It is no surprise that social media platforms are always looking for ways to advance and improve their user offerings. With many being around for years and new channels consistently being developed, social networks need to find ways to grow with and stay relevant to their current audiences. If they are unable to mature with their audiences, they risk disappearing altogether. Through consistent updates, for both users and advertisers, Facebook grew from being a small social network for colleges and universities to being a global network with billions of users. In today’s competitive social networking world, it is a necessity to stand out. Social channels can achieve this through the value their offerings provide.
While platforms look for ways to stay relevant in today’s world, it seems that many are unable to create unique offerings. Just like movie remakes, it seems that many social features are rewrapped to appear new, but, in reality, are not. These “new” features typically mimic those favored by another platform’s audience. This can be observed in numerous instances; the first example is “stories.” Even though Stories appear to be the most popular on Instagram today, this is not where they originated. When they first appeared, many believed they were a copy of Snapchat’s central feed, also known as “stories.” After Snapchat introduced its stories feature in 2013, the company saw a drastic increase in growth rate. Unfortunately, Snapchat’s growth rate did slow by 82% after the launch of Instagram Stories in 2016. Instagram developed the feature as a way for individuals to post about their lives candidly and to drive sharing within the platform. This instance is not the first time Facebook and Instagram have released an almost similar product/feature to Snapchat. Users saw this with Slingshot, Poke, and Bolt – none of which found success. After observing the year over year success of Instagram Stories, it will be interesting to see if the next “new” feature, Instagram Reels, will succeed over its competitor, TikTok.
Instagram released Instagram Reels, a short-form video option, in August as a potential threat to TikTok. Similar to TikTok, Instagram Reels allows users to create 30-second videos with creative tools, such as customized music, special effects, scene-stitching, and text. Users can access and view created Instagram Reels through the explore tab, which looks almost like a replica of TikTok’s “For You Page.” Even with the TikTok similarities, many do not believe Reels will succeed and further grow the platform. Many videos shared as Instagram Reels were created in TikTok as they feature the TikTok watermark. Many Instagram Reels are also based on those trending on the competitor app. Lastly, you have to search out Instagram Reels. They are not served on a user’s main feed. Users need to actively go to the “Explore Tab” and click “Reels” to view. This may be a detriment to the knock off version. Unfortunately, Instagram has not released any growth data since its release in the U.S., but it will be interesting to see if the Millennials who flocked to TikTok during quarantine will leave to utilize the new Instagram feature.
These are only two examples of times when Instagram has taken a feature from a social network competitor, hoping to drive user growth. Even though these examples are showcasing Instagram, other social networks do the same thing. For instance, Live Video has spread across almost every social network. What do you think will be the next “new” feature trend?