Since the beginning of 2015, there’s been a copy-cat war waging between the big social media players. It reached mainstream media in August last year when Instagram launched “Instagram Stories”, admitting they had taken ‘inspiration’ from Snapchat’s feature of the same name. People were outraged! How dare Instagram so brazenly copy Snapchat?! The ultimate cool kid? The OG?
The Insta-outrage went as quickly as it came, but everything erupted again last week when Facebook launched their own “Facebook Stories” feature via their main app. Messenger has had its own Stories feature (called “Messenger Day”) since early March, but if you open your Facebook app today, you will see circular Story bubbles – exactly the same design as Instagram – at the top of your News Feed.
Of course, the Internet is alight with commentary, hundreds of articles popped up over the weekend accusing Facebook of ‘stealing’ from Snapchat and ‘ripping off’ its features.
Forget the articles, though. The most thought provoking piece of content I’ve seen in the past few days was a meme.
Funny, right? There’s Excel, then there’s Turnitin (student assignment submission software):
Want Stories with your Stories?
The point is, each of these memes has thousands of likes and comments. And the most ironic part? They’re being shared via Facebook.
Often it’s easy to think that young people use social media like zombies. Doing whatever they do in a passive kind of state, consuming as much as they possibly can. But these memes and the engagement they’ve accumulated are proof that teenagers and 20-somethings are smarter (and funnier) than we think. It is literally Generation Y and Z laughing in Facebook’s face. “Really? You guys think that adding a feature like Stories will make us want to use your platform more? Idiots.”
Taking this – and the massive backlash on Twitter – into account, it’d be easy to jump to the conclusion that no-one is going to use Facebook Stories. But it’s important to remember that Instagram Stories’ audience grew to 100 million daily active viewers just two months after launch.
In other words, although it might seem like Facebook Stories is unpopular now, this doesn’t mean it’s going to be unsuccessful. It just means that young people aren’t having a bar of it.
Stories on platforms like Facebook and Instagram are most likely to be taken up by users already using that platform who are late-adopters or unlikely to switch to Snapchat. Also by brands and influencers who have already built followings on these two platforms, and don’t see the benefit of moving to Snapchat. The majority of Snapchat’s audience is aged 24 or under, whereas both Instagram and Facebook’s audiences still skew older. TLDR; nothing’s really changed.
Copy-catting is inevitable. The chart below shows that since July 2016, Facebook-owned properties have aggressively duplicated Snapchat’s features. The rationale is obvious: Snapchat has come up with a set of highly engaging, incredibly entertaining and easily replicable features.
In the end, nothing really changes for marketers. Just because Facebook has Stories now, doesn’t mean you can magically reach 16-year-olds there. Just because you can stream Live Video on Instagram, doesn’t mean you should abandon your Facebook audience. You should be present wherever your target market is, and work on utilising the features of that platform to the best of your advantage.
I can’t imagine that Facebook’s goal with Stories is to attract those who are already Snapchat loyalists. If it was, they’d have added new and exciting features, not just made a carbon copy of the Snapchat app. They are obviously trying (really quite hard, might I add) to add novelty to a 13-year old platform, in the hope that they can hang on to the people who haven’t already checked out.
Emilie Tan is a Social Media Specialist at BCM