For the last year or so, almost every time someone at Jackson Spalding comes up to my desk after a major Facebook update to ask my feelings, I have the same response. “Snapchat has been doing that for a while now.” With the most recent update, Facebook added a feature familiar to most of us – Instagram Stories.
Now Instagram users have the ability to stitch multiple short moments together, draw on images and all reactions and conversations about the story are private. Sound familiar?
Before we can jump into the core issue at hand, I believe that it is important to provide some history on Facebook trying to be Snapchat to provide a little more context.
2012 – Facebook unveils a new app that sends disappearing messages, photos and videos called Poke. It failed hard.
2013 – Facebook tries to buy Snapchat for $3 billion. Evan Spigel laughed.
2014 – Facebook tries again with a disappearing message app Slingshot. It failed super hard. Like “removed from the
App Store after three months” failed.
2015 – Facebook updates where users can now draw and add emojis to photos.
2015 – Facebook privately tests messages that “disappear” in an hour.
2016 – Facebook buys MSQRD, a company that creates selfie lenses for users to provide an augmented reality
2016 – Facebook launches Messenger Codes that allow users to use a customized code to be easily added.
In recapping the history, I had two major reactions – “Wow, has it already been almost 4 years since I started using Snapchat?” And, “Man, Facebook really wants to be Snapchat.”
The more Facebook blatantly copies Snapchat with acquisitions and updates, the more out of touch with the younger users they seem. For a social media company that once prided itself on innovation, lately, it seems to be playing the role of the aging guy trying to fit in with the cool kids.
As brands, parents and grandparents realized Facebook was the place to be and flocked there, younger, pioneer users looked for an alternative social media app. They went to Snapchat, which at the time had a bad rap, and Instagram, which is safer and now also starting to be full of brands, parents and grandparents. As Snapchat shifted its user base, Facebook reacted to the market and made an update that could help make Instagram more like Snapchat.
I have been concerned with where Instagram is heading. I felt they were in a weird middle with users and making odd and arguably unnecessary updates to keep up. However, with the large user base, including A LOT of brands scared to get on Snapchat, there is a strong chance that Stories becomes a success. The layout is easy to use and the UX is nice and encourages engagement. I just want Facebook to come up with some innovation on its own. It has been too long.