Over the past few months, it seems as if Snapchat & Instagram are all converging on almost exactly the same features. Adding new features is a massive decision that both these companies have to make – not only can the user experience of their hundreds of millions of users be affected – but, even worse, their users might not like the updates and become inactive. Simply put, if they cannot keep a solid daily active user base, they’re not performing. As switching costs are so low between these two platforms, that it’s no surprise that they are copying each other’s features left, right and centre to keep their users ever-satisfied, and giving them no reason to leave.
Snapchat’s IPO has been questioned due to a lack of sustainable business model (aka – the advertising is not cutting it) and competition is hotter than ever – especially with Instagram’s recent updates, which are almost a carbon copy of the Snapchat platform (even Instagram even kept the wording ‘Stories’ when adding the Stories feature). I think a few things have really started to question Snapchat’s sustainability:
1. Snapchat filters are not as fun any more
Now that it’s Easter, we can expect hot cross buns, chocolate eggs, and an Easter Bunny filter. The Easter Bunny filter will be a 3D bunny head, slapped with a big Cadbury logo, followed by a barrage of cadbury-branded chocolate raining upon your screen. Haven’t we heard of all this before? Ever since acquiring Ukrainian firm “Looksery”, which develops Snap chat’s filters, Snapchat’s active users boomed again. It became a race to see who could update first and add a Story with the new flavour-of-the-month filter. It was, admittedly, a really fun move – and it’s still mildly entertaining to look at new filters as they come out. However, they are simply not as entertaining. Further, Snapchat is paywalling nearly every new filter they release. It’s pretty obvious that Snapchat is scrounging to find where to monetize – filters, ads within stories, ads above your friends’ my stories – and it’s ruining the experience while they are at it.
2. Instagram integrates features (e.g. Boomerang) perfectly
Boomerang was always that awkward app that you had to open up, send to Instagram, begin to post – then decide your image wasn’t smooth enough. So you’d take the Boomerang again. Then after 10 tries and switching back and forth, you’d finally publish it on Instagram. To make it worse, you’d have a big “Made by Boomerang” logo under your photo. Organically ingraining it into the Instagram platform, means that it’s super easy to add Boomerangs to your profile – and let’s be honest, people love Boomerangs. There just seems to be something fun about making a never ending video. It’s a prime example of acquiring an App and integrating them seamlessly into an existing platform. Snapchat’s giving that a go with Bitmoji (where you cartoon-ify yourself), and the most recent update allows you to link Bitmojis to your best friends – yet this feels incredibly clunky, and is another remind as to how they are lost when it comes to defining their user experience.
3. Instagram Stories are a classier Snapchat
Being an image sharing service, Instagram users are always conscious of what they upload, and their audience reflects that. Instagram feels like the platform where you go to share your best images – your best locations – your best experiences. Snapchat, on the other hand, has always acted as the service to send photos that you ‘get away with’. The whole provide is that it’s quick – it deletes – you never see it again. On Sunday last week, I opened my Snapchat feed to see a whole heap of drunken videos, people swearing, and although it’s hilarious – it’s low production-value, intended for a quick laugh. That is fundamentally Snapchat’s purpose. My Instagram feed, however, had a bunch of check-ins in fancy places, people cheers-ing nice drinks, and some fantastic scenery. It’s almost as if the Instagram Stories are for pre drinks, Snapchats are for afters. Overall, Instagram differentiated themselves really well.
4. Snapchat has lost it’s first-mover advantage
In the tech industry, it can be incredibly advantageous to be the second mover. Let the first company do all the work, have the infrastructure in place to copy them, then implement the incumbent’s functionality – and it’s true for both hardware and software alike. Instagram came in and copied the Snapchat UI almost to a tee – all they had to do was add a few more features – and they had a far better copy of the Snapchat platform. Within the stories section, there are some noticeable additions, including:
- Check ins
Funnily enough, these are the three core features of the Instagram platform (it was originally just a geo-location photo sharing service) – and they translate seamlessly into the story space. Instagram added the Stories layer as a means to enrich the current Insty user experience. The fact that each of these new filters is accessed via the ‘stickers’ menu on the Instagram story, proves how they see value in the post-processing of images, not pre-processing (like Snapchat’s filters) – and I have a feeling that they won’t bother actually adding face filters at all.
Unlike Snapchat, it’s non-invasive, ad-free and extremely intuitive to use. Mentions are great for two reasons – it lets your friends know about this Instagram story feature (aka, why are you still using Snapchat), and secondly, it makes the platform more interactive. For example, your friend might be with someone you met a few weeks ago – you didn’t know they had Instagram, so you go ahead and follow them. Check-ins are simply pre-populating the already massive geo-location based image database that Instagram has. If you haven’t search by location yet, I highly recommend you do – it’s amazing how many people have uploaded photos in the same place as you.
5. Instagram has an identity, Snapchat an identity crisis
If Instagram can absorb Snapchat’s core functionality, it’s going to mean one less app you have to open. Instagram already served a great purpose – and in absorbing the functionality of another, why would you go anywhere else? This ties in the first three points I make, but it’s a really important point to make. A heap of people on Instagram Stories are actually just saving their Snapchat stories to their gallery, then re-uploading them to their Instagram Story. This suggests two things to me: (1) the friends they want to reach on Instagram, they don’t have on Snapchat; and/or (2) they value their Instagram audience in the same way that they value their Snapchat audience. If they want to share their stories, it suggests that although all their Snapchat friends are on Instagram, not all their Instagram friends are on Snapchat. So not only do people want to use it, but they are getting a wider audience, and Snapchat doesn’t have an as-important role to play any more.
Suffice to say, the ball is in Snapchat’s court – Snapchat is 100% going in incorporate a Boomerang-like feature in it’s next update, alongside some form of ‘live’, a user-tagging feature and geo-location check ins.
Watch this space.