Love It or Hate It: Instagram Stories

Digital Marketing, New Tech, Social Media

I think we can all agree that August 2nd, 2016 was a weird day for everyone not living under a rock. It was the day that our beloved photo- and video-sharing service introduced “Instagram Stories” to the world. Change is good. Change is necessary…Right?

Usually, yes. Especially in an industry that transforms so quickly that companies within are either forced to adapt or die. However this change that Instagram has made through its introduction of “Stories” just didn’t feel right.

First of all, it was a blatant copy of Snapchat Stories. Instagram didn’t even try to create a different name. Was that intentional or just lazy? We know what you’re doing Instagram. We KNOW.

Secondly, is a Stories feature even relevant to Instagram? I always considered Snapchat to Instagram as what Twitter is to Facebook. Snapchat is where it’s okay to get a little weird, not care how pixelated your photos are, and post videos from your drunken nights downtown because hey, they’ll be gone by the time you manage to crawl out of bed the next day. Instagram on the other hand has always been a ~classier~ place where you post pretty pictures and share things that you don’t mind your grandmother seeing. So what’s the point of adding Stories to it? The pictures I deem worthy for Instagram are typically filtered works of art. No way am I going to spend 20 minutes deciding what contrast and exposure to set my photo to, only to have to automatically wiped away 24 hours later. Even Instagram promotes itself as a vessel used to showcase the most aesthetic and creatively appealing content out there. So why include Stories if that content is only temporary and limited to those that follow you?

There are only two real ways that I see Instagram benefiting from this Stories feature:

  1. Celebrity users. The sting from Kim Kardashian’s takedown of Taylor Swift via leaked videos on her Snapchat is still fresh. The whole ordeal lead to thousands of new Snapchat followers for Kim Kardashian and more importantly, thousands of conversations that all conveniently revolved around Snapchat. Maybe Instagram watched this happen and wanted in on future action. Giving celebrities one platform for both permanent and temporary content certainly sounds nice. Especially for users that have already amassed millions on followers on Instagram and don’t want to have to start recruiting all over again for Snapchat.
  2. Advertising. AKA: the big bucks. There was certainly a lot of backlash when Instagram first announced they would be allowing advertisements to be included on users’ home feeds but that has sense died down as Instagram ensured that the marketing content is required to meeting the visually appealing standards of the service. Allowing advertisements into the Stories bar would be just an extension of this and maybe even be more comfortable for users to see. The success of allowing advertising on this feature has certainly already been proven by Snapchat’s recent revenue reports. Maybe Stories is just another way for Instagram to make a little more money.

Regardless of my feelings or speculations about Instagram Stories, it looks like it’s going to be sticking around for a while. It’s a cliché but only time will tell if this feature will be as successful as Instagram wants it to be. In the meantime, you can reach me on Snapchat (@liss.mkc)!


My 2017 Perspective:

Ah well here we are, a full year later and I find myself feeling rather humbled. Yes, Instagram Stories has surpassed Snapchat in daily users by a long shot. And yes, they continue to copy a lot of Snapchat’s best features, like filters and ads (putting their own twist on it of course).

In retrospect, a small piece of me knew this was how it would really play out. How could Instagram Stories fail? Facebook is a force to be reckoned with and when Snapchat turned down their $3 billion offer, we all should have seen this coming. Nobody puts Mark in the corner.

That being said, I have seen my assumptions about the “purposes” of each platform continue to hold true respectively. Yeah, we still post our drunken nights downtown on Snapchat. But with Stories, Instagram lets us show the classier version of our nights. You know, before they went downhill. There you’ll find the cute boomerangs of sparkling drink glasses clinking together, maybe with some fancy stickers added just for funsies. That much hasn’t changed. This example goes to show that Instagram Stories are definitely here to stay, but that they act more as an extending feature of Instagram and less as a carbon copy of Snapchat.

Personally, I still find myself using Snapchat consistently more than Stories when I want to share insignificant little bits of my life, but I see many of my peers taking to Instagram more every day. Truthfully, I just hope Instagram doesn’t make a pattern out of copying Snapchat, because I don’t want to see those damn Bitmojis any more than I have to.

 

Snapchat is Making a Spectacle

New Tech

Remember that time when Google promised us ‘Google Glass’ and then completely disappointed us? We were so excited when Google announced its plans to create a head-mounted, wearable computer. We thought we had finally made it to “the Future”. And then Google Glass was released, or at least a very expensive (~$1,500) beta version was, full of bugs and pretty much incomplete. It was all downhill from there, and the project has since been discontinued.

But don’t give up just yet! Snapchat is making headlines by attempting once again to take us all to the next level with their new (and limited) release of Snap Specs! Here is the need-to-knows on what exactly these crazy things are all about:

 

WHO: Snapchat! Well, actually, it’s just Snap now. The company did a little bit of housekeeping back in late September 2016 and now we will know them as ‘Snap, Inc.’

WHAT: ‘Spectacles’ are video-recording sunglasses with a 115-degree-angle lens. The wearer can take up to thirty seconds worth of video at any given time. Although only 10 seconds can be posted, the remaining time recorded will be broken into additional snaps. The recorded media will live on the glasses until you choose to transfer them to your Snapchat app, where they will be saved in the memories section.

It’s a one-size fits all deal, coming in colors of teal, coral, or black. The user gets an inward-facing light to signal that their camera is activated. To be slightly less creepy, everyone on the other side of the lenses gets an outward-facing light so that they know they are being filmed. The Specs come with a charging case with about a week’s worth of juice, although Snap promises that the glasses will last about a full day without requiring any charging. All this coming in at the low, low price of just $129.99.

WHERE: Alright so here’s the thing… Before you head over to Amazon or rush out of the house to go buy one of these new quirky colored wearable tech pieces, know that you probably won’t be able to find them.

Snapchat only just began selling Specs on November 10th, and they are in a very, very limited quantity. So limited, in fact, that you can only buy them from these minion-like yellow vending machines known as Snapbots. images.jpg

Seriously, why the minion face?

Anyways, the first sighting was in Venice, California, however they will continue to pop up unpredictably in different cities for a while. The Spectacles website will be providing a map to the Snapbot’s location 24 hours in advance (oh the suspense) and supposedly a local filter will become available to those on Snapchat who are within reach of the mysterious minion-machines.

WHY: So why risk the humiliating failure that Google went through with Glass? Some believe it’s Snapchat’s way of throwing down the gauntlet with Facebook, it’s biggest rival. If this endeavor is successful, it will prove that Snapchat is ready to start playing with the big boys and move beyond social-sharing into tech hardware.

For another thing, Snapchat is all about being cool and sharing personal moments with others. The glasses don’t look dorky like Google’s did (no offense, Google), so the adoption of this new device is already set up to be more successful with its target audience. Specs are also capable of reaching people on a level that Facebook can’t, simply because Facebook tends to be a little more formal and stiff than Snapchat is. I mean, you wouldn’t want to post a video on there that you grandmother could see, right?

And what’s just really cool is the bigger picture for users that Snapchat is attempting to connect with through Specs. CEO Evan Spiegel was quoted saying that recording video or taking photos with your phone “puts a wall in front of your face”. Snapchat is all about sharing your “in-the-moment” experiences with others, so that wall can be a problem for the user experience. Spectacles are intended to help tear down that wall and let people move out from the sidelines and actually be able to participate in the moment again.

Right now, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not Spectacles will actually make it big. But the main point here is that Snapchat is proving with these Specs that they are still relevant. I’d like to see Instagram try and copy THAT.

Apple Music: Genius or Evil?

New Tech

The highly anticipated release this August of Frank Ocean’s newest album, Blonde, as well as (bonus!!) his visual album, Endlesswas certainly something guaranteed to attract headlines from online media across the internet. These projects came only after four years of fans not-so-patiently waiting for their debut, but that’s not all people are talking about. Because of the long wait, some fans were left feeling a little disappointed when it was announced that Blonde was going to be available exclusively on Apple Music for the first two weeks of its release. Now to most people, two weeks in the grand scheme of things doesn’t sound like a long time, but for an album this hyped up many people were frustrated to find out they were essentially forced to either pay and subscribe to Apple Music or wait another two weeks for the album to be released onto Spotify and other streaming services (while all of their friends were already tweeting about how fire it is).

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It’s this exact dilemma that has created controversy surrounding the marketing strategy behind Apple Music. Is this a genius plan or is it just annoying to force fans into paying for their service if they want access to the music earlier?

It’s no secret that Spotify has been wildly more successful that Apple Music since Apple first introduced themselves as a serious competitor in the music streaming industry. Since then, Apple has tried a multitude of ways to catch up, from overhauling the service to be more simple to creating better ways for users to discover new artists and sounds. However, none of these changes showed much success, which is why the marketing team took this new approach of contracting deals with major artists to have exclusive first dibs. Frank Ocean is only the most recent artist to take this deal, with other notables being Drake and Chance the Rapper.

Since implementing this new strategy, Apple is quickly catching up to Spotify in paid subscribers, though not without a few grumbles from both users and members within the music industry itself. As successful as this strategy is, it can’t help but encourage more illegal torrenting of music on the internet- the very problem that lost-cost online streaming services like Spotify was helping combat previously. Why pay for two subscriptions when you can just do a little Googling and get the new music for free?

Almost nobody wins in this scenario- the artists get gypped out of compensation for their music, streaming services lose subscribers, and users wind up with nasty viruses on their computer. With consequences like this, it makes you wonder if Apple’s marketing strategy will hold up in the long term or if people will just find other ways to work around this exclusivity. Until then, I’ll just be patiently waiting for Blonde to drop on Spotify.

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