As someone who is over 30, I definitely understand how Instagram feels, for I too am afraid of Snapchat. But it’s apparent that Instagram is much more fearful than I, because they rolled out their recent update that centers around the idea of Stories – literally a carbon copy of what Snapchat has already been doing.
Instagram’s motivation is clear: they want to find ways to get people to use their app more. They see Snapchat as eating into their piece of the photo-and-video-sharing pie and they want to hedge against what the coming months and years may hold. Instagram is now an established player with high-level talent that is working furiously to ensure a bright future. For apps, that means growth in users and activity (and preferably, both).
But what good is growth if it convolutes your app and risks ruining what you have already built?
Instagram became popular because of its artistic nature. It rose because Facebook became polluted with all kinds of random photos and videos shared by people you don’t really know and who have terrible taste in life. Instagram exploited a niche for beautiful content that had to be worthy of Instagram to be posted on the platform. The filters added an extra touch of value. Browsing through Instagram is (objectively) thousands of times better than browsing through Facebook when you just want to see pretty images.
Instead of oversharing like on Twitter or Facebook, people actually hold back questionable content from Instagram if it might ruin the artistic cohesion of their profiles. Yes, I said artistic cohesion when referring to social media. I say it because it’s true!
Then Snapchat came along and found a way to grow by exploiting ephemeral content that wasn’t meant to be permanent. It’s not meant to be artistic. It’s for sharing things that you don’t want your future kids to see you doing, or things that you feel compelled to share but you know in your heart that no one else will really care about but you can’t resist the urge to share it anyway and at least on Snapchat you won’t be embarrassed about it a few months later.
Snapchat became popular in a big way because of Instagram. If people posted anything and everything to Instagram, Instagram would’ve turned into the lomo version of Facebook and there would have been less room for Snapchat. But Instagram stuck to its guns and its users stuck by it. Now the ever-churning pistons of corporate gains and dividends and constant growth have driven Instagram to essentially build a Snapchat into its interface. Bad move.
We live in a multi-app world. Different apps for different purposes. Social media apps need to accept that. We use Facebook for events and major life updates, Twitter for professional articles and sports rumors, Linkedin for job hunting, and Snapchat for the least valuable content, which is made interesting only by the artificial time constraint.
Instagram is for the moments of beauty in our lives, and it should continue to aspire to that ideal that only the best, most beautiful content should be on the platform. Instead of trying to please everyone and suck the air from Snapchat’s sails, they should be comfortable with their vision and purpose. It’s noble in an age when questionable native content marketing has finally made it to even the New York Times’s articles.
The new update smacks of artificial, “VP of Success” planning that amounts to nothing but a rip-off of someone else’s idea. But copying isn’t the most dangerous part – the most dangerous part of this whole development is that Instagram’s users will start to change how they view and use Instagram. No one who has established a network on Snapchat is going to stop using it in favor of posting stories on Instagram instead, so Instagram will not be able to steal away users with this strategy. They will only encourage the erosion of their high standards of content that is the main reason they are where they are today.