In August 2016, Instagram launched Stories -- a seemingly blatant copycat of Snapchat. Social media professionals and amateur enthusiasts worldwide scoffed at the play and mocked the knockoff filters (the infamous flower crown served as the public's first victim). Even with skepticism and cynicism, Instagram users tried it out. Then, just a year after its initial launch, Instagram Stories surpassed Snapchat's daily usage numbers. How did a photo sharing platform takeover the content world so quickly?
Instagram Stories now has 250 million daily users compared to Snapchat’s 166 million. Instagram’s usage per day beats the “more than 30 minutes” usage Snapchat claims on average now, as well as the over 30 minutes per day for under 25s and 20 minutes per day for over 25s, Snap cited in its IPO filing. More than 77 million people in the U.S. access Instagram at least once per month, while Snapchat currently has around 70 million, according to eMarketer.
By launching with a copy of Snapchat's most popular filters, the virtual puppy ears and aforementioned crown, and expanding upon the "turn yourself into a cuddly animal" theme with the addition of bunny and koala ears, Stories was immediately familiar and user friendly. While it took almost three years to launch Stories, Instagram has been adding more Snapchat-inspired filters and themes ever since and is three months behind their Snapchat debuts, on average.
As if the filters weren't enough, Instagram Direct serves as a carbon copy of Snapchat's private messaging feature. Snap’s influence has helped turn Instagram’s chat feature into one of the most popular messaging apps in the world behind WhatsApp, Messenger, and WeChat.
Even with late-launching features, Stories is more popular for one simple reason -- social media users are already active on Instagram. Stories is not a new app in which users have to build their brand, grow their follower count, and go viral from scratch. Instead, users are able to stay inside the Instagram world they've already built and access users they've already created relationships with. Even better, users can use one app for multiple purposes. Sharing a photo with followers in their feeds, then deep diving into a behind-the-scenes vlog about its creation in Stories.
Graph courtesy: Recode
And its not just Gen-Z and "influencers" choosing Stories over Snapchat. Half of the businesses on Instagram produced a story in the last month, and it’s boosted the app’s average usage to 32 minutes per day for those under 25, and 24 minutes per day for those 25 and up. And one in five Instagram Stories posted by a business receives a Direct Message reply, allowing Instagram to seduce advertisers who want private channels for communicating with customers.
Stories is designed with the high-power user in mind, allowing accounts to tag other profiles (so, anything from consumers to brands to celebrity influencers) in the stories. This feature adds a new layer of discoverability and brand context to storytelling. In a recent study, social media marketing firm Mediakix looked at 12 top influencers who maintain a dual presence on Instagram and Snapchat. The firm found that over a 30-day period, those accounts overwhelmingly preferred Instagram Stories to Snapchat, posting 25 percent more on the former than the latter.
Instagram Stories continues to launch new features, including live video and allowing users to offer external links to their followers.