Stop Trying To Be Like Snapchat. You'll Fail.


Seriously, though — why does everyone seem to be trying to swipe Snapchat nowadays? It probably has something to do with the fact that their growth is beyond explosive. To wit (via eMarketer):


“This year, Snapchat’s US user base will jump by 27.2% to 58.6 million users. Snapchat’s growth rate far exceeds that of mobile messaging in general — the category as a whole will grow by 16% in the US this year. Meanwhile, Twitter will have 56.8 million users in the US this year and Pinterest will have 54.6 million users. By 2020, Snapchat will add 26.9 million users, about double that of Twitter and Pinterest.”

In summary: Holy. S — ! Snapchat is projected to grow at nearly double the rate of messaging apps as a category, and it projects to grow double the rate of two competitors. No wonder people are trying to mimic the platform.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Mark Zuckerberg is reallllllly buttering up Evan Speigel. Facebook, via Instagram, has been the biggest copycat of Snapchat (maybe it’s got something do with Speigel telling Zuck to eff off with his $3 billion offer in 2013?). Last month, Instagram rolled out Stories, which is… basically Snapchat Stories. Instagram Stories uses… basically the exact same features as Snapchat Stories right down to being able to add text and lens filters. In the blog post announcing Stories, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom tries really hard to say anything except, “we’re concerned Snapchat’s stealing our lunch in the next five to ten years so we copied them.”

Here’s his quote:

“[Instagram Stories is] a new feature that lets you share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile… you don’t have to worry about overposting. Instead, you can share as much as you want throughout the day — with as much creativity as you want. Instagram has always been a place to share the moments you want to remember. Now you can share your highlights and everything in between, too.”

Here’s the problem: people are becoming more passive on social media activity. Research from Global Web Index shows that a majority or primary motivations to use social media are passive in nature.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll see that specifically on Instagram, 40% of the audience is logging in to scroll and see what’s happening without posting.

40% of people logging in and not doing anything is a lot. Clearly, Instagram wants that 40% number to go down and the 66% of people who post to go up. Equally clearly, they see Snapchat’s success and want to 1) adopt a feature that’s working for their own benefit, and 2) cut into a rival’s market. Thus far, it doesn’t appear to making much of a dent.

To be fair, a bulk of the activity on Snapchat is watching videos — to the tune of 10 billion views per day, and that’s not an active creation behavior. This graph doesn’t reflect publishing behavior, merely usage. That said, I’m sure Facebook/Instagram was hoping to see usage for Instagram rise and usage for Snapchat fall. So why isn’t Instagram seeing better results?

Because of one big difference that between Snapchat and Instagram: the UX.

Open Snapchat And The First Thing You’re In Is Your Phone’s Camera. Open Instagram And The First Thing You’re In Is A Feed Of Content From Other People. Which Do You Think Is Going To Spur More Active Use?

This article covers the premise brilliantly. Snapchat invites creativity, intimacy and imperfection. It invites you to operate in a very human way, to capture a moment exactly as it’s happening and layer on your own fun elements. Instagram wants you to present yourself. Via The Verge:

“Instagram describes its stories product as a way to promote the sharing of moments that don’t meet the higher bar of a traditional Instagram post.”

Instagram doesn’t invite impulsive creativity. Instagram is designed to deliver a manicured experience and invites you to do the same. Style your photo juuuuust right, then snap and post. With behavior becoming more passive, no wonder they want to increase impulsive activity with something like a Stories product.

The challenge is that’s not how Instagram was built, and it’s not how people are conditioned to use Instagram. This can’t be undone, and so anyone predicting the demise of Snapchat is greatly misunderstanding the situation. Snapchat isn’t like any other social networking app. It’s not even a social network or an app. It’s creativity in the cloud, unconstrained by an app UX. How can Facebook, Instagram or any other “app” compete with that?