Will Instagram’s update have the desired effect?

Will Instagram’s update have the desired effect?

This post is not about reviewing the new features of Instagram, nor is it a vilification of facebook for doing what they as a commercial company have every right to do, and add new features to their platform if they believe people will use them.

For the unacquainted here is a little background:

Snapchat is a ‘social app’ that started in 2011, if you haven’t heard of it yet it is entirely possible you are either living under a rock or you are not in its 18-34 target audience group.(Making up 71% of its user base) It’s an app that as of last month had 150million daily active users, which by the way is more than Twitter.

As it grew a little known social network led by one Mark Zuckerburg took notice and only a couple of years into the Snapchat journey made the founders an offer of $3billion to buy the app. They turned it down. This made headlines, some people mocked them, others loved the spirit of the defiant entrepreneurs.

For a long time it looked like the move was well calculated, facebook launched ‘Poke’ an app that very few people ever used, as two fingers up to Snapchat, it didn’t go quite as planned, and Snapchat grew ever stronger.

Facebook retreated, but did not give up. As of a couple of days ago they updated Instagramwith a set of features that closely resembled Snapchat. Game On.

So why is this time around different?  

Instagram is a hugely successful platform in its own right, from its initial acquisition it has grown and grown, while also delivering revenue for its parent organisation, in fact some of the most profitable revenue of any social network. Poke had to start from scratch, although arguably it did have a leg up being connected to facebook.

Instagram however has 300 Million active users a day, simply updating their experience instead of getting them to download a new app is a great way to introduce a new set of features they have no option but too try.

I think at this stage its clear facebook has decided that if it can’t buy Snapchat, then it willbuild it. The ultimate aim being to take away users from the fast growing Snapchat. So will it be successful?

It’s really early days, but there are some indicators we can observe that may help us make an informed guess.

1. Both the apps target a similar age group, this is really important because if facebook wants users to stop posting to Snapchat then the users experiencing their new functionality has to overlap.

18-24 Year olds:  Snapchat 45%  Instagram 23%

25-34 Year olds:  Snapchat 26% Instagram 26%

150 million people use Snapchat daily, which means that approx 106million 18-34 year olds are on it daily. For Instagram the 18-34 year olds make up 154million users daily.

The one unknown here is how many Instagram users are also on Snapchat. For the sake of argument lets say its 50 million users. Thats 50 million opportunities for someone to decide they do not need both apps and slowly reduce the amount of time they spend on either one.

Based on numbers alone it would seem facebook has made a very calculated bet indeed.

2. Numbers alone however never tell the full story, what about user behaviour? At this early stage I can only make statements based on my own personal experience. I use Instagram a lot, snapchat too for that matter, but if you compare the learning curve of the two apps I can safely say that Snapchat’s UI has the potential to scare off the less technology savvy. I see this as a bit of an intentional ploy by the app, a way of ensuring the world of snapchat stays the reserve of the youth, instead of expanding into older age groups. Almost guaranteeing its ‘cool’ factor. This is what might actually save it.

I have to say for me Instagram is my go to, maybe its the fact that I am hovering on the cusp of Snapchats 71% demographic in terms of age, or maybe its just that I cannot be bothered with two apps, and I am getting lazier, but if this is at all a sign even for 5% of the daily Snapchatters this could mean a steady decline of current Snapchat users.

While both the above points stack the odds in Zuckerburgs favour I think there is a dynamic here that cannot be forgotten. For the very same reason that it is immensely hard to create a new mobile os, simply due to the sheer size of the current app ecosystems, Snapchat’s fortunes may be hinged on its ability to story tell better/Or at least have got there first. Im not saying Instagram cannot copy or even better Snapchat’s story telling capabilities, but users are used to Snapchat already, and getting their brand stories there. This in itself could be the reason that Snapchat prevails. This and the current wave of negative sentiment thatInstagram seems to be receiving for making this move.

Whichever way the story unfolds, I am keen to see both sides take their next steps, defining social media in 2016, and maybe far beyond.