A picture is worth a thousand words, but a good visual app is worth billions – for example, Instagram and Snapchat. The former built its premise on cataloguing images, the latter built its premise on vanishing images. The two apps have undergone many makeovers and feature updates since conception, but have always stayed in their own lanes. Until August 2nd, 2016.
At The Moment
Instagram recently released “Instagram Stories” feature which allows users to post a picture or video to their followers which only lasts 24 hours before vanishing. Using the same premise of a Snapchat story (even the same name!) was an intrepid move. Picture the archetypal Western standoff with Instagram growling “this visual app world ain’t big enough for the both of us”. Comparing the two, identical attributes include users posting an image or video which can be written or drawn on with pen or typed text as well as filtered to be lighter, black & white, etc. The post goes to the top of the page amongst other stories and instantly the user can access a private list of which followers engaged with their story.
Snapchat developed the concept first, almost three years ago, so of course their app has more features. Snappers can edit videos with cool effects such as slow motion, hyper speed, and reverse. Users choose how long an image can be displayed, from 1-10 seconds. You can use surroundings to brand images such as current temperature, miles per hour, and geofilters. Celebrities verify their account with an emoji of their choosing making it easier for users to discern between their friends and all 700 members of the Kardashian’s clan. Users also have an alphabetized list of those they follow so one can rewatch someone’s story.
So what does Instagram do? They have more pens to draw on the stories with…? While yes that’s true, other than the cool pens, Instagram Stories is very bare bones. Its charm comes from its ease and clarity. Brief tutorials answer many questions Snapchat deliberately avoided. While watching stories, a consumer clicks on the user’s story they wish to view – but Snapchat’s interface immediately takes you to the next user’s story.I’ll be watching a live stream of Bonnaroo wondering how my friends met DJ Khaled and then got on a plane until I realize I’ve been watching three separate stories with one just flowing into the next. Instagram has an explicit ending when each user’s story comes to an end.
The main basis of Instagram, which Snapchat deliberately does not include, is permanence. While the Instagram feeds update every second, profiles exist as catalogued images with comments that stay for years and years. This is better for selling or sharing content to be digested as hyperlinks and words can stay on a profile for longer than a day. Instagram facilitates finding similar accounts for followers; something Snapchat does not do. For example; if you follow Ina Garten, Instagram will conveniently suggest the accounts of Giada DeLaurentiis, Food Network, and Bobby Flay.
I don’t FB message my boss a PDF he needs even though Facebook message has attaching capability. I don’t post all pictures from a vacation to Instagram even though I don’t have a limit on how many pictures can be on my feed. I don’t send my roommate money for the electricity bill over Snapchat even though Snapcash allows me to do so. This is how we operate. Even though platforms have the capability, we intuitively choose what social media to use based on context of the content; we evaluate our context between quality, quantity, post right now with almost no editing, post later with lots of edits, casual, formal, funny, serious, just to friends or also to people we’ve never met.
Instagram Stories will attract and keep businesses, blogs, and those users who never really understood Snapchat. Instagram stories makes a user’s page richer. For big brands, celebrities, and serious bloggers, those gorgeous photos that make their profile so captivating come from a mini photoshoot with a DSLR camera and then an edit in an Adobe editing program like Photoshop, rather than Instagram’s provided filters. This process takes some time between multiple devices such as expensive cameras and editing software. so Instagram stories allow users such as these to continue sharing their brand without requiring the same intense processes. For example, clothing brands can share sneak peeks of fall catalogues, and television shows can share behind the scenes of upcoming seasons.
Instagram Stories will take away some of Snapchat’s users, but ultimately brands will go to the watering hole where their customers drink. There will still be plenty of snappers. Snapchat’s fun comes from its transience. Those who enjoy it will not abandon their geo-filters, their editing features, and their ability to send fleeting images privately. For now, there’s room on the phone for both.