It’s no coincidence that Snapchat and Instagram share many of the same features. Since the two social media platforms started going toe-to-toe, Instagram has always seemed to reproduce Snapchat’s successful developments. Stories, selfie filters and expiring messages are just a few of the lookalike features Instagram released after Snapchat. Instagram’s VP of Product Kevin Weil addressed this accusation in a recent interview, claiming that imitating competitors is just how the tech industry works.
Is Instagram’s apparent theft really a bad thing for marketers? After all, the features the platform has “borrowed” from Snapchat have presented its users with better experiences. From a marketer’s perspective, that’s all that matters. Social Media Explorer asked several social media experts to share their thoughts on Instagram’s habitual thievery. Here’s what they said:
Q: Now that Instagram has finished copying every single Snapchat feature (the latest being #selfie filters), will they turn elsewhere to copy somebody else?
Jennifer Forrest, Director of Social Media at DEG Digital: If Instagram is going to copy anyone moving forward, I think it will be parent company Facebook. Specifically, I foresee Instagram copying how Facebook does advertising around live video.
Brian Moran, entrepreneurial consultant: Everyone copies good ideas. It’s been going on since man invented the wheel. Instagram’s next move should be to make their name a verb—as in “I instagrammed it.” That’s when your product or service has built a solid foundation.
Joel Comm, author, speaker, brand influencer: Snapchat still has a feature advantage, but when Instagram starts offering custom geofilters, they will seize Snapchat’s greatest chance for growth.
Jason Falls, Founder of Conservation Research Institute: Instagram doesn’t need to go copy anyone else because they don’t have any legitimate competitors for the photo/video sharing experience, and they are plugged into Facebook’s powerful ad manager. They’re just keeping up with Snapchat so they don’t lose users. Snapchat will always be a challenger brand, though. They don’t have the power of Facebook behind them.
Josh Steimle, influence coach, author, CEO of MWI: I’m all in favor of app companies copying each other when they see a feature that would be beneficial to their users—this is a large part of how progress happens, as cutthroat competition between companies leads to benefits for consumers. That said, if the best a company can come up with for its users is, “Yeah, we can do that, too,” then that leaves something to be desired. One would hope Instagram would not only add in features it sees elsewhere, but also innovate, take some risks, and push boundaries without waiting for someone else to do the heavy lifting first.
Drew Neisser, CEO of Renegade, LLC: Instagram continues to thrive thanks to its “fast follower” approach. “Borrowing” many of Snapchat’s key features has attracted new users most likely at Snapchat’s expense. The only possible blemish on the horizon is that Instagram has lost its effortless simplicity that was at the heart of the brand’s initial appeal.
Q: Will Instagram just wait for Snapchat to add some new stuff, and then copy that?
Stephen Monaco, Founder of Future Marketing Institute: Instagram is likely to continue “borrowing” new features from Snapchat as they’re added. This blatant copying of features is bothersome. Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, seems to have no shame.
Jennifer Forrest: There’s an obvious arms race between Instagram and Snapchat to compete for user attention. And while Snapchat has been first on many of these features, Instagram still has a leg up, especially since Snap just went public and now must place a real focus on retaining users. There’s room for both Instagram and Snapchat, but the question is for how long?
Jason Falls: Snapchat is the only real competitor for Instagram, so it’s logical that they would at least match feature sets. It’s not uncommon. I’m sure if Ford invented power steering, Chevy added it the next year. Instagram may be prone to pull ideas from competitors, but those features have helped the brand expand its user base. Therefore, it’s not a question of effectiveness for Instagram’s copycat tactic; it’s simply a question of morality. As long as Instagram keeps wowing users with nifty bells and whistles, the platform will continue to prosper—regardless of where those bells and whistles came from.
Drew Neisser: No. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Instagram will actually develop new unique features. These features will help restore perceptions of Instagram as an innovator and perhaps even return it to its roots of providing flickable images of delight. Or at least, that’s what I would advise them to do!
Instagram may be prone to pull ideas from competitors, but those features have helped the brand expand its user base. Therefore, it’s not a question of effectiveness for Instagram’s copycat tactic; it’s simply a question of morality. As long as Instagram keeps wowing users with nifty bells and whistles, the platform will continue to prosper—regardless of where those bells and whistles came from.
Do you think it’s acceptable for Instagram to lift features from other platforms?