The battle between competing Stories continues as Snapchat and Instagram have both built out their product offerings this week.
Instagram officially announced that GIF’s are now available as part of its Stories product. After limited rollouts and testing, users can now utilise a variety of animations over their videos and images to bring their stories to life.
Instagram also announced a new feature allowing users to upload videos and photos of any size to their Stories. This is a big update for Instagram as previously advertisers were restricted to crop videos to a 9:16 portrait format. This prevented some advertisers from running content on Instagram Stories. Dimensions can be altered by pinching and adjusting the size. Additional room that may be left if the images or videos of different sizes don’t quite fill the screen will be filled with a customized color gradient, to create a seamless feel. This feature is to be released in the “coming weeks”.
As Instagram continues to innovate Stories, Snap Inc also continues its attempt to keep Snapchat ahead by updating its product offering (let’s not forget where Stories came from).
This week Snapchat announced that some of its content will become shareable through a link that can be viewed by users who do not have the App. There will be three types of sharable stories: Official Stories, Our Stories and Search Stories. Official Stories are those from verified accounts (celebrities, organisations etc.) and will be available for 24 hours. Our Stories are the crowdsourced Stories that let users contribute snaps to a shared group that anyone on the App can view, these will be available for up to 30 days. Finally, Search Stories, which is another way to access public, user-generated snaps by searching keywords and which will also be available for 30 days.
The idea is to expose a broader audience to the variations of videos that appear on Snapchat and entice them into joining in on the fun by downloading the App. Snapchat has reported several quarters of anaemic user growth and the copying of its most popular features by other social networks has left it fighting for differentiation in a crowded social space.
These updates will support Snapchat’s roadmap of product innovation to drive long-term engagement, which it hopes will result in a boost to user numbers and stronger growth.
Instagram Stories currently has an audience base of 300m users – twice that of Snapchat – and if Snapchat wants to grow its audience base it must continue to evolve. It’s tough that when it does innovate, that innovation may only give it a small advantage before it becomes a social media standard offering; but that is the reality. The new Snapchat update will only be available where the latest version of the App exists, Australia and Canada. A spokesperson at Snapchat confirmed: “The company currently is not planning to run ads on the web content, but isn’t ruling out the possibility”. Watch this space to see if Snapchat decides to monetise in the future.