SnapChat not under threat from poor cousin Instagram

Facebook’s failed purchase of SnapChat is clearly having some impact at Instagram HQ, with a rival photo sharing service. The $3billion deal is off and the development race is on.

They clearly believe the functionality and service Snapchat has developed is one that will become profitable for the social network in light of Instagram’s introduction of advertising to the service back in October.

So much so Instagram went ahead and developed similar functionality to Instagram, which allows its users to send photos and videos to up to 15 friends at a time.

 

Perhaps Facebook just realised that to maintain their momentous growth they needed to add this service based on the numbers it can create. Shares on SnapChat count each time a piece of content is shared to each person, which means sharing a photo with 15 people means 15 photos have been shared, despite being the same photo at the same moment. With advertisers focused and mesmerised with big numbers SnapChat looks like a real contender with around 3 times the number of photos shares as Instagram.

This might have irked the Facebook board, who are now mainly used to being able to wave their chequebook around in order to buy up the most lucrative features and services. This time however they have to build it themselves.

Instagram Direct by idownloadblog

Unsurprisingly it looks and behaves very similar to SnapChat, with its main feature being the multiple selection user lists, which makes it easy to select a photo, select friends and send

. This ease of use combined with the 10 second limit the p

hoto is

available is what makes the service so compelling, especially for teenagers and ‘sexters’ (people who send

sexual texts). We have commented on this before, observing the feature copying that happens in the social media industry all the time.

However while other industry commentators are all focusing on the race between Twitter, Facebook and SnapChat we see something more serious going on.

Major talented development teams are failing to extend functionality and make it more useful than the predecessor. Social networks need to utilise their own strengths and focus on meeting the needs of their users, while expanding the product’s usability and appeal to other audiences. But not at the expense of their active user base like Twitter seems to be doing so much of late.

Screenshot of Snapchat by Wired

Screenshot of Snapchat by Wired

For example the teenagers who are a majority audience of SnapChat are not going to convert to Instagram Direct, as the photos, although set to private are archived and do not expire. That,a long with the collaborative tools that allow mutual editing of the image is the very reason people like SnapChat. It is great for creating memes and ‘funnies’ as well as sharing nudity.

From a user point of view not including expiry means what they send is vulnerable and can be recaptured and shared without their consent. This risk to the service’s integrity means that although Instagram may pull a few users from SnapChat for it’s photosharing function, it is unlikely to have a serious long-term effect on its numbers as this single difference makes all the difference. Sure the ease of photo-sharing Instagram Direct managed to capture from SnapChat is a step forward, but they could have offered a lot more in the way of interactive and collaborative features that enable people to come together and interact with the photo, especially given Kevin Systrom’s claim that;

It’s like gathering people around a photo, a moment, and being able to have a conversation about them.

Indeed Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner said;

“It’s like everybody is getting together and thinking, ‘How can we offer the same thing?’ The features themselves are cool but companies are having a hard time offering anything innovative or different.”

This is true but in such a race it is often more important to get a piece of tech live and ‘out there’ as soon as possible, measuring and asking for feedback on the service and how its users want to it developing.

Iterative design is not a new way of developing, but it does make everyone feel a little less impressed by what is being released. Instagram could have offered a range of better filters that focuses on groups editing and deliver the kind of features this group photo sending service lends itself to.

So what do you think about Instagram Direct’s features?  Should they have done more and how do you see it being used as a marketing tool?  Let us know below!

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