Instagram Nabs Another Snapchat Feature: Selfie Filters



It happened. Finally. Instagram made the leap to augmented reality (AR) with their addition of face filters. “Shocking!” said absolutely nobody.

The reason the expected news is still making waves is that Instagram’s entry into AR directly threatens Snapchat, whose originality paved the way for other Instagram “innovations” like Stories. This feature potentially offers Zuckerberg’s smartest acquisition new ways to reach a broader audience and could cause trouble for Spiegel’s popular app. If your brand pays for content on Snapchat, your reach could be severely impacted down the line.

Instagram’s Face Filter addition is currently designed for casual use, but the possibility of brands shelling out cash to get their very own sponsored filters is inevitable. If – or when –  Instagram decides to go that route, there’s a strong chance it will take away from what makes (or made) Snapchat so special.


The thing about augmented reality is that it’s, scientifically speaking, pretty damn cool. Adding virtual elements to the real world unlocks endless possibilities when it comes to social, entertainment, and practical applications for all kinds of industries. Remember Pokémon GO? That’s just the tip of the iceberg. We mentioned in our blog that the future of augmented reality may even outshine that of virtual reality, given the opportunities it offers consumers in their everyday lives.

Any doubts of the promise AR holds can be answered with the undeniable popularity of face filters. Roughly 61 million Snap users have used a lens at one time or another. Scroll around your timeline and you’ll see droves of flower crowns, face swaps, face warps, voice changers, food filters,  bunnies, puppies, and who can possibly scrub the image from their mind of a friend vomiting rainbows? We have to admit; they’re all a lot of fun.


At the end of 2016, Snapchat released a list of their top 10 most popular lenses. The common denominator throughout every example is engagement. Face filters and lenses draw the user in, increasing their time on the app, and pumping out the product across multiple channels. Brands have taken note of the filter buzz.

The powerhouse brand Gatorade created a successful filter they unveiled in a campaign during the Super Bowl. The iconic Gatorade bath was recreated for those thirsting to be part of the big game. In turn, creativity takes over and this cliché sports moment gets to be superimposed on whatever context the user can dream up. Rather than getting the traditional championship soak, spice it up and bring out the loofa. The sky is the limit with augmented reality.


On one hand, Instagram’s face filters aren’t available for brands to customize… Yet. Even when they hit the market, they may not have the same appeal on the Gram as they do on the Snap. Brands have a spirited tone on Snapchat; posts are quirkier, and the engagement is different. They’re not defenseless either; they have a deep bench when it comes to paid promotional options. Snap ads build brand awareness by popping up as users swipe through stories. Business geofilters incentivize audiences to engage, because if they tag their location, there’s a chance their story pops up on the Discover tab of the app. Overall, Snapchat is interactive and drives users to participate. Take a look at Taco Bell as a prime example. They purchased a sponsored lens that converts your face into a taco, which drove crazy engagement. It generated a whopping 224 million views in one day.

Not to mention, Snapchat’s appeal is growing beyond younger audiences. The app has seen an incremental rise in use from their older audiences, with young guns taking up 16% less of the pie from Q4 2015 – Q2 2016.

On the other hand, we know Instagram already enjoys a massive lead when it comes to users. For every one person logging into Snapchat, you’ve got four people rocking Instagram. To put it in perspective, Instagram’s Stories feature alone has more users than Snapchat has in total. Instagram also has an impressive track record when it comes to luring in newcomers. Between December 2016 and April 2017, they racked up an additional 100 million downloads. In a similar period of time, Snapchat scored a measly 8 million. And just to pile on the bad news for Snapchat (best to tear it all off at once like band-aid), social media influencers are beginning to flock towards Instagram. Top Snapchat Influencers posted 25% more on Instagram over a 30-day window in a recent study.

We could go back and forth on this one, but the writing on the wall is clear: Snapchat has reason to worry. Instagram’s reach is proving to be a viable threat as it continues to create Snapchat-like features. Face filters will almost certainly tip the scales, just like Stories did.


Play the waiting game with Instagram Stories and their face filters, be patient for more functionality, sit tight for price points, and let the innovation unfold. If face filters evolve with brands in mind, they’re going to be a solid investment for your ad budget. The feature is still in its infancy, but you just know there is a team of developers hammering caffeine and banging out code so Instagram can improve it. If Instagram creates a diverse catalog of filters, your brand could take them for a spin and potentially put Snapchat in your rearview mirror.

As for today… Experiment now if possible, but hold off on forking over wads of cash. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But when they make a better it, you may as well put your trusted toy on the shelf and start playing with the new model. It’s like an alternate ending to Toy Story where Andy throws away Woody and just plays with Buzz Lightyear. Sad? Maybe. Realistic? Absolutely.

Who do you have your money on, and why? Let us know in the comment section below!

*Charts retrieved from Global Web Index and Mediakix