On the 2nd of August 2016, the hugely popular photo sharing app, Instagram, caused controversy by installing a new ‘story’ feature, which appeared to many as an almost carbon copy of the video clip app, Snapchat.
Well, fast forward two months and the feature is still a permanent fixture atop our daily feed. In that time, data has been released detailing the popularity of the new earmark proving that ‘stories’ are used by over 100 million users each day.
But what does this mean for an app that has over 300 million registered users? Let’s take a look.
A Little Bit of Background
The story feature allows users to accumulate their videos and pictures into one running slideshow. It allows you to write, draw or simply add text to the features of the story, which disappears after 24 hours.
Taking into account all of these new features, it’s easy to understand why many have described it as a rather blatant rip off of Snapchat’s primary function. Which, in case you were wondering, is to post photos or videos to a slideshow (also known as a story), which can either be added to a user’s profile or sent directly to friends. Do you see what we mean?
While outlets such as the New York Times, Techcrunch and Buzzfeed all described Instagram’s move as a “direct shot at Snapchat stories”, or words to that effect, Instagram’s owner, Kevin Systrom, backed the changes and refused to acknowledge the feature as a copycat of its app rival.
He states that while Instagram stories may “feel familiar to what other people are doing”, the company plans to expand on the new video-driven aspect and move it away from traditional formats.
While that’s all well and good, the controversy is hard to ignore.
Ignored by the Majority?
Instagram has recently revealed that over 100 million of its users regularly update and watch the story feature. While that does sound like a success, you have to keep in mind that Instagram has over 300 million registered users, so they may want to put a pause on the celebrations for now.
As it stands, approximately a third of their daily audience ignores the feature. While it’s still early days, such a large majority is hard to ignore, especially as it takes pride of place at the top of users’ feeds. Thus users are making a conscious effort to ignore the update, rather than being unaware of its presence.
You’d think such a daunting start would be enough to panic Systrom, but alas the CEO remains optimistic stating:
“You form your own identity over time,
“We wanted to make sure that people knew we were not just a camera app on your phone. We are much more than that. We are about media. We are about diversity. We are about expression.
“The new logo aligns with our principles — simplicity, universality, understandability. It also aligns with our mission, which is not just to be a camera company, but to be a moments company.
“The logo is abstracted from the physical camera. It acknowledges that we are, in fact, about moments.”
In short, he appears to be pretty optimistic about the more video-driven future of the app, regardless of the current levels of user interaction.
So, What Went Wrong?
While Systrom insists that this isn’t the end for Instagram stories, it’s hard to ignore the raw data without wondering what went wrong.
Loyalty to Snapchat
It’s hard to imagine users refusing to acknowledge the new Instagram feature due to their loyalty to Snapchat, but alas here we are.
Snapchat users aren’t exactly knocking at the doors of Instagram headquarters or boycotting the story fixture completely, rather they’re just not using it because they don’t have to.
Snapping ‘in the moment’ stories has just become habitual to users of the app, and so there’s no call to repeat the action in Instagram. At the end of the day, the modus operandi of Snapchat has always been to record the actions of now, whereas Instagram photos are usually pre-planned and edited.
As we all know, habits are hard to break.
Celebrities Aren’t Really Using It Either
Both Instagram and Snapchat rely heavily on the ability to follow the lives of popular celebrities. Kim Kardashian regularly uses the picture uploading app to promote products, and Kylie Jenner allows her loyal fan base to follow her every move via her Snap story.
The problem? These celebrities are pretty much set in their ways and comfortable using specific platforms for specific purposes. While Jenner has uploaded the odd Instagram story, she remains most prevalent on Snapchat, meaning her fans do too.
Well, as Systrom stated, the stories are here to stay. For the foreseeable future at least.
In fairness to Instagram, the feature has only been available for little over two months, so usage may very well grow over the coming year.
It all depends on whether the traditionally picture sharing app can successfully promote the use of videos in future updates.
We’ll have to wait and see on this one, but with over 300 million users, we’re sure Instagram will be just fine.