When The Facebook Died: Commentary on Instagram Stories

Facebook is the king of copycats.
Like the beast that can’t stop consuming all the traffic and shares, Facebook can’t stop.

And yet…the innovation is gone. We’ve read about how Facebook is hollow — consuming content but at it’s lowest engagement and personal sharing levels of all times. So they have to buy (WhatsApp, Instagram, etc) because they can’t beat. Has Facebook has lost their magic?

Not in revenue — they are killing it: Mobile-first, maximizing ad revenue like a true ad network, with the ultimate targeting layers and persona-based performance marketing. It works. For businesses and for fans.

Facebook has lost it’s way so it acquires, buries, or in the case of it’s desire to be like Snapchat — copies.

Instagram was what Facebook never was and also what they lost. Simple sharing of a moment. Picture worth a thousand words. And no post without a picture, so the authenticity carried through. The moment was the photo was the comment but the photo. I adopted it Day #1, dropped Facebook (never been back), and enjoyed everything about the true moments.

And then there’s Snapchat — sneaking in the night. Suddenly you find out all the friends you love who they share are sharing here. Real moments, but sans the posing and prepping and orchestrating and preparing. Instagram changed. We see stats that teen girls spend up to 45 minutes through 10+ photo versions, posting/friend feedback/taking down/reposting to get the perfect pic that stays forever. The personal brand layer that we all use social media for is now gone — because Snapchat is true social.

Take it back to the beginning of why social started. Before the Kardashians, before MySpace…social was just sharing ourselves. We lost that in all the celebrity wannabee and idolization. But not with Snapchat. Snapchat was different. From the very start it was fast, quick, authentic sharing of you, in the moment. No editing, no adjusting. It’s real.

Every social media tool has the ‘feed.’ Like we pull up at the trough and read about people’s opinions on the election or latest on mobile marketing or Team Taylor or whatever, it’s this river in every app with a little bar on the top or the bottom to click to share. But the core is the feed. Snapchat was built to share first. The UX is immersive in sharing first. About you, in the moment. SHARE RIGHT NOW. And people loved it because it’s authentic, unedited. You don’t like it, it goes away. The permanent and often fake, pressured, view of ourselves on social is gone with Snapchat. Temporary sharing is much more real and much less pressure than the permanent view or your PR self. Having both in one place? Could be ideal depending on your mood.

And by the way…it was fun! Lenses! Filters! Stickers! Draw on pictures! Simple but fun little things that no one else had or has.

So Facebook got scared. Couldn’t top it. Couldn’t beat it. Couldn’t buy it. And their core app isn’t built for it (plus focused on Facebook Live). But look! They have a photo app so good idea…add it there.

“Hi! We just copied Snapchat and shoved it on your Timeline.” Surprise! Instagram adds Stories. Don’t worry — it’s not like Snapchat; it IS Snapchat. I mean, they didn’t even try to rename it. People are mad, people are upset, people will get over it, people don’t really care that much. The functionality is limited, there’s less to do, there’s less commenting, it’s less fun. But it’s a start. And Instagram is big. So there’s a good chance it pulls a few that use Instagram less back into Instagram (which Facebook hopes), and then there’s the chance that they don’t care and stick with Snapchat.

So why did Facebook do it? They want to be everything to all people. My grandpa told me once that you can’t be everything to everyone and do it well. Poke, chat, like, emotions, chat, share, write, post pics, stream live, 3–5 apps, etc. It’s too much. Snapchat has an advantage in authenticity, fun factor, and simplicity. As much as Facebook tried to ignore it, you know it was eating them alive for a full carbon copy insert. And yet, it’s noted that even Instagram photo sharing is slowing, so the maturing of the app must demand new features. It’s as much a validation of Snapchat’s model as a lusty jealous jab to try to kill to keep shareholder expectations aloft. And Facebook is scared. Banking firms have noted that based on pace, Snapchat could cut into Instagram revenue as early as Q4 of this year. Instagram is still 300 Million actives to Snapchat’s 150 Million but with Snapchat on the rise and Instagram leveling off, there’s a cross-roads ahead.

My wife is on Instagram exclusively. She shares. She likes that the pictures are there and come back in Timehop. She take amazing photos of our kids and their adventures. Snapchat or Instagram Stories = no interest/completely useless. I do believe the core of what Instagram was (saving moments) is gone now, and that it’s evolved to a hybrid content platform providing options for moments and lifecasting, but erasing the simple core of what Instagram was.

Meanwhile, I’m watching all my Instagram friends and those I pretend I’m friends with experiment, post, ask if they should post Instagram or Snapchat. Ultimately, views will win. If someone tries parallel content (you should try this) and it works better on one side or the other, than go that way.

Worse case, this likely carves off some of the old people and businesses that can’t figure out Snapchat, thinking they have a solution that can leverage Facebook’s ad targeting — very true. Instagram Stories is not Snapchat. Snapchat is not Instagram Stories, but they don’t have the resources that Facebook does…and Facebook versions products quickly. We will see quickly what comes next. Facebook does better with Analytics so assume that ads and tracking will come quickly to monetize (ie learn, experiment and use it for free right now). Snapchat does better with facial recognition, fun and participation likely coming up with ways to better leverage geo-location and image recognition for value delivery to consumers than Facebook ever has.

All social networks converge. Sadly, they all start to look like one another after a bit. Feeds are stories. Likes are hearts. Shares are shares. Value to current users are added, likely for retention benefits. But I’m in burnout and wondering why I need all these networks.

Facebook is killing Twitter. Facebook Live is killing Periscope. Messenger and WhatsApp are killing all other messenger apps. And yet Snapchat continues to grow. Maybe Instagram has a chance or maybe this is a desperate move. Maybe people just want a simple tool to be themselves and have some fun. And maybe Snapchat has it’s own space to live and it’s not either/or.

You decide.
This is the real vote of 2016.