Instagram — fashion’s go-to social media spot — has become the platform of record for many users’ most beautiful moments. But today, the photo- and video-sharing service added a new feature that turns that notion on its well-groomed head.
Just call it the Snapchat effect.
The new feature, called Instagram Stories, lets users share content that disappears after 24 hours. This solves a number of problems for those using Instagram: It alleviates the pressure to only post perfectly poised, nonblurry photos, and it cuts down on “over-posting” during live events such as fashion week.
Users can access stories from the accounts they follow at the top of their feed. And they can elect to include a specific part of their story in their permanent profile. They can also hide the content from specific followers and embellish their posts with images and drawings.
The update is the most obvious and direct acknowledgment that Snapchat is nipping at Instagram’s heels. Snapchat also has a feature called stories, which allows users to share bedazzled photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. It’s estimated that Snapchat has as many as 150 million daily users while Instagram has more than 300 million daily active users. (Facebook is the reigning king with at least 1.1 billion daily active users.)
Instagram’s user base has more than doubled in the past two years and users post a total of more than 95 million photos and videos on the platform each day. But it’s not clear how frequently individual users engage with the platform, a key yardstick of performance.
Instagram’s previous features and news feed still exist, making it something of a hybrid with both Instagram’s and Snapchat’s key attractions. (Snapchat isn’t immune to the Instagram effect. In July, it introduced a “memories” feature that enabled users to save favorite content.)
It’s easy to imagine a makeup artist using the updated Instagram to share candid, “behind-the-scenes” style moments before a runway show and then post only the best images on a permanent profile. Or an editor might share every runway moment without hesitation, but later only elect to save favorite (in-focus) looks.
The idea is that the new, low-pressure feature will encourage more regular sharing and viewing, which will keep users logged into Instagram more regularly and expose them more regularly to Instagram’s ad content.
Since Instagram was bought by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion it has slowly incorporated elements and advertising formats that mimic Facebook’s — and for good reason. Facebook has become an advertising behemoth, with revenues increasing in the second quarter to $6.44 billion, most of which comes from advertising.
Instagram has about 200,000 monthly active advertisers, while Facebook has more than two million. Instagram’s advertising is closely linked to Facebook’s, as businesses that advertise on Instagram pull data and content from Facebook, and must have a Facebook account to do so. Instagram has also adjusted the format of its feed to a Facebook-like chronology, trying to identify the posts that users most want to see and then displaying them prominently.
Facebook made a bid at Snapchat in 2013 for $3 billion, which Snapchat declined. The Los Angeles-based platform is now valued at up to $20 billion, and has begun slowly rolling out more advertising opportunities. According to Snapchat, more than 60 percent of users create content on the app every day, and 10 to 20 million view a live story each day. In the past two years, Snapchat has warmed up to the fashion world and covered fashion week with a live story for the first time in the fall of 2014.
Instagram stories works on iOS and Android.