With Instagram Stories, Facebook may have finally found its Snapchat clone

This post was originally published by Punchkick Interactive — read more on punchkick.com.

Facebook’s after Snapchat yet again. A brief refresher on some of its previous attempts: it tried acquiring the company for around a reported $3 billion in 2013, an offer Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel turned down. It tried two standalone apps which were essentially Snapchat clones — Poke in 2012 and Slingshot in 2014. Neither caught on and are now shuttered.

It tried tests of Snapchat-like features in its core product (disappearing posts) and actual implementations like Doodle, a ripoff of Snapchat’s photo editing which allows for drawing and adding filters.

And earlier this month, Instagram (which Facebook owns) has rolled out Stories, a strikingly similar feature to Snapchat’s identically named Stories feature. On both platforms, Stories allow users to post photo and video which expires after 24 hours — creating a running narrative.

The motives behind all these moves are clear. Despite Facebook’s massive user base and its billions in profits, it lacks Snapchat’s cultural cachet and youth appeal important to advertisers — and it’s been desperately thirsty for a taste. According to MediaKix, 85% of US Snapchat users per month are between the ages of 13–35. Conversely, 63% of Facebook’s monthly users in the US are 30 or older, according to data from Statista.

So far, none of Facebook’s attempts to capture Snapchat’s magic have really worked out. But with Instagram as its new champion, it stands more of a chance — maybe its best chance yet. Instagram similarly skews younger — 18–29 year olds make up the biggest demographic at 55%, according to 2015 data from the Pew Research Center — and, like Snapchat, is a highly visual mobile app. It’s more of a natural fit for Snapchat-like features instead of Facebook’s bloated, catch-all news feed.

And it was a smart move to mimic Stories instead of Snapchat’s direct messaging for two reasons. First, Stories present the strongest case for monetization going forward. It’s no secret that video has been eating the web, and no secret either that the younger you are, the more likely you’re consuming video on your smartphone instead of through a traditional cable box. Snapchat’s Live Stories — be it a running diary of what’s happening in your current city, a music festival, or a sporting event — feel like bite-sized, personal TV programs with fellow users behind the camera, and come with their own bite-sized commercials stitched in every so often.

And media brands from ESPN to Vice to The Daily Mail have partnered with Snapchat to have prime real estate within Stories, presenting news in fun, kitschy, more interesting ways. Snapchat has created an entirely new way to consume news and events. It’s smaller, quicker, more digestible — befitting of our Information Age. And brands are funneling their ad dollars there appropriately.

Snapchat has created an entirely new way to consume news and events. It’s smaller, quicker, more digestible — befitting of our Information Age. And brands are funneling their ad dollars there appropriately.

While Instagram’s Stories feature currently only lets you look in on users you follow, the potential to partner with brands and to curate live feeds is staring them in the face. In that way, Instagram’s version of Stories is also more of a minimum viable product — and that goes for its features, too. While it does have a few filters, none of them are of the geotagging, selfie, or sponsored variety. Sponsored filters and geotagged submitted filters are two other ways Snapchat earns revenue.

But like brand partnerships and Live Stories, Instagram’s filter arsenal could change in the future thanks to Facebook’s acquisition of MSQRD in March. MSQRD (pronounced “masquerade”) created a mobile app which allows users to add — similar to Snapchat — those silly and popular selfie filters onto users’ faces. If Instagram wants to add that feature down the road, Facebook has acquired a team to let it do so.

The second reason Stories is a smart move? Its fleeting nature strikes a nice balance up against Instagram’s main feed — which is often about users getting the perfect shot, the levels just right. With Stories now in tow, Instagram mixes the high- and low-brow, the lasting with the ephemeral, the carefully selected photo with the behind-the-scenes look-in at the shoot. It allows for more time spent in the app — both from the creator and the consumer.

And if users — from celebrities to brands to the common user — are able to get the best of both worlds in an app where it actually makes sense?

It’s where true competition between Snapchat and Facebook might, after all this time, finally begin.