If you can’t beat them, join them.
Kevin Systrom, the CEO and Co-Founder of Instagram posted on his account two days ago, introducing a brand new Instagram feature: “Today we’re launching Instagram Stories, a new way to share your life on Instagram. We’re rolling this out today, so expect to see a new row of faces at the top of your feed. Tap on any of these to view someone’s story. You can add to yours too; just swipe right on feed and take a picture or video. You can add text, filter, and use our three new drawing tools. IG stories let you post as much as you want without posting to your profile. It’s the best way to share the moments between the highlights of your life. Make sure to update your app to the latest version and you’ll see stories appear soon.”
Shortly after Systrom posted this with a short introductory video to Instagram Stories, the comment section lit up quickly:
“Why are you copying Snapchat?”
“You didn’t steal a feature, you stole a concept #notcool”
It is pretty clear from appearance to function that Instagram have taken inspiration from Snapchat to say the least, which for some (the old school users of Instagram and those loyal to Snapchat), is the ultimate betrayal. However, amongst the relentless negative comments, there were a few which indicate how Instagram Stories could prove to be a success. One of the more positive remarks said: “This is what I needed! I never got into snap and now I don't need to”, with others congratulating Systrom on the “great job”.
For those who have yet to cross the ocean over to Snapchat, Instagram stories will most likely maintain them as an Instagram user and prevent them from moving on to Snapchat. This way, they get to experience the ‘real life’ element of Snapchat but on an app they are familiar with, and to an audience they have already formed. In particular, IG Stories may be a popular feature with older users on Instagram, who want to experiment with the tools of the Snapchat without having to become acquainted with a new app.
Instagram has always been a platform concerned with aesthetics. Users curate and edit their images to portray a particular lifestyle. The instant, raw aspect of Snapchat was a retaliation against this overly curated perspective and thus, engaged a huge number of users. The ‘instant’ element of Instagram had disappeared and daily usage was slipping too. Realising they had lost momentum, IG adopted a feature that had been pioneered by Snapchat.
Surely copying another platform’s features is brand suicide? Maybe not...Kevin Systrom acknowledges that Snapchat deserve the credit when it comes to real life stories but says, all social platforms are inspired by each other and Instagram hasn’t copied Snapchat anymore than LinkedIn copied Facebook:
“When you are an innovator, that’s awesome. Just like Instagram deserves all the credit for bringing filters to the forefront. 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.
Facebook invented feed, LinkedIn took on feed, Twitter took on feed, Instagram took on feed, and they all feel very different now and they serve very different purposes. But no one looks down at someone for adopting something that is so obviously great for presenting a certain type of information.”
So what Systrom is saying is that it is all about context and development. Different formats will alway be adopted, but how they are adapted to present information, defines the purpose of the platform. At the moment, Instagram Stories is looking a little bit too much like Snapchat Stories, but it is early days.
Who knows where Instagram will take this new feature? And how, or if, it will improve their daily usage. We’ll just have to wait and see.
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