strategy for Instagram’s clone, according to a dozen analytics
providers, social media celebrities, and talent managers who told
TechCrunch they’ve seen a decline in Snapchat Stories usage since
Instagram Stories launched on August 2nd.
Most reported declines in Snapchat Stories view counts ranging from
15 to 40 percent, and a reduction in how often they or those they
monitor post to Snapchat Stories. Meanwhile, our sources report rapidly
growing view counts on Instagram Stories, and engagement-to-follower
rates one social influencer talent agent called “Insanely f*cking high”.
The success of Instagram Stories, the decline in Snapchat usage we’ve
heard from a wide array of sources, and Facebook’s relentless drive to
compete with the startup could spell trouble for Snapchat’s IPO on the NYSE market that’s expected in March. Snap Inc declined to comment for this story.
Here’s how the social media content industry sees the impact of Instagram Stories on Snapchat.
Instagram Vs Snapchat
“Everyone is posting way less. Some are not posting at all anymore”
on Snapchat, says the CEO of a social content production studio about
the dozen social media stars they represent.
Several sources refused to be named in print for fear of retaliation
from Snapchat or because they weren’t authorized to disclose client
data. But across the social content production firm’s stars, the CEO
says there’s been an average decline in Snapchat Stories views of 20 to 30 percent from August until mid-January.
In the 25 weeks since launch, Instagram Stories has reached 150
million daily users. That’s the same number of users that Snapchat’s
whole app reportedly hit around June 2016, after seeing swift growth
from 110 million daily users in December 2015, Bloomberg
reported. Snapchat hasn’t announced a higher number since, nor has one
leaked, despite it trying to impress potential investors during its
current pre-IPO roadshow.
Snapchat is expected to publicly file to IPO this week,
and that might include some larger stats. But the consensus from our
sources is that they’d be higher if not for Instagram Stories, and
Snapchat’s long-term growth, especially internationally, will be
hindered by the competition.
Analytics Provider Shows Widespread Snapchat Decline
“Overall, from August to November 2016, the average unique viewers
per Snapchat Story has decreased about 40%” says Nick Cicero, CEO
of creative studio and social video analytics platform Delmondo. His
company analyzed 21,500 Snapchat Stories to discover the steep decline.
Meanwhile, influencer marketing platform TheAmplify’s CEO Justin
Rezvani says “On average our influencer community is seeing 28 percent
higher open rate on Instagram than Snapchat”, referring to view count.
As for downloads, App Annie shows Snapchat saw a big drop right when
Instagram Stories launched at the beginning of August. It fell to its
lowest ranking all year, #11, after hovering in the top 3 for the first
half of 2016. It’s unclear why it bounced back at the end of October,
but it’s begun to slip again. App Annie shows a steep decline in downloads for Snapchat when Instagram Stories launched at the start of August
Removing Auto-Advance Added Friction To Snapchat
One thing that’s important to know as we review these reports is that Snapchat removed its Auto-Advance feature
on October 7th, so users could no longer instantly watch every Story in
their list in a row. Instead they had to manually select Stories to
load as an ad hoc Story Playlist (pictured here), though there’s a
little-known way to select all Stories with by tapping the triangular
This change should have directly caused some drop in views since
Snapchat users aren’t being shown Stories they’re less interested in,
which they might have fast-forwarded through while still triggering view
counts. Snapchat marketing and analytics company Mish Guru’s CEO Thomas
Harding says that in October when Snapchat removed Auto-Advance, a
selection of its client accounts that have been posting consistently saw
an immediate 9.64% drop in views.
You could argue that the remaining views are more intentional and
therefore more valuable. But the change also made it less convenient to
lean back and watch a day’s worth of Snapchat the way you used to on
Snapchat and can on Instagram thanks to its Auto-Advance feature. And
several sources think that’s leading some users to open Snapchat less
Stars See Snapchat Views Down 15 to 30 Percent
Social talent agent Charlie Buffin who represents some former Vine
stars says one of his top creators was averaging 330,000 views per day
on Snapchat in late 2015 until June 2016. But by December, they were
receiving 205,000 to 250,000 views per day.
“It is clear to us that regular users’ Snapchat usage/engagement have
gone down significantly since the release of Instagram Stories” writes
Buffin. He also noted that “Snapchat removing the Auto-Advance feature
has affected the natural ‘binge-watching experience’ for consumers,
which is really cutting into views for creators.” But Snap Inc doesn’t
seem to care. “Snapchat has always remained distant from its creator
community, which is not a strong move for the company” Buffin concluded.
One star, Hannah Stocking, saw her Snapchat Stories views fall from
150,000 on August 16th to 90,000 on January 17th. That’s despite massive
growth on other platforms like YouTube, and Instagram where she rose
from 1.2 million to 4.3 million followers in the same time frame. “Her
Instagram Story numbers are growing faster than anything right now” says
John Shahidi, founder Shots Studios, the Justin Bieber-backed selfie
app and video creation startup that represents Stocking.
Media marketing and business development agency Fighter Interactive’s
CEO Kwasi Asare tells me “Snapchat opens have gone down a minimum of 15
percent for some big social media stars.” He sees the removal of
Auto-Advance as mistake, saying “Snapchat messed up by letting people
choose whose stories they view individually. Instagram has more of a
flow where it allows you to watch the stories of everyone you’re
Asare also believes Instagram’s clone has quickly risen to equal
status with teens, noting that “Most kids are starting to post on
Instagram or Snapchat, and then post on the one they didn’t post on
Influencers Crave Instagram’s Reach
Social talent media company Galore’s CEO Mike Albanese says
“Influencers that were late to build an audience on Snapchat pretty much
abandoned the platform because it was so much easier for them to reach
more people through their existing audience on Instagram Stories.”
That said, he was the only source we asked who said that they’d seen
growth in Snapchat views, though that was for “top Snapchat influencers”
like models Val Mercado and Sahara Ray, and actress Ava Allen who he
says pour a ton of effort into Snapchat and heavily promote their
account through their other social presences. But he believes “there are
less Snapchat Stories being published on a daily basis overall versus
August of last year.”
A leading social media talent company’s co-founder tells me that
amongst the stars they work with, “Almost all of them are down about 20
to 25 percent on Snapchat” since August.” One of their creators was
seeing 75,000 opens per Story in August, and only 50,000 now. Another
went from 50,000 to 30,000. Meanwhile, the stars are seeing 6 to 10
percent of their Instagram followers opening their Instagram Stories
each day, which the co-founder called “really f*cking high”.
“Marketers are dedicating more resources to Instagram because you
can’t grow on Snapchat. Now there’s a lot of campaigns we don’t even
need to do on Snapchat.”, they say. “The only way to grow is from
[cross-promoting on] YouTube or Instagram. Snapchat is making some of
the same mistakes as Vine. They aren’t embracing creators. They want to
be private messaging.” In contrast, Instagram promotes social media
stars and helps them grow their Stories views by featuring them on its
Explore tab that Snapchat lacks.
Then they gave perhaps the most damning quote we heard. “Everyone has forgotten that Instagram Stories is a Snapchat clone.”
Raining on Snapchat’s IPO Parade
These industry reports build on a mountain of anecdotal evidence
about Instagram stealing Snapchat users that I’ve heard online and from
my network, and seen in my own usage and view counts.
to challenge Snapchat after multiple failed attempts since it turned
down the social giant’s first acquisition offer in 2012. Poke,
Slingshot, Bolt, and Flash all flopped as standalone apps, while baking
Snapchat’s best features deep inside Facebook seemed to have little
Instagram’s feed, the Facebook family of apps discovered a way to make
its version more convenient to use than the original. And emboldened by
Instagram’s success, now Facebook is testing similarly designed Snapchat
clones in its main app as Facebook Stories, and its chat apps as Messenger Day and WhatsApp Status.
Snapchat lovers are exporting and syndicating their Stories to
Instagram for extra reach. Those who’d only recently gotten into posting
Snapchat Stories are finding it easier to watch and share on Instagram
where they already spend time and have built a social graph. And people
who’d never tried Snapchat but were intrigued by Stories are finding
Instagram is good enough that there’s no need to sign-up for Snapchat.
It’s that last one that might be most threatening to Snap Inc’s IPO.
We’re already seeing how Instagram is eating up Snapchat usage, reducing
the Stories views it depends on to drive ad revenue. Yet what matters
to Wall Street is growth potential. Ad-driven social networks need
massive scale, which usually comes from international domination.
That can’t happen if Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp
deliver the Stories feature to foreign countries where Snapchat hasn’t
gained traction already. Around 80 percent of Instagram’s 600 million monthly users are international. And if Instagram Stories continues on this trajectory, it could prove bigger than the app it copied.
As I wrote a week after the launch, Instagram Stories castrated Snapchat,
even if it can’t kill it. Snapchat will continue to have a lively user
base, though Instagram may inhibit its continued expansion.
Reports from social media celebrity managers and analytics companies
that work with big accounts may present a more dire outlook than what’s
going on with average teens on Snapchat. Kids under 25 in the US who are
completely immersed in Snapchat might not stray. But Instagram may be
convincing the 25 to 35-year olds who came of age on its app to stick
around, while it’s swooping on international teens before Snapchat gets
popular in their market. Plus, vanity dictates that people will share
where they get the most views, and many people have spent years longer
building their Instagram audience.
Going Public With A Different Story
With its future in broadcast social media under fire, Snap Inc may
need to tell a different story for its IPO. At the least, it might have
to concentrate on touting its average revenue per user rather than its
It has spent the past quarter repositioning itself as “a camera company” that makes hardware like its Spectacles camera-sunglasses. It’s also tried to double-down on the app’s first feature, disappearing private messaging, by adding a groups feature and improved navigation. But scrounging together hardware profits and monetizing chat directly can be quite challenging.
In six months, the game has changed for Snapchat, and not in its
favor. Once the undisputed king of cool amongst Western teenagers with
the potential to disrupt the world’s biggest social network, it’s now in
danger of becoming just one of several popular apps for ephemeral
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