To paraphrase TS Elliot: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” The notion that businesses will not incorporate aspects of their competition that have proven successful is foolish. Social media platforms can and will continue to integrate other platform’s capabilities. The question is less about whether or not someone ripped off another company’s idea, but whether a change in a social media platform’s core functions will ultimately benefit that platform.

Why Instagram got it right: More opportunities to connect

While the adoption of “Stories” by Instagram represents a desirable feature for its users, it also represents an additional, low-cost opportunity for brands to connect with their fans. For brands, Instagram has always been a particularly desirable platform to get involved in for several reasons:

  • The level of difficulty to acquire a following is much lower than for platforms like Snapchat
  • The user base is more diverse
  • The platform lends itself better to less frequent posts than a platform like Twitter
  • Instagram has enabled more fans to connect with their favorite brands without feeling “sold to.”

With Stories as a new feature, brands can share even more behind-the-scenes footage with their fans, while capitalizing on popular tactics marketers use on platforms like Snapchat (limited time coupons, sneak peeks, etc.) Additionally, these changes nudge partially engaged users on both Instagram and Snapchat towards the Instagram team due to the range and simplicity of the platform’s functionality.

Why Snapchat May Have Made a Misstep

Marketers have baulked at joining the Snapchat platform for years, largely because they don’t understand how to leverage it effectively.  Snapchat has continued to please its existing fans while growing its user base at astounding rates. Snapchat monetized their business through the adoption of the “news” function, as well as sky-high costs for advertisers to place an ad on the platform.

From May 2015 to May 2016, Snapchat’s daily video views grew 400% over the course of the year. Now, Snapchat has more users than Twitter! It’s no secret that Snapchat has overcome astounding odds, adapting every step of the way and squashing any notion that they’re a passing fad.

But is Snapchat tossing out an important element of their initial vision by including Memories? It’s hard to say. Undoubtedly, Snapchat’s core audience is the millennials. And while millennials love the advanced “selfie” functions Snapchat has introduced, millennials also respond very well to nostalgia. At first glance, this seems like sound business logic on the part of Snapchat.

Even still, Snapchat made its initial splash in social media through its “self-destructing photos,” and strengthened its impact through its limited-time availability “Stories” function, where a user can share real-time video with their followers that vanishes after 24 hours. The introduction of a feature like “Memories” undermines the core purpose of Snapchat: sharing pictures and videos without the consequence of it coming back to bite you later.

Bottom line: 

In contrast to Snapchat, Instagram made an impact on the social media landscape by combining traditional social media pictures with artistic image filters and a simple, mobile-only interface.

With the introduction of “Stories,” the initial (and reasonable) fear would be that the quality of posts would suffer due to clumsily filmed, real-time video. However, Instagram has maintained the traditional feed format, with Stories as an optional add-on to its core capabilities, rather than a replacement. While Snapchat continues to change and evolve in drastic ways, it appears that Instagram has struck the balance of innovation and stability with this new feature.

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