Since Instagram Stories launched in August 2016, the feature has garnered 150m daily users – the same number Snapchat reported for the entirety of its app in June.

Ahead of Snapchat’s highly anticipated IPO, there have been suggestions that the platform’s popularity is dwindling in light of Instagram’s success.

So, is this really the case? Here’s a quick look at how the platforms have evolved since last summer.

Snapchat vs. Instagram

While the claims are unsubstantiated, a recent report suggests that view counts for Snapchat Stories declined by an average of 20%-40% from August to January.

From analysis of 21,500 Snapchat Stories, analytics platform Delmondo also say that the average unique viewers per story has decreased by around 40%.

But it's not all bad news. A separate report from eMarketer predicts strong growth for Snapchat’s ad revenues. Driven largely by ads placed in the app’s Live Stories section, US revenues are predicted to more than double from $348m in 2016 to $804m in 2017.

To sure up its finances for the coming year, Snapchat has reportedly been seeking big spending commitments from ad agencies.

The company is apparently asking for amounts between $100m and $200m, despite the fact that ad giant WPP only spent around $90m with Snapchat in 2016.

Meanwhile, Instagram Stories has enjoyed rapid success. Not only did it reach the 150m milestone in an impressively short amount of time, but it is still building on this with further additions to the feature.

It recently announced that it is to add advertising into the mix (again following on from Snapchat’s example last June), allowing 30 companies to place ads within Stories.

With 74% of US companies planning to use Instagram this year, it appears brands are increasingly favouring it over Snapchat. This is cemented by a recent study that found 30% of surveyed brands with a Snapchat account are dormant on the platform

Finally, see the below Google Trends snapshot for an overview of the comparative search interest worldwide.

Why are users moving to Instagram?

So, why exactly are brands and consumers more interested in Instagram Stories? One possible reason for the decline in Snapchat views could be the decision to remove the autoplay feature in favour of a queuing system.

Although the change aimed to provide greater control, offering the chance to cherry-pick content, it actually meant that people were no longer able to use Snapchat in the way that they had grown accustomed. While it’s true that view counts now show what users are actively watching, and are therefore more valuable, the disruption could have impacted user behaviour in general.

In a wider sense, some say that Snapchat is a one-trick pony, meaning that if users prefer the experience of watching disappearing stories elsewhere, the platform has nothing else to offer. On the other hand, Instagram is able to rely on its original features - as well as Facebook's involvement.

Recent decline could also be put down to a case of following the herd, with a wealth of social media influencers choosing Instagram over Snapchat due to its opportunities for greater reach. In Econsultancy’s Voice of the Influencer report, 74% of influencers cited Instagram as platform that they are most influential on, with Snapchat even coming below Facebook and Twitter.

It's not clear from the report whether influencers are drawn to Instagram because that's where the audience is, or whether their audience follows them to the platform. It's probably the former, but either way it's another plus for Instagram.

The future for both platforms  

Despite constant suggestion that Instagram Stories is a Snapchat clone, it has also been borrowing from Facebook and Twitter of late with the introduction of live video streaming.

Following on from the launch of Boomerang and an increase in video length, video in general looks to be a clear focus for Instagram. With this and the aforementioned ad integration, the clear opportunity for monetisation could prove to be irresistible.

Meanwhile, Snapchat is focusing on the user experience, having taken steps to improve its navigation with the introduction of a new search functionality.

Now, users can find groups, friends and stories from a search bar that’s constantly visible. 

With some users put off by Snapchat’s arguably confusing and less-appealing interface, this could help the platform bite back at Instagram.

What’s more, with the arrival of its first hardware device in the form of Spectacles, continued focus on the user experience and wider diversification could offer a boost.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 1 February, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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