Is Instagram Stories SnapChat for Old People or a Bigger Opportunity?

No one can deny that SnapChat is the medium of choice for those in their teens and 20’s. It’s ephemeral, fun and constantly changing. In fact, when I first started using it, I had to have some assistance from a student to show me around the different controls (using swipes from different sides of the screen to bring up different features or adding filters). I think this contributes to the viral nature of the product — there’s a learning curve and sharing your favorite filters or discoveries with friends makes the app very sticky.

I never really understood it’s appeal as a messaging platform until the advent of Stories and then I was hooked. It only takes watching what are in many cases just compressed, raw daily vlogs from someone like DJ Khaled or Gary Vaynerchuk to see the power of the medium and that form of storytelling. Combine that with Live Stories where user generated content is aggregated and curated from live events and you can see how SnapChat is also a powerful way to share in a live event from around the world.

So now we have Instagram Stories which really is a carbon copy of what SnapChat has been doing (without the filters…for now). Do I think SnapChat’s growth is going to slow because of it? Nope — but I DO think that cloning Stories and integrating them into Instagram is a good move for the platform. Here’s why:

Depending on your perspective, SnapChat has a lot of user friction and you can see that as either a feature or a bug. The tools and filters to edit your snaps are not intuitive for a first-time user (you could argue that the discovery is part of the fun). It’s not easy to follow or to get followers either. You need to take a picture of someone’s SnapCode, know their username, have them in your contacts, or be nearby. For someone in their mid 30s without many peers using SnapChat it meant that building my network is difficult.

With Instagram Stories, I’m able to use SnapChat-like features and share them with my existing network (again, you could consider this a feature or a bug). My existing friends are already part of this new ephemeral type of sharing.

I think brands are already foaming at the mouth because most have really struggled to build a following on SnapChat and unless you have really, really deep pockets, being featured on SnapChat’s Discover page is out of the question. I’d also be curious to see what the engagement rates are with Discover brands or how many times a user visits Discover on a given day.

With Instagram, brands have already been building a following and some have been doing a great job at telling stories through their photos and short videos. This adds another layer to the storytelling and opens up some interesting possibilities for them to share moments that disappear, special discounts that evaporate, and perhaps most important, candid moments behind the scenes of their operation that are far from polished but provide a look at the people behind the business.

So, like the rest of us they can reach their existing audience with a new type of content — without the user friction of SnapChat. That’s huge. But not without consequences.

My fear is that like with Facebook, Twitter and yes, Instagram as it exists before Stories — brands will turn this feature into a pile of dumb sales pitches, gimmicks, and produced, polished videos instead of raw, real content with personality.

Happy Snapping!