Why are Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat copying each other’s features?

Posted by Philip Storey on 21/04/17 16:03
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Philip Storey

Social network trends

For many years, social networks have borrowed features from one another. Historically, these “borrowed” features have been relatively subtle. However, in 2016 there was a clear acceleration in one social network effectively adopting another’s feature. This year, it’s become even faster, and this trend is set to continue.

For many years, social networks have borrowed features from one another. Historically, these “borrowed” features have been relatively subtle. However, in 2016 there was a clear acceleration in one social network effectively adopting another’s feature. This year, it’s become even faster, and this trend is set to continue.

What features are being “copied”?

The list of features being copied is extensive. There’s a great blog post over at Forbes explaining Facebook’s history of copying Snapchat for starters, but this goes much deeper than that. Instagram copied Snapchat’s stories feature last year in what Fast Company described as the Clone Wars, and only last month, Facebook adopted the very same stories functionality from Instagram.

Just when you thought that cloning was on ice, Instagram have now launched a feature that enables users to send photos that disappear after they’ve been seen once – you just tap the blue icon in a DM:

Instagram feature disappearing direct message.png

Why does this appear to be a strategy for social networks?

One thing is for certain, these are not coincidences or one-offs. This is a strategy.

Now, of course we know that Instagram and Facebook are one – they are owned by the same company. This gives them a competitive advantage over features that are seen in Snapchat, because they can test and distribute them across two networks, both of which (at least until now), have been used quite differently. Snapchat doesn’t have that luxury.

I think the main reason for this adoption was described perfectly in a book I read last week called “Building the Agile Business Through Digital Transformation’ by Neil Perkin and Peter Abraham.

They describe situations like this as ’transformed consumer contexts’, driven by the shift in power from organisations to consumers. Consumer expectations are without any doubt, higher than ever, meaning that once we experience a service or tool that’s a true game-changer, such as Uber or Amazon Prime or Amazon one-click purchase, we expect the same level of capability from any tool, service or company.

I feel that this is transcends how consumers feel about entire “If I can get it there, I want it here too”, is the theory. And this is the main reason I think social networks are cloning each other’s features as a strategy.

What features are being “copied”?

It’s easy to assume that this makes a social media marketer’s life a little easier. If similar features are released in a social network that have worked well in another that you’re already well-versed in, then broadly most of that is transferable? Correct, but we need to delve a little deeper.

The key to success is in thinking creatively at how you can differentiate how you use those new features to connect with people with value and purpose. A great place to start proactively, is by asking yourself what you would do differently if a feature in one social network suddenly became available in another. What would you do immediately? What would you do to innovate and differentiate? What other areas of your business could this potentially impact?

If you want to learn more about social media marketing strategies and how to increase the impact of your brand's content via social channels, why not speak to one of Enchant's social media specialists? Arrange a free consulation with Enchant Agency.


Topics: Facebook, Instagram, Instagram changes, Marketing strategies, Marketing strategy, Snapchat, social channels, Social media marketing, Marketing trends, Stories

Philip Storey

Written by Philip Storey

Philip Storey is the Founder and CEO at Enchant Agency. Philip is an email marketing specialist in London, UK. He has enabled hundreds of brands to improve their email marketing. Beyond marketing, Philip is a business coach, personal and professional development coach and mentor to business leaders and senior marketers.

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