Zuckerberg has plenty of cards up his sleeve to ensure Instagram has the upper hand on the competition, and he’s dealt out feature after feature…

Corks have been popping at Instagram headquarters this summer, as June marked the 1 billion monthly user count – making Instagram the third most used platform behind parent company, Facebook, and Google-owned YouTube.

The festivities continued into July, as Instagram Stories celebrated 2 years in action. So as the smoke from the birthday candles clears, we’re looking at how the image-sharing app has challenged the competition with updates, formats and features in a bid to dominate the social media stratosphere.

Long Form Content: YouTube vs. IGTV

In July, Instagram revealed IGTV – a long-form video platform, which can be accessed through Instagram, or in its standalone app – and it’s blown up. In AI analysis from Social Chain, the new platform quickly became the most talked about Instagram update on Twitter this year to date, with an impressive 73% share of the conversation.

Currently, YouTube holds the crown for long-form video content, but Instagram isn’t going to let this stop them biting at their heels.

Brands have been quick to jump on the band wagon, with everything from the weird – such as Netflix posting an hour of hamburger eating – to the wonderful – with National Geographic adapting the finale of One Strange Rock to beautifully fit the vertical format.

Plus, it’s an instant hit with influencers, who can share their newsfeed content and, now, long-form videos in one easy place. Influencers embracing IGTV are starting with one-foot forward, as their established Instagram following will receive notifications, and be subscribed to their IGTV channel.

Much debate has swirled around whether IGTV will be the demise of YouTube, but we’re placing our bets on it being unlikely. While IGTV may become a significant platform in its own right, YouTube is too deeply engrained in our social media ways for its bitter end just yet.

See our Central Intelligence YouTube content. 

Stories: Snapchat vs. Instagram

Because Instagram Stories have become such an integral part of the platform, it’s easy to think that they’ve been going much longer than 2 years. The ephemeral format – ‘borrowed’ from Snapchat – allows users to share photos, videos and Boomerangs, and thanks to Stickers, much more.

Instagram’s sticker pack is jammed with variety – including locations, mentions, hashtags, and more recently, music, GIFs, polls and questions. It seems Instagram has cherry-picked the best bits from other apps and platforms for its own features.

While taking advantage of Facebook’s deal with Universal Music, Instagram’s addition of music stickers gives users the chance to channel some serious karaoke vibes – harking back to apps such as Dubsmash and Music.ly. Their polls, sliders and question stickers open up two-way conversations, with influences from Reddit, Tumblr and Ask.FM, but in a truly ‘Instagram’ way.

Brands have found boundless opportunities with Instagram Stories, as the platform gives them the chance to build a solid relationship with their customers. Perfect for sharing more personal, less polished, behind the scenes content.

But that’s not to say Stories can’t be works of art – we’re always looking for new ways to make the most of Stories, and how we can push them creatively. Businesses can enjoy up to 3 chapters in a sponsored Story, while organic posting can show just how innovative brands can be.

Instagram Stories are posing a serious threat, with Snapchat battling its own woes of a controversial re-design and a loss in users in Q2 of 2018, its an opportune moment for Instagram to go in for the kill, and continue to drive the conversion from Snapchat to Instagram Stories.

See our Kong: Skull Island Instagram Stories & our The First Purge Snapchat Filter

Shoppability: Pinterest vs. Instagram

While mood-board and idea hub, Pinterest, has never been a platform focused on socialising, it has become a significant platform for brands. In 2015, it introduced Shoppable pins, allowing businesses to neatly streamline between Pinterest, and the checkout – perfect for a platform where 93% users actively use it to plan purchases.

This streamlining of the user experience – from scrolling to spending – now appears on Instagram, with the introduction of shoppable tags, in both Stories and newsfeed posts.

Instagram first started testing shoppable tags in 2016, before rolling it out in newsfeed posts during March this year – and it wasn’t long before their Stories followed suit, in June. Sponsored Instagram Shops have also been hitting newsfeeds – with posts showcasing products, and expanding to reveal the point of purchase.

For a visual platform where, often, style and aesthetic goes hand-in-hand with success, shopping was a natural fit, and now brands have the chance to showcase their products in more creative ways than ever – of course, with a direct link to the checkout.

While Instagram’s Shopping tags may be influenced by Pinterest, there’s no competition here. Purchases made through Pinterest are likely to be planned and researched, whereas Instagram offers a sense of spontaneity, as users scroll before something catches their eye.

Do It For The ‘Gram

Instagram’s successes have come from their drive to keep things fresh – be it innovating, or out-right copying and improving. As Instagram continues its domination, more features will come, and more competitors will fall. All we know is we’re happy to come along for the ride.

Think your campaign could benefit from Instagram? Get in touch to see how our team can add some creative flair to your paid and organic content.