I remembered the time when I first downloaded Snapchat on my phone — I was completely and utterly lost in trying to navigate my way around the app.
I didn’t know what tabs to press to view videos, how to add all my friends on the platform, or what the in-app trophy case is for – I just didn’t get it.
Now this says something, considering the fact that I’m a social media savvy adult, but Snapchat was so confusing that I actually had to Google for a tutorial on how to use it.
But I finally got my head around it after a couple days of usage, and I can safely say that I had become an avid user. I checked the app almost everyday, obsessing over the numerous fun filters (the flower crown is undoubtedly my favourite).
And with every update, Snapchat seemed to be stepping up its game.
They soon launched Discover, which hosts content from a variety of publisher partners like Cosmopolitan, CNN and Daily Mail. They also had a major messaging update last year which adds voice and video calling, as well as stickers, to the app’s chat section. The stickers too got an upgrade with motion-tracking emojis that you can pin to specific parts of a video.
Then Snapchat started formally integrating Bitmoji into its app, allowing users to decorate their Snaps with custom Bitmoji characters. With these slew of updates, needless to say, I was sold.
So when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of Instagram Stories last year, I was skeptical.
I mean, it was clear as day that it was a blatant replica of Snapchat! And I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon out of… principles.
Facebook’s Bitterness Over Snapchat
However, this decision did not entirely come without warning. Facebook has always had a keen interest in Snapchat since it was a young platform.
Back in 2013, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel turned down the social networking giant’s US$3 billion offer to buy the 26-year-old’s fledgling social media startup. Since then, Zuckerberg has continuously attempted to develop apps to rival Snapchat like Poke and Slingshot.
So I guess if you can’t buy it, you make it?
Instagram Stories is a near-clone of Snapchat Stories. Both apps allow users to share images and videos that disappear after a span of 24 hours. Users can also doodle over their Stories, similar to Snapchat; as well as elect to only share their stories with a select portion of their followers — surely a relief for teens who’d not want their parents to pry into their lives.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom readily admitted that Snapchat deserved “all the credit” for the idea behind the Stories update.
“When you are an innovator, that’s awesome. Just like Instagram deserves all the credit for bringing filters to the forefront. This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it,” said Systrom.
Snap Or Stories: Which Platform To Board And Abort?
Slowly but surely, almost all of my Snapchat friends flocked over to Instagram Stories and soon, there was hardly any Stories to view on the app so it was getting boring and redundant. Everybody was on Instagram Stories, even those who previously detested the idea of Snapchat!
But two months later, I am a complete convert. Call me a hypocrite, but here’s 5 key reasons why I think Instagram Stories has successfully gained traction among its users:
1. Simple User Interface
Instagram Stories is intuitive and easy to use. While this might be because Instagram users are already familiar with the app, Instagram is also doing a good job with educating users on how to use the new Stories feature.
On the other hand, Snapchat left many of its users up to their own devices (pun intended) with figuring out hidden features, tricks, and more. For instance, did you know that you can access the expanded colour palette on Snapchat by holding down on the colour palette and dragging your finger to the bottom left corner of your screen?
2. Leverage An Existing Follower Base
Instagram launched in 2010, which means some users have had close to seven years to build a following. On the other hand, it is difficult to grow followers on Snapchat. It does not allow you to migrate a follower base or mass add your Facebook friends like Instagram does.
Also, more followers mean more eyeballs. For all the fun that Snapchat has to offer, one thing that will ultimately sway people is whether their content gets eyeballs. Short of the affirmation of likes, views are the only measure of our posts’ success.
3. Boomerang, Hands-Free And Live Video
Instead of regular videos, you can jazz up your Instagram Story with a Boomerang, which lets you create short loops of your videos. And shooting videos are now much more fuss-free with the hands-free option — no more press and hold to record!
4. Banish Annoying People
If you cringe every time you see a certain someone’s Story in the lineup, you can mute them. Simply tap and hold on that person’s Story icon when it appears in your Story lineup. A window will pop up that will give you the option to mute this person’s stories.
Muting doesn’t hide the Story totally though — it just moves it to the last of the lineup and won’t automatically open while you’re playing Stories.
5. Long Wordy Captions
If you’re the type of person who constantly writes long caption, you’ll love this. Captions can be super long unlike the limited word count on Snapchat.
And you don’t have to get irritated as a wordy snap passes you by, because you can press and hold the post of Instagram Stories to pause a snap and you can observe it for however long you want.
What Should Instagram Steal Next?
Some might argue that Instagram Stories is not up to par with Snapchat as of yet, because its fun filters are what sets Snapchat apart, yes?
But Instagram is fast catching up, introducing new features that already exists in Snapchat, like the geo-filters. What about its face-mapping and motion filters? Very soon, I think.
Snapchat utilises 3D face lenses technology, which maps your face and allows you to apply a filter of your choice, based on your facial expression and movement (this includes face-swapping filters). Motion filters on the other hand enables you to play your videos in slow-motion, fast-motion or reverse-motion.
In fact, Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, recently purchased the Masquerade app which allows you to overlay playful and animated filters over your face using your phone’s selfie camera; and it is predicted that this technology may end up in Instagram Stories over time.
Let’s just wait and see.
Featured Image Credit: Immediate Future