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Instagram ‘Stories’ takes on Snapchat at their own game

Instagram ‘Stories’ takes on Snapchat at their own game

As the great Pablo Picasso once said – “Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal.”

With each social platform vying to become the most popular in an ever-developing realm of social media, the ‘borrowing’ of ideas is – according to Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom – commonplace. “This isn’t about who invented something”, he notes. “This is about a format and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it”. Choice words from the CEO who just launched a copy-paste take of the previously unique Snapchat ‘Stories’ feature.


Up until this week, Instagram and Snapchat were operating in two distinctly different areas.

Snapchat, since its launch in 2011, has become an obsession for younger generations, where the idea of ephemeral, live content is its unique selling point. Instagram, on the other hand, is considered an image-sharing platform, where users share their artfully posed, aspirational photos of everyday life and view the similar, carefully constructed and heavily filtered images of their followers. 

However, since its initial launch, Instagram has moved beyond the original ‘life on a square platform’ to become so much more than that; housing landscape and portrait imagery, videos, a private messaging service, acting as an advertisement platform, and as of August 2nd, a live blogging feature with the introduction of ‘Instagram Stories’.

Previously on Instagram, we would only get to see a carefully curated selection of images, as teens often deleted photos minutes after posting (if they didn’t immediately receive enough likes!). The result was a decline in average posts per user on the platform between 2013 and 2015, while Snapchat, with the launch of Stories, increased video consumption alone by 25% in a two-month period. And so this all starts to become clearer…

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 16.38.53Source: Custom Geofilters

Snapchat is attractive because of its real, live, and unedited nature, but it’s also these qualities that have deterred brands and marketers from engaging on the platform.

Enter Instagram, who has integrated this ‘liveness’ into a previously more editorial platform to arrive at the launch of Stories, which appears to be a ‘best of both’ scenario. With Stories, Instagram now integrates this ‘realness’ into the platform, along with additional advantages of wider audience, capability for content testing, flexible targeting, enhanced user experience and discovery capabilities, to further build its potential offering for marketers and brands. Below are five advantages that Instagram Stories offers for marketers.

  • To begin with, Instagram has close to double the number of daily users as Snapchat (300 million vs. 150 million), showcasing the immediate advantage for Instagram Stories; enhanced reach.
  • In a clever move by Instagram, brands can now use their ‘Stories’ for dark post testing. If one section of a story is performing particularly well, this content piece can be seamlessly uploaded to the Instagram profile by sliding upward. If it does not perform well, exactly like Snapchat, it will disappear in 24 hours, which creates a whole new way for trialling and testing content in real time.
  • Further increasing the appeal of Instagram are the flexible targeting options on offer. If a brand wants to specifically target an age group on Snapchat, this comes at a cost; whereas it’s free on Instagram, making it easier for brands (like those in the alcohol industry) to implement age gating.
  • On Instagram it’s also easy for users to discover new accounts, unlike Snapchat, where the exact username is necessary to follow an account. The Instagram Discover page will alert users to accounts sharing similar content to those they’ve previously interacted with. When a user visits one of these pages, they will now also have the option to view that account’s story which is available to everyone, provided the profile is public.
  • For all the functional differences outlined above, there is one other factor which marketers should be particularly mindful of; the inherent difference between an Instagram and Snapchat follower. Dan Grossman, VP of Platform Partnerships at VaynerMedia said, “Instagram is a follower platform where Snapchat is more of a best friend platform.” Snapchat has predominantly been used for non-serious communication between friends and more recently by celebrities, offering an unfiltered glimpse into their day-to-day lives. In juxtaposition, Instagram has acted as an inspirational platform where the content is more considered and usually more serious.

Your Instagram follower is not the same as your Snapchat follower, and so to provide them with the same content would be to ignore this inherent difference. It’s the role of agencies and marketers to work to define these consumer profiles, understanding how individuals act across a variety of different platforms and to devise channel specific strategies on the basis of this understanding.

In the world of social media and the ongoing competition of Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Snapchat, platform changes and updates are becoming increasingly frequent. Our role as marketers is to maintain speed with these changes, always producing new and innovative ideas to move our clients’ digital strategy forward. However, of equal importance is the close consideration required to do right by our clients through offering digital solutions which are best suited to their brand and their performance objectives.

There is much to be considered with the launch of this new feature and many questions left to be answered as it develops further, but this is undoubtedly a win for Instagram and the Facebook machine – which shows no signs of slowing.