When Instagram Stories rolled out last August, Snapchat was the fastest-growing social network. It had trumped Twitter, Instagram and Facebook in quarterly growth and was making it to every list of World s Most Innovative Companies . And why not? Back in 2013, Snapchat had pioneered the raw, impermanent, short-form visual content format Snaps as it was called that is now a rage, with everyone from WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to homegrown Hike trying their hands at what they call Stories or a series of images that disappear within 24 hours of being posted. Also Read - Disney Pixar Filter: How to get and use the 3D cartoon face filter on Snapchat, Instagram, TikTokAlso Read - WhatsApp is soon to change the way your data is backed up: What it means?
Snapchat unfortunately couldn t hold onto its first-mover advantage after Instagram Stories launched. And in less than three quarters since August 2016, Instragram Stories surpassed Snapchat in Daily Active Users (DAUs) a metric that ascertains the relevance of an app in the user s everyday life. Not only that, many Snapchat users, especially celebrities, content publishers and brands, have flocked to Instagram Stories as they see more value in the Facebook-owned platform. ALSO READ: Instagram Stories now has 250 million daily users, lets you share replay of your Live videos to Stories Also Read - WhatsApp introduces 'Papa Mere Papa' stickers to celebrate Father's Day: How to download, send?
Global influencer marketing agency Mediakix estimates that influencers are now using Instagram Stories 25 percent more than Snapchat each day. According to Google Trends, Instagram Stories has been twice as popular as Snapchat since its launch. Purely on the basis of user base too, Instagram is ahead. It is now a 700-million strong network, while Snapchat has only 300 million users. Out of that, the Snaps feature is used by 160 million, while Instagram announced two days ago that Stories was being used by 250 million people daily.
So, what really reigned Snapchat s march in the social media world? Was it the dearth of further innovation or the lack of strategic focus? Was it the IPO that bombed something that happened with Twitter? Or was it Instagram s vigour and vision that made Stories an instant, scalable success?
The audience on Instagram is not only larger than Snapchat but also significantly more diverse. Snapchat right from its inception was the uber-cool, hipster app, hugely popular among teenagers and young adults. Its frivolity (read: dog and bee filters or even dick pics ) was its unique selling point. And perhaps its undoing. The very nature of the product made it millennial-centric and kept the older, mature users, who sought valuable networking opportunities, at bay. Instagram scored on that front as it offered even the 40-year-olds a meaningful sharing platform. When Stories launched, that vast, diverse user-base took to the new feature almost organically.
Easy, user-friendly interface
In the social tech world, user-friendliness is of utmost importance. They say Facebook is user-friendly, Twitter is not. That is why it is stagnating. Similarly, Instagram is beautifully intuitive and user-friendly, whereas Snapchat is clunky and confusing. Even the most tech-savvy user would take months to fully comprehend its functions. Apparently, Snapchat s parent company Snap Inc. had to prepare a detailed step-by-step guide on How to Use Snapchat for its investors at the time of going public.
If you re new to Snapchat, you wouldn t know whom to follow. Discoverability of content is a real issue, unless you look up the exact handle of the user. On Instagram though, you get to follow suggestions (like on Twitter) based on your interests and interactions. The Explore tab is a great way of finding out what s happening around you. For a new user, thus, Instagram instantly becomes more easy and welcoming. Even if users are not posting themselves, Stories are viewable right on top of their homepages. This often inspires passive content consumers to turn into active content creators. Nothing of this sort is possible on Snapchat owing to its design and functions. ALSO READ: Instagram rolls out Location, Hashtag Stories on Explore
Size of app
Snapchat is a fairly heavy app at 58 MB. Instagram, on the other hand, takes up less than 23 MB, thus saving storage space on your device. Users who have 16 GB or less variants of smartphones, tend to retain lighter apps when they run out of space. Perhaps, it resulted in many users deleting Snapchat purely because of the kind of space it was taking up.
Feature-rich and innovative
Yes, Snapchat was highly innovative, disruptive even, and was credited for bringing disappearing photos to public consciousness. Instagram received some flak initially for cloning that feature with Stories. However, the Facebook-backed app has outscored Snapchat in the last one year when it comes to new features, content formats, and innovative additions.
First up, unlike Snapchat, Instagram has the permanent Photo Feed to fall back on even if nothing else works. Most users come for that. Professional photographers and artists use it as a network to exhibit their work to the world. Instagram filters set off a whole revolution in photo apps.
Secondly, Instagram brought live video capabilities (ala Facebook Live) to Stories and allowed users to broadcast on their profiles through Instagram Live Stories. Engagement skyrocketed as live broadcasts could be viewed only in real-time. The video would disappear as soon as broadcasts ended. But after the success of Live, Instagram has now enabled playbacks for broadcasts and allows users to retain Live Stories for 24 hours before they disappear. Now, all this is missing on Snapchat, and alienating many brands, celebrities and influencers, who see Live Stories as a fine, cost-effective way to build an audience.
Thirdly, Instagram introduced cool new features like Boomerang and Rewind within Stories in addition to a bunch of stickers, location and weather tagging. It also allowed tagging of @handles within Stories, something that’s missing on Snapchat. Only now has Snapchat borrowed Instagram’s location feature and introduced Snap Maps. While the doodle features might be similar on both apps, Instagram still scores better when it comes to the overall experience on Stories.
Deep linking abilities
Instagram allows users to hyperlink in profile bios, public posts, private DMs and even in Stories. This is a gap area for Snapchat that restricts it to just a visual messaging app as opposed to a meaningful platform for content-sharing and networking. Earlier Instagram would allow linking on user bios only, but has now enabled it overall, thus helping brands and publishers to direct traffic to other pages. This has turned Instagram into a crucial marketing channel and is leading to a growth in Instagram for Business as well. ALSO READ: Indian hacker group leaks data of 1.7 million Snapchat users after CEO s poor country comments: Report
Is Snapchat irrelevant then?
Not yet, but it could well be. And Snapchat knows that too well. Late last year, the company launched its first hardware product Spectacles (retro sunglasses with a built-in video camera) that makes it clear that it is thinking beyond its instant photo-messaging app. Snapchat is still growing its user base but Instagram Stories is just growing it way faster. Hence, it becomes imperative for the former to create new growth opportunities outside of the app.
There are reports that Snapchat is pivoting into a hardware company and might be launching a smartphone soon. According to Mediakix, Snap Inc. recently embarked on a hiring mission to beef up its hardware engineering, telecommunications, and manufacturing departments. Of the 36 new hires since August 2016, 16 have previous experience from Motorola, 7 from Apple, 6 from Google, 3 from HTC, and one each from Verizon and Nokia, the report stated.
Well, that surely points toward something. We ll find out soon!