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Think Instagram Stories Is Just a Snapchat Clone? Think Again

By Brian Hansen
Instagram Stories vs. Snapchat

With social media companies fighting for daily active users, and ultimately your advertising dollars, the feature-war rages on, and there are bound to be copycats. But how, in five months, has Instagram accomplished what took Snapchat over five years? Easy. They caught on early to what has made Snapchat so successful. Snapchat filled a gap in the social media landscape, so Instagram copied an idea, mixed their Facebook-backed power and monumental audience, and created a platform that won’t be dying anytime soon.

Instagram is now boasting over 600 million monthly active users, with 100 million of those joining within the last six months. While this pales in comparison to its sister company – Facebook has 1.79 billion monthly active users – Instagrammers outnumber Snapchatters 3-to-1. So, why the need for Instagram to clone the off-the-cuff, 24-hour story format? The answer lies in users’ posting habits and expanding advertising opportunities.

Instagram Stories launched in August 2016 and by October, had reached two-thirds of Snapchat’s population at 100 million daily active users. The rapid adoption could be credited to the Stories’ prime real estate at the top of the regular Instagram feed, preventing the need for brands to build a new audience in a different platform. While there is no indication users are dropping Snapchat for the similar, built-in Instagram feature, allowing users to post quick, more candid content fills a gap created by a shift in posting habits.

Visual content is dominating social media engagement, but the sharing of original content drastically declined according to a Facebook report in 2016. Why? The use of social platforms has shifted from an intimate place to share personal memories to composed, autobiographies displaying life’s highlights. Thus, creating a social norm of posting only blemish-free selfies and filter-covered food pics. Behold, the “not good enough” gap allowing Snapchat and Instagram Stories to thrive.

Instagram Stories provides a place for those photos deemed “not good enough” for a user’s profile grid. For educational institutions, Stories allow for more posting with a personal touch, without bombarding their audience’s feeds with too many posts (a social marketing no-no). Instagram continues to add features, both original and Snapchat-replicated, making Stories more and more worthwhile.

What’s new?

In addition to features familiar to Snapchat users such as unlimited text and weather or time stamps, Instagram Stories has recently added location stickers, links, integration of their signature “Boomerang” app, and “Hands-Free” and “Live” modes.

Location stickers will allow universities to add stickers that, when tapped, show more information about your campus. 

“See More” links give the option to include a link to more information, like a school blog post or university web page. 

“Live Mode” brings Facebook’s industry-changing feature to Instagram while “Hands-Free” mode frees users from having to keep a thumb on the record button while shooting video.

Assuming Instagram continues its bimonthly feature updates, Instagram Stories will continue to grow its quick-pic audience, giving universities another channel to connect with potential and current students. Although Instagram may have won the battle, Snapchat has plenty of time to win this feature war.

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