By now, everyone in the industry has read that Instagram has taken on the newest kid on the social media block, Snapchat, by launching its own ephemeral storytelling product: Stories.
This move should come as no surprise. A digital platform that does not innovate can quickly cease to exist — and it is far from the first we have seen Instagram take aim at a competitor.
In 2013, Instagram had yet to leave its comfort zone as a pretty picture feed where artistic but not necessarily talented people — mostly millennials — could throw a filter on a photo, post it and watch the likes add up.
At that time, the only real social platform for personal short form video expression was Vine. This changed in June 2013 when Instagram introduced video to its product line and caused a tectonic shift in the digital landscape.
Instagram Cuts Vine's Growth
I remember reading article after article about how this was a lost cause, that Vine’s user base was far too loyal and comfortable to abandon the platform. Vine would remain the dominant player and Instagram video would be a blip on the radar.
Fast-forward to today and we have witnessed Instagram take firm hold as the major player in short form video with 500 million monthly users compared to Vine’s 200 million. Vine has not become completely obsolete but there is no denying that Instagram is now king. Not only that, but it's demographics have changed: now it's attracting an older demographic.
If past action is the best predictor of future behavior, then why would Snapchat stand any chance at surviving this coupe? Is it the impressive active user numbers? Vine had that in 2013.
Is it the highly engaged community? Vine had that, too.
What sets it apart from Vine in 2013 is that it has become a bona fide advertising platform. In 2013, ads on Vine were mostly branded content and native advertising.
Snapchat, Instagram Have Different Purposes
On Snapchat, we are privy to a wide range of ad products from ads inserted in stories that cost as little as $5, to the incredible ability to let Taco Bell turn our heads into tacos on Cinco de Mayo which reportedly cost $750,000.
The later of these examples is the holy grail of advertising: an ad so good and so much fun that users don’t just tolerate it, but actively want to use it (and we did that day about 224 million times).
Instagram itself is an incredibly important ad platform for buyers, but it serves a different purpose.
If you own an app and you are trying to drive downloads, a sponsored Instagram post that shows up in targeted user feeds with a direct download button is clearly the better choice.
Instagram has the equivalent of the $5 ad on Snapchat (in fact it is better) but what it lacks is the Taco Head: a highly engaging tremendously fun and inherently sharable ad.
While we have learned to never bet against Zuckerberg and Co., storytelling has always been currency in advertising and right now the stories still belong to Snapchat. Don’t count the platform out just yet, despite history.
Title image by Roman Drits