the Snapchat functionality, the internet is flooded with people asking ‘Will this be the end of Snapchat’? However, these additions may not be the demise of Snapchat; while an inevitable dip in growth may happen, should we be expecting an update from Snapchat to differentiate and enhance the app’s functionality?

Walled garden at the Hotel California:

Instagram and Snapchat have followed opposing paths in their development. Instagram started as a photo editing app where followers could find your best photos. Snapchat, on the other hand, was all about the unedited, raw and live moments. Both are chasing the ‘Walled Garden’ effect, integrating functionality of multiple apps into one multi-functional one, in the hopes of containing users within the platform for longer. This is a strategy, employed by its masterbrand Facebook, with the introduction of Instant Articles, Canvas Pages and Facebook Live. The trend, also known as the ‘Hotel California’ effect, means users may check out, but they never need to leave the platform itself to go to external sources beyond it.

What do brands need to know?

So, why are more brands looking to use Instagram Stories when they had the exact same functionality in Snapchat? There’s a number of reasons:

  • It’s just bigger: Instagram is the second most popular social media platform in the world with 300 million daily users, compared to Snapchat's 150 million.
  • Searchability: Nike generated 800,000 views in 24 hours for an Instagram story that it posted on Tuesday, the day Instagram Stories launched. On Snapchat, Nike’s best video got 66,000 views. These higher views could be directly connected to Instagram's searchability. Snapchat’s search functions are limited (and tend to rely on QR codes and knowledge of usernames).
  • Age restriction: With the ability to restrict who sees your Stories, alcohol brands such as Ketel One and Buchanan’s whiskey have already experimented with Instagram videos using Stories, a feature not widely available on Snapchat.
  • Measuring engagement: Instagram Stories don’t have likes or public comments, which are popular metrics for brands measuring engagement. Brands using Stories, and those that used Snapchat to reach their consumers, will need to be prepared to measure engagement differently. Fortunately, Instagram is giving marketers the ability to see number of views and who the user is.
  • Monetising Stories: With Facebook currently piloting ads within Live video streams, The Youth Lab predicts that Instagram Stories won’t be far behind developing a similar ad platform, allowing brands to build reach within the stories of high-profile broadcasters.