When Facebook invented the news feed, every social network quickly realized that they would have to find a way to incorporate something similar into their own channels if they wanted to survive. The disruptive new format had changed the game — and the same could be said for Snapchat’s revolutionary Stories feature, which it unveiled in 2013 to the delight of its users.
When large, established brands are challenged by a smaller disruptor, they have one of three options: ignore it, buy it or take take the concept and make it their own.
Instagram chose the third option.
On August 2nd 2016, Instagram added a feature that was nearly identical to Snapchat Stories. Instagram made no bones about the fact that their own Stories tool was inspired by Snapchat — they didn’t even bother to change the name. The gamble appears to be working. Marketers are quickly learning to love the combination of Snapchat’s authentic feel and Instagram’s brand-friendly format — as well as its massive following.
Instagram Stories: A Bigger, More Welcoming Snapchat
According to Advertising Age, there are two reasons that brands are already warming to Instagram Stories far more than they ever did to Snapchat, the originator of the concept.
The first reason is pure reach.
With 500 million combined users and 300 million daily users, Instagram is a global force — backed by Facebook — that casts a huge shadow over Snapchat, which has, at most, half the amount of daily users as Instagram.
Second, Instagram is simply more hospitable to marketers than Snapchat.
Nike took a crack at Instagram Stories the very first day it was released. The brand’s first Story got a whopping 800,000 views in 24 hours. By comparison, its most-viewed Snapchat Story ever received just 66,000 views in total. Nike is a seasoned veteran of Snapchat, but it found Instagram’s format to be much more friendly to marketers. If nothing else, Instagram makes it easier for users to follow brands and like their content.
How Instagram Streamlined and Improved the Stories Concept
It is no secret that Instagram Stories is a near copy of the feature that Snapchat pioneered — the key word being near. In a recent editorial for The Next Web, Owen Williams suggested that Instagram didn’t copy Snapchat Stories — it improved upon it.
While Snapchat has largely remained a mystery to older demographics, Instagram has always been accessible to the masses — and Instagram Stories is no different. While it has all the functionality of Snapchat, the simple interface has fewer buttons, fewer options and fewer ways to get lost in the app.
It also makes it easier for brands to filter their audiences.
When brands that sell hard alcohol tried using Stories, for example, they were quickly able to filter their content for viewing only by adults over the age of 21. Unlike Snapchat, Instagram lets users express approval with heart icons, and it lets them search for users without knowing their exact username, which Snapchat does not.
In the end, the overall difference is that Instagram encourages marketers to develop large followings, and Snapchat doesn’t. Instagram’s “perfect picture” format lets users draw people in with highly stylized, artistic pictures, and then steer them toward their Stories for a gritty, unrefined look into the details of their daily lives.
The arrival of Instagram Stories by no means rendered Snapchat irrelevant to marketers. It did, however, give marketers the authentic, under-produced, grassroots feel that was previously exclusive to Snapchat. Brands that excelled at marketing on Snapchat clearly have a head start on Instagram Stories. But all brands now have the opportunity to use the format to target Instagram’s half-billion-strong audience, which is hyper engaged and disproportionately young.
Originally published Oct 21, 2016, updated Jul 20, 2021