The Internet still isn’t done freaking out about Instagram Stories and it being a relatively blatant rip-off of Snapchat Stories—they even stole the name, for Christ’s sake. And truthfully, a lot of the Insta ire is fair.
Did Instagram release a feature that is a little more than strikingly similar to Snapchat? Sure. Did they essentially rip off Snapchat’s one-and-done style of video storytelling by featuring temporary “stories” that disappear after 24 hours? Absolutely. Did they package it in a way that any idiot would look at and say, “Hmmm… this looks familiar”? You’re damn right.
But here’s the thing about innovation—good ideas never go without imitation. And in the case of Instagram Stories, a lot was done right. We take a closer look at the pros below:
Instagram’s User Interface is Simpler to Use
A lot of the major issues Snapchat is facing existed long before Instagram decided to jock it a little too heavily. One of the things Instagram improved on right out of the gate was its User Interface (UI). While Snapchat can take new users literal hours to get the hang of, with all the swiping and slighting and poking and jabbing and—if you’re me—straight-up phone tossing. It’s really all a pain in the ass if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Instagram, however, is simple. All the stories are displayed in the top part of the screen, and if you want to add a story, you tap the little plus sign at the top left part of the screen (derp). From there, you can either take a picture, a video, turn off the flash, turn on the flash and then add text, scribble some stuff, whatever you want. Then, you post it, and 24 hours later, it’s gone. Poof.
Additionally, navigating your way around Instagram Stories is just as intuitive. New stories are displayed at the very top of your feed, and scroll left to right in a single line. Just tap the story you want, tap through it and move on to the next one. No hoops of fire or alligator-filled moats.
Instagram Has Thorough Search Capabilities
Technically part of the UI, but not specifically unique to Instagram Stories, Instagram offers pretty detailed searching capabilities that makes it super easy to find someone you’d like to follow. You can search by first and last name, username, etc. If you’re looking to follow a certain genre like “racing,” “motorcycles” or “hotrod,” you can search it, explore different users with that keyword in their name and find fun new people to follow.
Speaking of exploring, Instagram loves showing off its users. Instagram’s “Explore” feature uses an algorithm to give you content it thinks you’d enjoy from users you might be inclined to follow. Snapchat doesn’t offer anything like that. Its “Discover” section only displays stories and snaps from its trusted publishers, like MTV, Daily Mail, VICE, Buzzfeed and ESPN.
There’s no real outlet for discovering new people to follow and, what’s worse, if you don’t know somebody by their exact username or “Snapcode,” then you’ll simply never find them.
Instagram’s Users See Higher Engagement
Firstly, it’s important to note here that Instagram has nearly double the users of Snapchat. By that fact and that fact alone, it’s not surprising that Instagram’s users have experienced more engagement in stories than on Snapchat.
However, because Instagram places their new stories front and center at the top of everyone’s feed, they always beg to be viewed—and from what we can see so far, it works. We don’t have too many solid engagement numbers for individual users, but we know that the engagement for brands is through the roof.
In an interview in Ad Age, Nick Sheingold, the Associate Director of Social Strategy at Laundry Service (one of the PR firms with which Nike works closely), said that in their first Instagram Story ever, Nike received over 800,000 views in 24 hours. Comparatively, Nike’s most popular Snapchat video of all time only received 66,000 views. That’s it.
For those of you not keeping score at home, that’s literally 12 times more engagement on Instagram than Snapchat. While that’s only one brand and one example, the statistics are incredible nonetheless. That’s a hell of a lot of engagement.
Instagram is Still Top Dog for Advertisers
Speaking of brands like Nike, it’s important to note that advertisers also still stand firmly behind Instagram. Snapchat has pushed exceptionally hard recently to really develop its advertising platform, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to Instagram.
Snapchat works with a few select publications and brands to release exclusive content in the “Discovery” section of the app and leases advertisements to other brands that show up in between actual snaps from users’ feeds. It’s a little tacky, if not dubious. Ads on Snapchat are afforded only to those big-name brands that have the bankroll to make it happen. Other smaller brands often find themselves being left out of the equation completely.
Instagram, on the other hand, has made advertising easy for companies both large and small, and on budgets of any size. Being a Facebook-owned company, all brands and companies have to do is set up advertisements on their Facebook business pages, and then they can run them on Instagram. No nonsense or other silly shit.
Snapchat Does Get Some Things Right
Is Snapchat’s UI difficult to acclimate oneself to? Absolutely. It’s a mega pain in the ass for first-time users. But once you get into the swing of things, it becomes very easy to see why this is such a valuable social media platform. Part of the reason everyone has grown to love Snapchat over the years is because everything is so much more ephemeral there. Snaps (usually) can’t be replayed, and stories expire after 24 hours and then disappear forever.
This includes their messaging function. Snapchat’s messaging is ideal, because it disappears the moment there’s a lapse in the conversation. With Instagram, if someone wants to comment on a story, their message is sent in the form of a DM straight to the recipient’s inbox. Seeing as that’s bound to create a lot of unnecessary clutter for peoples’ Instagram inboxes, we’re eager to hear how developers plan to remedy the situation.
Additionally, Snapchat’s fun facial recognition feature is super complex, and allows users to select from a whole slew of different “characters” they’d like to play at any given time. A giant strawberry, a bee, an Olympian, a person with sparkly eyes and flowers on their faces—users can have it all! We don’t know why you’d want any of it, but it’s there in case you do. So there’s that.
All-in, it’s difficult to tell just how big an impact Instagram Stories is going to have on Snapchat’s bottom line. We can definitely see it taking a good chunk of Snapchat’s fledgling advertising money, and we can certainly see users who were too frustrated by Snapchat’s ridiculous UI sticking to Instagram Stories. Early numbers indicate that Instagram’s audience is wildly more engaged than Snapchat’s when it comes to eyeballs in advertisements, and that’s the main thing brands care about.
Other than that, though, it’s a tough call. Snapchat already has a pretty devoted 150 million users. They love the less polished, more off-the-cuff posts made by their favorite brands, celebrities and artists. With Instagram offering something very similar for their already existing 300 million users, they’re absolutely a credible threat to Snapchat’s livelihood. But how big? We’ll just have to wait and see.
If you’re still Team Snapchat, check out the 7 best weed snapchat accounts to follow.
- Words: Maxwell Barna
- Lead image: Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME