Anyone who’s ever posted anything on Instagram will know The Fear. The platform has long styled itself as a super sleek greatest hits reel of our lives. This means there’s definitely more of a premium feel to the content we see, but the pressure for external validation is so intense that users apparently delete half their photos because they don't get enough likes. Like I said, The Fear.
This poses a bit of an issue for Instagram. A social platform that people are sometimes too scared to use is one that has a bit of a conundrum on its hands. In an effort to get its community of 500M users to, if you’ll pardon the expression, be less square with their sharing, Instagram has introduced Stories. Stories are intended to be a cheekier, less serious place to post what’s going on. If it’s embarrassing, or a massive flop, it will be gone in a day anyway. I can’t be alone in wishing that Instagram would hurry up and offer to curate my real life too.
As with the main Instagram feed, Stories will be ordered algorithmically, meaning you will see more updates from people you interact with most. Once you click on a Story, you will be taken through the moments in that Story in the order they were uploaded. Stories also have a different feel to them from Instagram proper, as you can also overlay text, add emojis, or free-draw:
If you feel like you’ve heard this particular story before, then you are probably a Snapchat user. The experience is very similar in feel and function. Whilst Instagram has said that inspiration for the new feature came from behaviour it was already seeing on its own platform, it’s hard not to see this as a bit of a grab for Snapchat’s user base.
And, frankly, why not? Instagram has made great strides recently in bringing the power of Facebook advertising to a whole new community. It’s obviously in their interests to keep that community as engaged for as long as possible, and attract a larger slice of the lucrative younger audience that Snapchat has been cornering so effectively. We’ve been living through a kind of digital algal bloom of social platforms, and the natural end-point of this is for the best elements of all of these to be absorbed and amalgamated by those with the biggest appeal. That’s just basic economics (I guess, never having studied it).
So what does this mean for Snapchat? The originality of its offering has got it a fair bit of attention from users, brands, and competitors alike, and it now finds its uniqueness challenged by the twin-headed behemoth of Facebook and Instagram. Remaining distinctive will definitely be key, but, as Snapchat looks to launch its own biddable ads network later this year, it could well do worse than snapping up some of Instagram’s own advertising features for itself. After all, Social is all about sharing, right?