The Great “Stories” Heist, Two Years Later
It’s been two years since Instagram (aka Facebook) pulled off one of the greatest copycat moves in digital by mimicking Snapchat’s wildly popular “Stories” functionality on their own sight. While originally planned as a defensive move to stave off a surging competitor, Instagram’s version of Stories was the precursor to an era of reinvention at the once stagnant social platform. Two years later Instagram’s MAUs are up 33% to 400M worldwide and engagements per user are increasing. So yes, it was a great decision to steal a play from Snapchat’s playbook.
Besides the immediate impact of new users and growing ad revenue, the story of Stories (sorry!) on Instagram goes much deeper. As Instagram Founder and CEO Kevin Systrom describes in an interview with The Verge, the decision to launch Stories became the seminal moment of cultural change for the whole company. In the two years before the move Instagram was preoccupied with defending what it was already doing to its new Facebook owners. But with the Stories pivot and ensuing success came a “spirit of experimentation”, which has helped Instagram push the envelope of innovation ever since.
Besides just a story of one Social copying another, for me this is a lesson about defying complacency. No matter how successful a company or individual becomes, falling into a rut (or comfort zone, if you prefer the term), can be the beginning of the end. Only by continually challenging your own conventions can you evolve with the times and maximize all of your future potential.