In 2013, Instagram video killed Vine. At a time when a Vine video was four times more shareable than a sponsored one, six second clips ruled the "content is king" conversation. And then one day, Instagram took Vine's concept, added nine seconds to it and pulled the rug out from under the new platform. Did it change the way your Instagram timeline looked? Probably. Did it change the way your favorite brands' timelines looked? Definitely. Will the timeline continue to change indefinitely? Of course. Instagram switched to showing a view count on videos rather than likes just six months ago — and now it has come for Snapchat, with the Aug. 2 launch of 24-hour, disappearing photo and video slideshows.
Before Instagram announced it was developing its own Stories feature (yes, using the same name as Snapchat), it changed from a consecutive to a proprietary timeline, ensuring that your super-sensitive, passive-aggressive friend would notice that you liked fewer of his or her 'grams. However, Snapchat has already been fervently embraced by brands and celebrities alike. The man who snapped getting lost at sea on his jet ski, Miami's DJ Khaled, was profiled by Bloomberg on account of his Snaps. Kim Kardashian has showed us the softer side of Kanye West through her Snaps, and Calvin Klein debuted its new #MyCalvins campaign via the platform. Put all of these Stories atop a profile that's already garnering engagement from multiple types of media, and it's a huge opportunity for brands.
"I think that it's more convenient — the biggest pro of Instagram Stories is how everything is all in one place," says Donna Kim, a social media expert who works extensively with beauty brands and had stints at both Martha Stewart Weddings and Brides. Although Instagram's feature only been around for a couple of weeks and users of both applications are still adapting, the Facebook-owned app reported having 300 million active daily users in June 2016, while Snapchat, the younger of the two, reports 150 million. This user base alone will expose the Stories feature to entirely new demographics. In addition, Instagram users are used to being able to click a link — even if only in a profile bio — thus driving traffic to anywhere a brand chooses. As it stands today, Snapchat only allows links in direct messages between users, which is not very efficient when a brand is trying to drive traffic to a site.
Although it's been tricky for brands to figure out how to monetize Snapchat's disappearing videos, there is value in their user bases, despite being lesser in number than Instagram. Ramy Zabarah, former Complex Media social editor and current multi-platform editor for CNN Tech, points out: "Snapchat has a much younger demographic than Instagram does. For a lot of those people, they started using Snapchat before Instagram, and maybe they never even had Instagram. Snapchat was their first and preferred platform. Those users [may not] start using Instagram if they already have something they're in love with." So while you might use both platforms, that's not necessarily the case with everyone.
Don't panic, you don't have to make a decision between one or the other, as there are valid reasons for your favorite brands to develop their Instagram Stories and maintain their Snapchat accounts, especially if there's already an existing, growing audience. Despite being very similar, the biggest difference is the community and how they use it. While Snapchat has maintained more raw, fun, behind-the-scenes content, Instagram timelines are more thoughtful and curated. "Snapchat is a little more candid and can be a little more ugly," says Zabarah. "It would be strange to use the Snapchat approach, which is a little less aesthetic-directed, on Instagram."
With Instagram Stories, brands also have the opportunity to always have a Story present on their profile, as opposed to Snapchat, which doesn't allow users to maintain permanent profile pages. Zabarah notes that this is where Instagram can leverage its existing user interface with Stories. "People trust brands that have over a million followers," he says. "That's a fact. You can't see that in Snapchat. You can on Instagram."
For example, you can follow Nike's Snapchat but chances are there might not be anything to see. However, should you visit the brand's Instagram profile, you can see the history of images and videos, the follower count and a list of accounts it follows (that you can lurk, too). And right next to where you can see how many other people subscribe to its content, there now lives an around-the-clock opportunity to see if they have a Story up, indicated right on the avatar. This offers so many more opportunities to "get to know" the brand, thus investing more time and trust in them.
As we've learned, every social platform evolves and its users adapt. But users aren't the only ones that have to adapt this time around. Snapchat may not take the same kind of blow that Vine did from Instagram, but if it is important for the app to have more and more brands continue to utilize the platform, some major changes may come to your feed. Successful brands can (and will) succeed with Instagram Stories, offering consumers more content in one place with the existing opportunity to drive traffic. In the meantime, we'll be watching closely as the Stories race rages on — especially as New York Fashion Week approaches.