Instagram, Snapchat & The Rise Of The Social Media Story

Instagram recently challenged Snapchat with the launch of Instagram Stories. What does this mean for the future of social media, and how we share content both as brands and individuals?

Since the launch of Instagram stories, the roller coaster of emotions has gone from amazement (how could Facebook just copy such a key feature from Snapchat?), to dismissal (it’s simply another Snapchat clone that won’t catch on…), then to triumph for the popular photo-sharing mobile app. An interesting number of Snapchat advocates have actually started singing their praises for the new alternative.

Even though the features of both Snapchat and Instagram stories are virtually identical, it appears that Instagram currently has the upper hand – because of its ease of use and clearer interface, along with the fact that it has been built into the already hugely popular app. It is also worth noting that, Instagram has double the daily active users of Snapchat – those figures aren’t worth ignoring.

It remains to be seen what the impact of Instagram stories will have on Snapchat’s momentum, but the early response has been mostly positive. Consider the amount of crossover audience between Instagram and Snapchat – approximately 55% of Instagram’s active audience is aged between 18-25, which is also Snapchat’s core market. That means that there is likely to be a lot of users now questioning whether they need to continuely post content on both platforms.

The next step will be to see how Snapchat responds, and how Instagram works to overtake Snapchat’s functionality. On that front, the next steps will be crucial – here are a few tips on how Instagram Stories work, how you can use it for your business as well as what may be coming around the corner for the two highly popular mobile applications.

Selecting Stories

A defining point in the success of Instagram Stories will lie in how the app chooses which Stories to show each individual user.

On Snapchat, the stories you see in your feed are shown in reverse chronological order, with the most recently updated Story appearing at the top of the list. Instagram could do this too, but there is only a limited amount of room allocated to highlighting Instagram Stories content, which could mean that the five stories you see on your home feed aren’t necessarily the most enticing examples of the content you’re likely to be interested in.

The average Instagram user follows around 265 accounts and those follows haven’t been chosen based on Stories content. Instagram already uses an algorithm based on your personal interests and behaviours to highlight the most relevant content, so it makes sense that they would use the same system to rank stories and optimise engagement. In practice, they have actually gone one step ahead of that.

According to Marketing Land, Instagram’s algorithm will decide the order in which Stories are shown to each user by referencing whose content people engage with on both Instagram and Facebook.

Based on those signals and others that weren’t disclosed, the algorithm will prioritise Stories from the people it thinks someone would be most likely to check out.

That means that those front page Stories you see are actually hyper-targeted – it is not only the people and profiles that you engage with on Instagram that are taken into account, but your Facebook engagements too.

Makes total sense – Stories content is different and much more personal than your regular Instagram posts. You are much more likely to want to engage with Stories from your Facebook friends – this is because your experience using Stories is much more personal and engaging.

The algorithm approach also means Stories won’t get flooded with commercial content. Time Peterson for Marketing Land noted;

With a reverse-chronological feed, there wouldn’t be much reason for brands to pay for placement, at least not to get in front of the people who already follow a brand on Instagram. Instead, they could just time their Story updates – or update incessantly – to move to the front five of the Stories feed. An algorithmic feed eliminates that option. Either a brand has to earn its way to the front or pay for the privilege

This means that those five Stories that you see on the front page of your Instagram are much more likely to be relevant, and much more likely to gain your attention. It is a clever move by Instagram and one that will no doubt boost attention in the offering.

Planning It Out

Now that Instagram has everyone playing with Stories, the next question is – aside from how Snapchat will respond – is how will Instagram maintain the momentum?

While the option on both platforms is very similar, Instagram Stories is still lacking a few key elements that Snapchat users love – Geofilters and Lenses. Lenses are reportedly used in more than 10 million Snaps every day, while Snaps overlaid with Geofilters, according to Snapchat, reach up to “60% of daily Snapchatters” and are viewed “hundreds of millions of times” every 24 hours. Because of this, Instagram will likely move quickly to counter that point of difference and negate any influence that might have on take-up. It should take much to do, as Facebook recently announced a trial of image-altering MSQRD lenses within Facebook itself, extending the app beyond Facebook Live. It is safe to assume that MSQRD filters will quickly be integrated into Instagram Stories.

Following that, Instagram may also be looking to one-up Snapchat. According to TechCrunch, Facebook has recently acquired a ‘musical selfie’ mobile app (EyeGroove) which enabled users to create high-quality music videos with a range of special effects. Image-altering tools like this could definitely add something new and different to both Facebook Live and Instagram Stories – while such additions wouldn’t be revolutionary, they would provide something different, another reason for users to come over and check out what’s happening on Instagram Stories. With MSQRD masks also added in, the functional reasons for using Snapchat would decrease.

This is also where we can expect Snapchat to bite back. Snapchat has been working on a range of new tools and features, and has consistently been able to be ahead of the game. The arrival of Instagram Stories may just hasten the delivery of new Snapchat tools – which is good for us, as users, as we’ll likely get access to a whole range of new toys as the battle for Millennial dominance between the two apps rages on.

Changing Landscape

It is too early in the game to say what the real impact Instagram Stories will be and whether it will reduce the massive $20 billion valuation placed on Snapchat back in May – we really won’t have any answers on this until we see the actual user data and the migrations which may or may not occur as a result of Instagram’s new offering.

The arrival of Instagram Stories is significant, and it is a major move by Facebook. It will be interesting to see if the risk pays off. Will it scare newer players from entering the social media market? Will Snapchat survive?

I know I’m looking forward to what’s next.