Five Thoughts on Instagram Stories

Instagram launched Stories today, a feature very similar to Snapchat’s feature with the same name in both the premise and the execution.

Kevin Systrom was quick to acknowledge the likeness in an interview with Techcrunch, noting that “They [Snapchat] deserve all the credit.”

Likeness aside, below are some things that stood out to me in Instagram’s implementation of stories and my thoughts on what the impact of it will be.

“Hold to take video” interface

Instagram stories uses the “tap to take photo, hold to take video interface”, which Snapchat had a patent on, but was in danger of losing.

The current status of the patent is unclear, but it will be interesting to see if there’s anything more reported on this in the coming days.

Polished UI

The Instagram Stories UI is extremely polished, arguably more so than Snapchat’s stories. Three things I particularly liked (compared to Snapchat’s UI) were:

  • The brush and drawing tools, which right from the get go seem more powerful than Snapchat’s
  • The interface to show where in a user’s story you are that makes it clear how many stories the user has posted. It’s not really possible to tell how many stories a Snapchat user has posted.
  • The ability to go backward or forward through stories. Snapchat currently does not have this ability (though I expect this to change soon)

Feed still the default screen

The most notable difference to me in Instagram’s implementation of stories [1] is what screen the app defaults to when opened.

Snapchat defaults to the camera, highlighting it’s “in-the-moment” sharing nature. Instagram still defaults to the news feed, meaning that an extra click (or swipe-left is needed) to get to the camera.

This may change in future versions, but suggests that the bar/difficulty for sharing on Instagram is still slightly higher. [2] It also highlights the tricky trade-offs Instagram faces between creation of ephemeral content, permanent content, and engagement of curated photos in the feed.

Scale

Yes, Snapchat is growing very quickly, but Instagram still operates at a much bigger scale (estimated 300M DAU for Instagram vs 150M DAU for Snapchat) [3]

This means that over half of Instagram’s users likely don’t use Snapchat, and so to them, this feature a novelty and will likely increase both the content they create and consume in the app (and may deter them from ever downloading snapchat — more on this one below)

Increased influencer stickiness

Instagram has created and become the go-to for thousands of influencers in food, style, travel and brands. Gradually, as Snapchat took off, a lot of these influencers have been promoting their Snapchat on their Instagram to gain a following on Snapchat, where they can post more frequent and “behind the scenes” content (they have still remained active on Instagram posting their “best”/”curated” content on it).

Instagram stories removes the need for them to use another platform, and they can double down on growing their Instagram following, which now lets them post both curated permanent content, and more frequent “low touch” ephemeral content.


How will it play out?

Instagram has clearly taken the majority of the Stories feature from Snapchat, with some differences. However, even the same feature when applied to different platforms can have different use cases.

To most, Instagram Stories will appear like a direct attack on Snapchat’s turf of in-the-moment sharing. However, I think more than that, it’s a move to ensure that Instagram continues to be the darling for brands and influencers.

I believe this influencer audience with large Instagram followings is the customer segment Instagram Stories will take off most with, and Instagram will replace Snapchat as (or beat Snapchat to becoming) the go-to for influencer’s stories. [4]

I still think that Snapchat will remain the go-to for in-the-moment sharing between friends due to:

  • first-mover advantage and habit which will be difficult to break
  • lenses and geofilters which allow for more expressability
  • Instagram’s more public/social nature (anecdotally most Instagram accounts are public and often have strangers as followers while most Snapchat accounts are private and only have in-real-life friends/acquaintances as friends)

[1] The absence of lenses and geofilters is the other, though that likely has more to do with this being the first version of Stories. I expect them to be added in later updates assuming Stories does well.

[2] Another thing that makes the bar higher is that sizes of audiences on Instagram tend to be larger than those on Snapchat

[3] Snapchat: http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-business/snapchat-reaches-150-million-daily-active-users-surpassing-twitter; Instagram: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2016-06-21/instagram-now-has-300m-daily-active-users

[4] In some sense, it was almost a case of, would Instagram take advantage of it’s network and allow for low touch sharing or would Snapchat take advantage of it’s low touch sharing and add discoverability first, to woo the influencer crowd (or help create a new set of influencers). I believe a way to discover influencers will be high up on Snapchat’s product roadmap (they did launch a suggest users to friends feature a few months ago)

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