20 September 2016
Why Stories Are a Losing Battle in Instagram’s War With Snapchat
By Patrick Kirby, Vice President of Accounts & Sales

You probably heard the opening shots of what’s sure to be a grueling war between social media titans Instagram and Snapchat.

In August, Instagram debuted Stories, a feature that allows users to take and post photos and videos that disappear in 24 hours. Users can add text, draw and insert emojis into their pics.

If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Instagram Stories were not only inspired by Snapchat—Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom fully admitted that it was a direct imitation, telling TechCrunch, “[Snapchat deserves] all the credit” for the feature.

Despite recently reaching its billionth Android installation, Instagram clearly sees some intense competition from Snapchat to add such a brazen imitation to its platform. However, Stories are already showing that they can’t help Instagram defeat Snapchat. Here are three reasons why:

Stories are not conducive to advertising

In advertising, brands need space to get their message across. To access Snapchat’s Discover feature, Snapchat users are directed to a separate page—an environment with plenty of space to incorporate unobtrusive branding. Instagram Stories, however, are featured at the top of your feed when you enter the app. As of now, there is no natural place for ads to be placed. This is critical if Instagram seeks to take the next step to monetize Stories, like Snapchat has done so effectively with its Discover feature.

Instagram’s demographics skew older

It’s no secret that Snapchat is a hit among millennials. It’s the third-most-popular social network among the demographic and, according to Variety, about 44 percent of users age 13 through 24 who use Live Stories and/or Discover report doing so daily. In a relatively short time, the application has effectively capitalized on a generation enamored with spontaneity.

To Instagram’s credit, the app is the second-most-popular social network among millennials, but that’s not its fastest-growing demographic. According to entrepreneur, investor and digital agency founder Gary Vaynerchuk, that would be adults aged 40 through 60. Chasing a competitor’s younger demo might be a fool’s errand considering Instagram’s demographic trends. Instead, Instagram might succeed appealing to mature consumers and coming up with features geared towards its key demo.

Stories dilute what makes Instagram unique

We take them for granted now, but Instagram’s filters were truly revolutionary. They drastically lowered the barrier of entry for consumers and businesses to make gorgeous photographs of their own. Systrom has said that Stories take the stress out of posting those not-so-polished photos that “bomb-feed” your profile, as he calls it. But does that align with the spirit of the app?

Instagram might be better served doubling down on its reputation as a curation platform rather than pursuing spontaneity. Prioritizing more casual use may turn off the artists and influencers who popularized the app in the first place. Unlike Snapchat, Instagram is not a messaging platform. An off-the-cuff video might be enticing when perceived as a joke between friends, but on a carefully arranged portfolio? That could be a tougher sell.

Bottom line

With Stories, Instagram made it clear that it is trying to cut down Snapchat by imitating its features. However, because of Stories’ questionable advertising potential, Instagram’s shifting demographics and Instagram’s reputation as a curated platform, Instagram may find that it will have to get more creative to compete.

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