Instagram face filters are released: sigh, complain, join.

By Simon Ensor
Social Media 17.05.2017

In the UK (and presumably all around the world) we are taught from a young age that plagiarism is bad and should be punished. However, it has become apparent that this is not the case in the world of tech, a world supposedly so focused on innovation and growth. It turns out that if you can’t patent it, be prepared for your closest competition to unashamedly copy.

Expedia, Trivago, Kayak.

Hailo, Lyft, Uber.

Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook.

Whilst we squirm a little in our seats at the clear rip off of Snapchat’s features, it must be said that at least Facebook and Instagram don’t deny it. Nor should the recent release of Instagram’s Face Filters (or ‘selfie filters’) come as a surprise. They have said that they were working towards integrating a filter feature for a while now.

Where does that leave Snapchat?

Snapchat does still have a healthy amount of users (150+ million active daily users) but this update from Instagram couldn’t really have come at a worse time. Let’s look at an overarching timeline of tragic events for Snapchat:

August 2016: Instagram announce the Stories feature

2nd March 2017: Snapchat IPOs and closes first day of trading up 44%, but after less than two weeks the stock has plummeted around 20% of that figure.

April 13th 2017: Instagram announce 200 million daily users of stories (more than Snapchat)

April 26th 2017: Instagram announce they have passed 700 million users

May 11th 2017: Snapchat’s share price takes a hit of ~25% in a single day after first quarter targets are missed across the board.

May 16th 2017: Instagram announce their face filters and other features

As you can see, it’s been a rough time for Mr Spiegel and his merry band of tech nerds. A falling share price, failure to hit targets and the biggest kid in the schoolyard hell bent on pummeling you into oblivion can’t feel good.

There are positives though. Snapchat’s filters are more comprehensive and in terms of augmented reality (which is how a lot of people are describing the feature), Snapchat’s filters definitely ‘augment’ more than Instagram’s. As such, we envisage Snapchat holding onto the imagination of the younger generation for a little while longer. In addition to this, Snapchat entered the market as pioneers of time based sharing and have continued to innovate with the inclusion of filters. Don’t count them out just yet.

Does this not look bad on Instagram?

I would wager that most people look at this and feel a little bit like Instagram should be punished somehow. Initial reactions may include “really?”, “can they do that?” and “what?”. Probably followed by a few diatribes against Zuckerberg and how large corporations control our lives. What next? Well…..people will obviously want to check it out to see what the fuss is about. 200 million daily stories users and growing.

It should look bad. It really should. But people don’t care, it’s Instagram. The world of beautiful models, careful lighting on smashed avocado and poached eggs, and face filters.

Instagram is not a Facebook. It’s still cool and it has over 700 million users. Whilst nothing is forever, much like Facebook, Instagram now has a certain amount off critical mass which allows them to do things that others would not get away with. Speak out against Instagram? How dare you, after all it’s given you.

Maybe that’s why Facebook have allowed Instagram to go first. Perhaps they see Instagram as having the perfect size and fanbase for introducing new features, whereas Facebook is likely to receive a less positive reaction.

The point is that Instagram Stories was a carbon copy of one of Snapchat’s main features but has now outgrown it. Do you think that further copying is suddenly going to produce an epiphany moment? No. People know it’s copying but they want it. Forget about the fact that you can now send direct images and videos that delete in 24 hours on Instagram, that is but a side point.

Innovation is not needed….right now

The amazing part of all this? Instagram and Facebook are not denying anything. They have openly said that Snapchat deserve all the credit, followed very quickly by preaching that it is more important how you use that tech to engage users, i.e:

thanks for the idea Spiegel, we’ll take it from here

They are simply going to copy all of Snapchat’s features and make them available to an audience that is many, many times larger. How Snapchat continues to exist after this point is yet to be seen but when it comes to innovation, whilst Snapchat absolutely have to, Instagram and Facebook do not. They just copy and expand. Their innovation comes in the form of replicating and developing, in this case likely increasing the amount (and functionality) of face filters.

We are witnessing the potential dismantling of a company, by a bigger company, in a very public sphere. Of course, innovation will be required for Instagram and Facebook to continue on their trajectories. The fact that they are going through this process of crushing Snapchat is testament to the threat that the platform poses. The problem is that until that threat is removed, innovation does not seem all that high on their agenda.

Moving Forward

We are confident that Instagram filters will be a success and will likely write about the differences you should expect between the platforms. There are also some interesting marketing opportunities via Instagram filters that we will cover on another blog post; after all we want to continue to give advice on how to make the most out of your business’ social media presence. Until then, go through those three stages mentioned earlier, and enjoy the feature!

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