In the beginning there was Snapchat who ruled the land of social media stories unchallenged and worry free. Now Snapchat’s reign is being threatened by Facebook stories and the Facebook owned Instagram stories, Messenger stories, and WhatsApp stories. Facebook has been steadily copying Snapchat since Snapchat refused Facebook’s $3 billion dollar acquisition offer in 2013; which has resulted in all of the Facebook and Facebook owned apps looking remarkably similar to Snapchat and to one another. Facebook seems to be adding these popular features to all of their properties without considering each app’s user base and functionality.
Stories allow people to give their friends, family, and followers a glimpse into what they are doing that day; but they only last 24 hours before they disappear. Stories also allow celebrities to directly share their day with all of their fans in what feels like a personal manner to each viewer. Stories are a core part of our culture; we all tell stories every day and are told them constantly. We relate to one another with stories and we in communications use stories to show consumers what brands stands for. It’s only natural that stories would make their way into social media as an integral part of communication. How are stories working out for Facebook and Instagram, and should Snapchat be worried? Let’s find out.
The story function gained popularity with Snapchat who is constantly adding new features to stories such as a Bitmoji integration, drawing on the story, adding stickers to the story, search, and most recently a photoshop like eraser function that enables you to remove things from your photo. A few of Snapchat’s new tools mimic Instagram features in a full circle imitation where app is copying each other; hopefully to the benefit of their users. Snapchat stories are still incredibly popular with 158 million daily users; but it is feeling the heat from Instagram stories with their growth slowing in correlation with the launch of Instagram’ story function.
When Instagram stories launched in 2016 many users were mostly posting photos directing people to their Snapchats. That stopped quickly as people realized that Instagram stories afforded them a larger audience than Snapchat which is more exclusive unless you are actively promoting your user name. Now most users are posting to both Snapchat and Instagram but tailoring their story content in platform appropriate ways. Instagram is seeing a steep increase in viewership and engagement in their stories as Snapchat’s is declining. 25 weeks after it’s launch Instagram has 150 million daily users of the story function. Users are even showing a preference of posting to Instagram stories before Snapchat or instead of Snapchat, a worrisome trend for the big, friendly, social media ghost.
Facebook’s recent stories launch has not been as successful as their Instagram stories venture. I personally have never used the function and have never had one friend use the function. The most common reason for this hesitation is that users don’t want to share the things they usually do on Snapchat and Instagram stories with their Facebook friends who include their coworkers, family, family friends, and others. Facebook’s popularity is it’s downfall in this case; no one wants their Grandmother to see their story about their night out. Although personally my Grandmother would love it. Facebook is also facing a challenge trying to get a user base to adopt stories who have never encountered them before and don’t know how to use the feature. It just is not platform appropriate; as evidenced by this CNN article titled “How to use Facebook Stories? We asked millennials.” Many Facebook users are older and/or not tech savvy and this feature is just one that they will never use. Instagram users knew how to use stories and that is part of why it was quickly adopted and successful.
What are the core similarities and differences between these three story platforms?
- Story content is temporary, only lasting for 24 hours
- Photos can last up to 10 seconds but all platforms are now allowing you an option to let people view photos for as long as they want until they click away
- A rewind function by tapping the left side of the screen and a fast forward function by tapping the right side of the screen
- Users can engage one another through direct messaging straight from the story they are viewing to talk about said story
- Besides creating your own stories, users can browse other user’s stories based on privacy settings
- Each platform allows you to block a certain person from viewing your story (sorry Grandma!)
- There are many creative photo editing tools such as drawing on the story, adding text, adding stickers, face filters, and geo stickers
- You can directly add a photo or video after you take it or add from your camera roll
- Every platform uses the same circular thumbnail to alert you to a posted story
- On Instagram if your profile is not private anyone can see your story and you can view anyone else’s story as long as their profile is open as well, even if you are not following one another. On Facebook and Snapchat you must be friends or following a person in order to see their stories
- Snapchat filters allow for more customization, at the moment. This is very valuable for brands who are looking to customize their stories as much as possible
- Instagram stories are seen by a wider audience, another consideration for brands who want to reach the most people possible
- Instagram allows tagging in their stories so viewers can tap on the username of someone in your story and view their personal Instagram page
Does Snapchat need to be worried? Mostly they need to be wary, it’s smart of them to see what new story innovations these other social media platforms come up with and integrate them into their own app in order to offer users the same experience and functionality. For brands considering which platform to go with it isn’t a simple matter of number of users, you must consider who your audience is and where they are. Snapchat offers a more causal feel but Instagram is a very curated experience and though their is user base overlap it’s also important to consider those who are loyal to one platform.
Time will tell who wins the Social Media Story throne. Time and lots and lots of data.