In August 2016, Instagram launched Stories to their then 150 million daily active users and yes, you could have been forgiven for asking, “Ummm…Isn’t this a clone of Snapchat Stories?”
Regardless, users didn’t hold this against Instagram, and we can see this in the numbers: Snapchat’s growth has since slowed by 82% with daily posts down by 40%, while in the same period Instagram has hit 250 million daily active users and boosted daily average app usage from 24 to 32 minutes.
But it would be naïve to think that everyone has jumped ship from Snapchat to Instagram; in fact, there is only a 56% reach overlap between the two platforms.
Despite being the same product, Stories on both platforms have their own unique, learned human behaviors that have developed over time. So why do we have one or the other, or both?
THE NON-EVENT AS THE MAIN EVENT
In the early days of social media, we wrote a line or two into a status bar on a desktop computer and hit “Post”. We only showed the highlights reel of our lives and carefully curated our version of what happened to be relevant, often days or weeks after the fact.
But today we carry around 4G smartphones that have the same power as a Macbook Pro and can now share (and watch) from anywhere, at any time; we fill the internet with constant streams of our everyday lives, whether something interesting has happened or not.
To see this endless broadcasting in action, you only need to look as far as the Snapchat account of reality TV star Kylie Jenner.
Jenner’s videos are predominantly of herself, taken by herself. Instead of traditional narrative or structure, she streams the non-event as it unfolds, the act of which turns it into an event – the modern-day embodiment of Warhol’s idea that broadcasting the everyday in real-time convinces the audience that they are present in that moment.
The connection the audience feels might be artificial, but it drives deep engagement. Audiences today feel like they know someone because they have second-by-second access to their everyday lives which, when we break it down, aren’t really any different to the lives we as consumers all live.
The event is “the right now”, no matter what, and we are increasingly driven to share our own “right now”, perhaps in a bid to create our own legacy through the feeds of others.
When you open up Snapchat, what do you see? You see your own world as it is happening right now. Every Snapchat experience begins with the camera and, unlike all other social networks which take users to the feed, it prompts users to create before they voyeur.
And users are creating – Snapchat has reported that 1 million Snaps are created every day across Stories and private messaging.
The simplicity of putting the camera first has generated not only supply, but demand as this technological choice plays on our innate curiosity as human beings. We want to know and we want to engage, even if it’s about people we’ll never meet, places we’ll never visit or topics we don’t care about.
With 1 million Snaps occurring daily, we can jump into the app and instantaneously feed our desire to be “in the know”. Throw in the fact that content is only available for 24 hours, and if you aren’t on the platform daily, you will miss out. #FOMO
But we can’t talk about Snapchat without addressing Millennials. They make up 71% of Snapchat’s global users and have been implicit in its growth.
Millennials actively seek brands, institutions and peers that appear “authentic”, which in Snapchat is gained through the constant flow of unfiltered, user-controlled (as opposed to mass-media controlled) visuals served via Stories and private messages.
As a result, Snapchat has become a platform for humanising branded communication and building a profound, lasting connection between niche audiences. This differs to Instagram, which hinges more upon mass reach and personal branding.
Where Snapchat emerged as a space to display the raw, everyday non-event as a means of semi-private communication, Instagram occupied the space of curation, filters, inspiration and the photo album.
The Instagram feed prompts the users to view en-masse through fast, vertical scrolling. Content needs to be thumb-stopping to warrant a double-tap, so visuals must be created with aesthetics at top of mind as opposed to the pure documentation style of Snapchat.
User profiles are carefully curated photo albums that present their personal aesthetic as a way of sharing a dreamscape/personal brand rather than the lives that they are actually living (see: Taylor Swift).
In this way, success is viewed through curation and the displayed followership that this fosters. Comments can be turned off in the feed so that users can broadcast and essentially create a monologue, not a conversation.
So, naturally, when Instagram Stories was launched into a community where appearance is everything and communication is minimal, the way that this feature would be used would never mimic that of Snapchat, even if the tech did. And Instagram knew that.
Instagram retained the autoplay story feature that Snapchat removed last October. Where you once had a continuous flow of stories from user to user on Snapchat, you now had to manually click into a story if you wanted to watch it.
What we see now is mass consumption on Instagram without engagement, while on Snapcat you have smaller reach, but more time to reflect and engage.
WHERE TO NOW?
When it comes to ad placement, it’s important to understand why people use each platform and the differing ways in which they use it to connect with others. Social media has always been a place made for the people, evolved by the people, for the rest of the people. Brands can quickly fall to the wayside if they are only present on these platforms to sell and not engage.
Whatever success looks like for your brand, each platform will provide its own way of delivering and measuring it. Although they are fundamentally the same product, consumption behaviours across Instagram and Snapchat stories dictate that KPIs and metrics need to be unique to each platform.
Creative also needs to match the aesthetics created by the communities on these channels and conversations need to follow the language structures that have evolved on each platform.
This is why we have one, or the other, or both.