In summation: a lot, and not very much at all.

Let me explain.

The new Stories feature on Instagram lives at the top of your feed, and allows users to upload photos and video that disappear after 24 hours. Sound familiar? It should; it’s a blatant copy of the 24 hour “My Story” feature of Snapchat, built without the puppy and flower crown filters (for now). The Instagram Stories that appear are from accounts you already follow, and they live in bubbles arranged using the same algorithm your feed is.

The addition of Instagram Stories would be a lazy move, if not for a few notable differences between the platform’s execution:

  1. You can respond to a “Story” with text whether the account follows you back or not, unlike Snapchat  where you can only chat with an account if they follow you back.
  2. There are no unexplained swiping rules. The interface is much more user-friendly and doesn’t make you guess how it’s used.
  3. It’s easier to search for and find accounts without knowing the exact username. Snapchat won’t let you search by first or last name, or by similar terms. You must know the exact Snap name to find a user.

Social media platforms sniping each other’s features is not new. In fact, as recently as last month Snapchat enabled the “Memories” feature that allows users to upload edited photos taken with DSLRs or other high end cameras, something Instagram is known for. This started to blur the lines between the two apps, and one has to wonder, “How far is too far in the social media tit-for-tat?”

It’s tempting for social platforms to attempt to be a catch-all; to try to be all things to all people and attract as many users as possible. But the biggest weakness of any business is not knowing why individuals come to you and why they stay.

A good example of this is when Instagram added a 15 second video feature to their app. Vine was blowing up in 2013; it’s six second video limitation provided creators with just enough constraints to inspire creativity. In comparison, Instagram’s longer video limit did nothing for the space, and they eventually increased it to a one minute limit. There are perks to driving in your own lane, and doing it well.

So why add a “copycat” feature?

With over 150 million users interacting with Snapchat everyday, brands have been flocking to it in droves as a place to provide daily content without much fuss. While some early adopters already have massive followings, the majority of brands are just beginning to dabble in the platform. It is in this group that the new Instagram Stories will affect the most. These brands, with already well-established Instagram audiences, may very well decide to skip the effort of building a brand new audience on Snapchat, and instead invest their time in utilizing the Stories feature to communicate and provide content to their current audience on Instagram.

Instagram already has a major advantage over Snapchat: a sense of community. Add to that a tool that shows the raw and uncut footage behind the beautiful, edited photos, and the juxtaposition might end up being the most effective part of the whole app, proving that individuals and brands can be perfect and flawed in the same breath.

In short, the new Instagram Stories feature will not lure established Snapchatters away from the platform. However, it may prevent brands and individuals who already have loyal audiences on Instagram from investing the time to build a brand new audience. Stories won’t steal users from Snapchat, but it will slow the platform’s growth, effectively cutting it off at the knees just as it was hitting it’s stride, unless it can continue to innovate.

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