I recently wrote about how Instagram’s copycat tactics could be damaging Snapchat.

Well, Facebook’s been at it again.

It’s just announced the introduction of disappearing photos and videos into its messaging app, WhatsApp. Which, yes, is a feature that is pretty much identical to Snapchat Stories.

So, what will this mean for users of both? And what about brands? Here’s a bit more on the story.

What is the ‘Status’ feature?

WhatsApp has always provided users with the option of having a ‘status’. It’s the little phrase beside a person’s name that says ‘at work’, ‘busy’ or ‘at the gym’.

In fact, the app was originally built around this very idea, i.e. that you could let your friends or family know what you were currently up to. As the app evolved, it became one of the most under-used and forgotten about elements.

Now, ‘status’ is being reintroduced in a big way.

The all-new feature will let users share photos, GIFs or videos overlaid with drawings, emojis or captions. This content will be end-to-end encrypted, meaning that no outside party will be able to view it, and it will last for 24 hours before disappearing entirely.

Will it change user behaviour?

While Instagram also introduced this feature last year, Instagram Stories did not necessarily make much of a difference or impact when it comes to how users behave on the platform.

Instagram can largely be a passive user experience – you can simply use it to view other people’s content if you wish. On the other hand, WhatsApp has always been inherently active. To use it, you have to be engaged in chat, or else there’s not much point. With Status, WhatsApp users will now be able to do both.

Will brands get involved?

While some brands have already been using WhatsApp for marketing purposes - mainly to enable faster and more direct customer service - the new feature could open up a whole new realm of advertising opportunities.

Despite WhatsApp being against blatant brand advertising in the past, the opportunity to monetise could prove irresistible. There have been suggestions that it could start to insert full-screen ads in-between Statuses, following the example of both Snapchat and Instagram.

Similarly, brands could also make use of custom-made filters or emojis, using this to create a less obtrusive presence within dark social.

Will Snapchat suffer?

There’s no guarantee that the Status feature will even take off for WhatsApp, but with 1.2bn monthly users and 60bn messages being sent each day, I doubt it’s all that worried. After all, WhatsApp will not fundamentally change - it will retain its core messaging feature - but it will simultaneously be able to take (or attempt to take) a slice of Snapchat's pie.

Snapchat, on the other hand, might be a little concerned. Especially considering that stats from its latest IPO filing showed that the platform’s growth slowed 82% after Instagram Stories launched. If a similar thing happens on the back of Status, it could further hinder the platform’s global growth and revenue opportunities.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 22 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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