Early this month, Instagram launched Stories, a “‘new” feature that enables users to create stories–a feed of photos and videos complete with your own doodles, captions and stickers, and displayed for 24 hours only.
Sound familiar? That’s because it is.
In what can only be seen as a fairly shameless copy, Instagram Stories replicates pretty much everything people love about Snapchat’s feature of the same name. When confronted with claims of copying, management teams are usually vague and evasive. But in a surprisingly honest interview with TechCrunch, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom gave Snapchat “all the credit” for the idea:
This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.
At first glance, it’s difficult to find what exactly that “spin” is. But with some time to reflect, the subtleties and true potential of Instagram Stories begin to emerge.
But what exactly is that potential, and how is it likely to affect influencer marketing?
There are voices claiming that this latest development will be the end of Snapchat, but let’s clear it up now: Instagram will never be Snapchat. Or vice versa. They may be similar, but they come from totally different DNA.
Snapchat has a clear appeal, audience and market–one that is distinctly different from Instagram. On the back of its fun filters, ephemeral nature and adult-proof user experience, it has become the app of choice for millennials and Generation Z. The majority of its users are under 24, and this is its heartland.
And it’s hard to imagine those Snapchatters fleeing the platform simply because Instagram now has the same feature. So don’t expect Instagram Stories to actively pull people away from Snapchat.
What it will do, however, is reduce the motivation to join Snapchat in the first place.
Should I stay or should I go now?
A key impact of Stories is that now Instagram users can get a slice of the Snapchat experience without ever leaving Instagram.
Instagram has built its success on a vibrant photo-sharing community but the lure of Snapchat, complete with wacky photos and the Stories feature, resulted in Instagrammers jumping on over to see what the fuss was about.
Instagram Stories will reduce the motivation to do this.
An established Instagrammer with a good following now has less reason to jump over to Snapchat. Unless they are looking to expand their reach specifically within the youth market (Snapchat’s domain), it may be a better strategy to consolidate their efforts within Instagram.
For established Instagram influencers and those using Instagram for professional purposes, the Stories feature opens up opportunities to deepen connections with their audience without ever leaving the ‘gram.
But it is not the Stories feature alone that matters—rather, how it will fit within the broader Instagram experience.
A fundamental difference between platforms
In contrast to Snapchat, Instagram is traditionally about more edited photos that remain on your profile. Throw in the fact that posts are subjected to likes and comments, and you end up with a more edited and curated experience.
Snapchat, on the other hand, is precisely the opposite. Its fleeting nature and absence of likes and comments means that people are more willing to be real. In fact, Snapchat almost encourages silliness with its filters.
So what happens when you take this fleeting, judgment-free experience and put it in among the broader context of Instagram?
When curation meets authenticity
The biggest impact of adding Stories to Instagram is that it will add depth.
With a simple update of the application, influencers can now provide a glimpse into the life behind the photos and curated videos. They can share a more unfiltered view into their lives directly with their existing fan bases–fans who have been with them throughout their Instagram journey; fans who enjoy their more curated photo and video content.