Company / division: Instagram
Instagram has had buy buttons and other e-commerce features for a while now, but it looks like it will be adding an appointment booking feature soon too, in another attempt to allow company accounts to turn viewing of pictures into actual business. It’s been fascinating to watch how Instagram has been able to turn something as simple as a photo stream into something much more like a shop window for brands, something that was inspired at least in part by how certain merchants in emerging markets were using the platform even before Instagram added these features formally. The headline here mentions Yelp as a target, but of course many of these businesses themselves compete with Amazon and other big online retailers, and so these features also enable smaller businesses to punch somewhat above their weight in that fight.
The ANA represents 1000 large advertisers including many of the largest companies in the US, so what it says definitely counts for something when it comes to advertising policy. And in this case it’s saying that it wants other big tech companies to submit to outside audits alongside Facebook and Google, who have already committed to do so. Strangely, Instagram is on the list anyway, alongside other independent names like Twitter and Snapchat. There really seems to be increasing pressure from advertisers for transparency and consistency, and this was one of the themes of P&G exec Marc Pritchard’s talk a few weeks back in which he called on the ad industry to do better on several fronts.
Just a quick one here to document yet another “borrowed” feature from Snapchat in Instagram: this time, geostickers. No sponsored stickers yet, but given how hard Facebook is currently pushing to find new ways and places to serve up ads in its various properties, those can’t be far behind. The geostickers are pretty limited for now, but no doubt they’ll also spread in time. This doesn’t feel like one of the most important missing pieces in Instagram’s feature set, but no doubt it’ll help Snapchat converts feel a little more at home once it rolls out more fully.
Instagram Stories is stealing Snapchat’s users – TechCrunch (Jan 30, 2017)
This would be very bad news if it turns out to be true – celebrities and those who manage celebrity and other accounts on Snapchat claim they’re seeing a significant reduction in views of their Stories on Snapchat as a result of both Instagram’s launch of its own Stories feature and Snapchat’s move to kill the Auto-Advance feature for Stories in its own app. This kind of thing is always worth taking with a pinch of salt – the ranges discussed here are very broad, and some of the data might be outliers – but the trend seems to be consistently downward, and is backed up by some app download data as well. The positive spin from Snap here would be that it’s actually focusing engagement more by only showing users the Stories they actually choose to see, but I’m not sure investors will buy that. Again, any day now we should have some real data from Snap to go on to evaluate engagement and usage, but this is another specific concern they’ll need to address in the S-1 filing. In the meantime, more evidence that Facebook and Instagram’s strategy here is paying off, and that when Facebook broadly launches its own Stories feature the impact could be even more severe.
Inside Instagram’s reinvention – Recode (Jan 23, 2017)
This is a great little profile of Instagram, with lots of little tidbits of information. There are several overarching themes: the mimicking of Snapchat features is definitely one of them, but the broader context is that Instagram is generally moving really fast to ship new features, which is particularly striking given that Kevin Weil, who runs product, came from Twitter, a company that often seems paralyzed by indecision when it comes to tweaking functions. The whole piece reinforces the sense that Instagram is the vehicle through which Facebook is both iterating more quickly and trying to compete more directly with Snapchat, while the evolution within the core Facebook product is slower and more deliberate.
As well as copying Snapchat’s Stories feature for the purposes of capturing more users and more of its existing users’ time, it appears Facebook/Instagram was creating a new channel for ads too. Instagram has already ramped up ads quite a bit to the point where roughly every 10 posts in my feed is an ad, and that’s probably about as far as it can go in the feed. But Stories offer another venue for advertising, and with users who have lots of Stories to view they’ll simply slot in between Stories from friends. Stories are easy to skip, so this shouldn’t disrupt the user experience too much, while delivering decent growth in ad revenue.
Great summary of the history of the Facebook Copying Snapchat narrative over the past few months. The interesting evolution during that time has been a shift in focus from trying to recreate new apps to mimic Snapchat in part or entirely to mostly using Instagram to borrow features.
Facebook’s first successful attempt to clone a Snapchat feature ironically came not in Facebook but in Instagram, an app it was able to acquire (unlike Snapchat itself). There’s plenty of evidence at this point that Instagram Stories have done very well for Facebook (and some that it’s hit Snapchat hard).