Instagram – that’s another story!

So you’ve probably heard by now that Instagram has a new feature. It’s called Stories. And it’s a bit like Snapchat Stories, a self-destructing sequence of stills and video with text overlays. You can publish them to your timeline, or they’ll automatically delete after 24 hours.

Wait a minute! That’s a LOT like Snapchat. In fact it’s a blatant copy of Snapchat, and at this point we should remember that Instagram owner Facebook made a $3 billion buyout offer to Snapchat a few years ago. Snapchat said ‘no’ so they went away and built their own version.

The big question now is: ‘Will copying Snapchat kill it off?’

Theoretically, the answer should be yes, Periscope killed off Meerkat, Foursquare killed off Gowalla, VHS killed off Betamax, but I think Snapchat will remain strong in its demo, and will attract high-ticket advertisers and sponsors relative to their target market.

Committed and engaged

Snapchat has a very committed and engaged customer base. Youngsters pretty much have the platform to themselves. It’s largely void of in-your-face advertising, so it hasn’t sold itself out. Young users know their parents are unlikely to jump aboard and it will age gracefully as its generation does the same.

[bctt tweet=”‘Snapchat has a very committed and engaged customer base #stories'” username=”marchindley”]

Snapchat does what it does well. Why would a happy user switch to Instagram? I’ll wager the Snapchat community will stick together. The two networks already coexist doing different things. Except they’re fierce competitors, and although the users may be happy, the suits behind the apps don’t want happy coexistence. They want users… and the more the merrier. So this battle intensify.

Instagram also does what it does well. It’s a little more sensible. It doesn’t have the awful selfie stickers and geofilters that Snapchat has. It also doesn’t have a stigma of being a seedy social network. It knows the story feature is popular. So why has it lowered itself to imitating instead on innovating?

The answer is the three As.

Audience, Advertising and Analytics.

By drawing people in to share more of what they do on a day-to-day basis, means Instagram can build a better picture of its audience and its context. Which means they can sell more advertising against it.

[bctt tweet=”‘Why has Instagram lowered itself to imitating instead of innovating?’ #instagram #stories” username=”marchindley”]

Let’s not forget this is a Facebook product and the big blue network has a stonking knowledge base of customer data. Getting more people to do more things with Instagram, means they’ll get more info about their younger audience.

Also, Instagram has been used, particularly by businesses, to add images with text overlaid as a call to action. Instagram can’t read this text because it’s applied before the image is uploaded. By allowing people to add text in the app, means they can analyse what people are talking about. Each slide in the ‘story’ can have a comment stream, and given that Stories is a more passive medium than Instagram proper, where you might spend more time editing and filtering a picture, the conversation is likely to be more, well, conversational.

But remember, whatever you say may be gone in 24 hours, but you can bet your bottom dollar Facebook will store every word… for evermore.

Hopes and fears

My fear for this feature is that it’s actually a pretty good medium for businesses to make on-the-fly linear-edited video ads. When I tested it though, there was an annoying absence of sound at the beginning and end of each clip. If that’s a feature, it makes 1-2-second clips almost unusable.

Why is that a fear? Well, if Facebook is anything to go by, Businesses will flood it with marketing messages until it’s a mish-mash of unwanted commercial spam. It’s taken Facebook till now to get on top of this, so it’s possible that it could hit the ground running and keep the trivia at bay from day one. Let’s hope so.

Businesses haven’t grasped the Snapchat vibe, and Instagram is a more comfortable place for the businessman or woman, so expect to see more commercial activity in Instagram Stories than Snapchat.

Advertising explosion

Instagram is also on the brink of advertising explosion. Self-serve ads from inside Facebook’s ad manager means anyone can place an ad in the stream for pennies, and that will almost certainly lead to ad overwhelm. The layout on Instagram isn’t as flexible as Facebook, where advertising generally works well.

The other aspect of this feature is that Facebook and Instagram are experimenting with more and more video services. Facebook Live has proved to be popular and there is talk of a split screen version where you will be able to host a live broadcast with another Facebook user.

If Instagram Stories evolves further, we could see editing features built in, so that clips could be trimmed, moved and filtered. It may breakout as a separate app alongside it’s children, Boomerang and Layouts.

Keep your eyes peeled and watch this space… the story has just begun.