In the summer of 2016, you likely opened Instagram to quite a surprise: colourful bubbles, full-screen videos, stickers galore...all of it vanishing after 24 hours and looking suspiciously familiar.
Before then, the ephemeral photo and video platform par excellence was, without doubts, Snapchat; thanks to the launch of Stories, its rolling compilation of narrative snaps disappearing after a day, the yellow-ghost has indeed become a real phenomenon.
But although Instagram was quite late to the party and first reactions to the clone were not exactly positive, engagement quickly started to grow in its favour. With more than 200 million users, Instagram Stories has now fully outpaced its rival, creating a new competition in the world of social media platforms.
So why is Instagram taking over and how are brands and influencers reacting to this battle?
At a glance, Instagram and Snapchat have a lot in common as they both enable users to express themselves through visual content, and have steadily started to integrate similar features and the distinction between the services is now becoming more blurred. Let's make a comparison.
Audience and reach
With its 700 million active users, Instagram has hit 200 million people using Stories every day and surpassed the last count of 158 million, which Snapchat announced alongside its IPO. Also, while Snapchat primarily appeals to a younger audience, thus is suited for specifically targeting teenagers, Instagram seems to cast a wider demographic and is making bold moves to secure its dominance over the 20-45 age range.
Within the last year, we've witnessed Snapchat constantly updating its popular filters and effects, making the app still very attractive for all the tongue-out dog lens lovers. Instagram's response? "Face Filters" for Stories! From rabbit ears to flower crowns, the selection is already interesting and I have no doubt there is more to come in the future.
Instagram also offers other creative tools such as adding clickable hashtags to a Story, links to other accounts and a "swipe up" function to access content outside the platform; this means that, unlike Snapchat, Instagram Stories also directs traffic to a site, blog, or any other Instagram page.
When it comes to analytics, Snapchat offers the bare minimum while Instagram allows to track many metrics that become essential when developing a social media strategy.
Snapchat's Analytics include:
• Story views
• Number of screenshots
Instagram's Analytics include:
• Website clicks
When looking at these differences, it comes as no surprise that many brands and influencers are almost entirely jumping ship from Snapchat to Instagram.
The simple fact that Instagram has such a large user base, instantly makes it an attractive Snapchat competitor. Many brands and influencers already have a big number of followers on Instagram, who can all be addressed using the Stories function. Therefore Instagram Stories has the advantage of plugging into an existing social network, whereas Snapchat Stories is primarily used to communicate to a small network of users, making it more difficult to build a community within the app.
Because Instagram allows users to add links to a Story, users also have the ability to drive more traffic to their websites and landing pages. This undeniably makes the platform more compelling for brands and influencers that seek to build up and engage followers.
Compared with Snapchat's complicated mechanism of sharing and watching content, Instagram is also a lot more intuitive for first-time users, and so is its Stories feature. The user-friendly visual platform has made it much easier to share Stories, reply to Stories and increase the reach.
But can Snapchat still hope to come out of this battle unscathed?
Despite the platform suffering from a big decline and the #RIPSnap hashtag trending everywhere on social media, it's not too late for Snapchat to get back on its feet.
In order to become a better investment opportunity, the platform may have to broaden its audience and try to target an older market. This would mean attracting more users possessing a higher disposable income and, therefore, making brands keener to engage with the platform.
Enhancing the customer experience and facilitating the process of building a profile in the app is the main thing Snapchat should focus on. If it wants to play in the same space as Instagram, the little ghost platform must come up with a few new hooks, ideally beyond its not-so-cool-anymore lenses.
If you want to know the latest Instagram trends and updates, head over to the Hopper HQ blog, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic on Twitter! @Hopper_HQ