Instagram Stories is stealing Snapchat’s users

Good enough and convenient. That’s proved a winning strategy for Instagram’s clone, according to a dozen analytics providers, social media celebrities, and talent managers who told TechCrunch they’ve seen a decline in Snapchat Stories usage since Instagram Stories launched on August 2nd.

Most reported declines in Snapchat Stories view counts ranging from 15 to 40 percent, and a reduction in how often they or those they monitor post to Snapchat Stories. Meanwhile, our sources report rapidly growing view counts on Instagram Stories, and engagement-to-follower rates one social influencer talent agent called “Insanely f*cking high”.

The success of Instagram Stories, the decline in Snapchat usage we’ve heard from a wide array of sources, and Facebook’s relentless drive to compete with the startup could spell trouble for Snapchat’s IPO on the NYSE market that’s expected in March. Snap Inc declined to comment for this story.

Here’s how the social media content industry sees the impact of Instagram Stories on Snapchat.

 

Instagram Vs Snapchat

“Everyone is posting way less. Some are not posting at all anymore” on Snapchat, says the CEO of a social content production studio about the dozen social media stars they represent.

Several sources refused to be named in print for fear of retaliation from Snapchat or because they weren’t authorized to disclose client data. But across the social content production firm’s stars, the CEO says there’s been an average decline in Snapchat Stories views of 20 to 30 percent from August until mid-January.

In the 25 weeks since launch, Instagram Stories has reached 150 million daily users. That’s the same number of users that Snapchat’s whole app reportedly hit around June 2016, after seeing swift growth from 110 million daily users in December 2015, Bloomberg reported. Snapchat hasn’t announced a higher number since, nor has one leaked, despite it trying to impress potential investors during its current pre-IPO roadshow.

Snapchat is expected to publicly file to IPO this week, and that might include some larger stats. But the consensus from our sources is that they’d be higher if not for Instagram Stories, and Snapchat’s long-term growth, especially internationally, will be hindered by the competition.

Analytics Provider Shows Widespread Snapchat Decline

“Overall, from August to November 2016, the average unique viewers per Snapchat Story has decreased about 40%” says Nick Cicero, CEO of creative studio and social video analytics platform Delmondo. His company analyzed 21,500 Snapchat Stories to discover the steep decline.

Delmondo saw roughly a 40 percent decline in unique viewers across 21,500 Snapchat Stories analyzed from July (100%), before Instagram launched Stories, through November. Graph updated with Y-axis.

 

Meanwhile, influencer marketing platform TheAmplify’s CEO Justin Rezvani says “On average our influencer community is seeing 28 percent higher open rate on Instagram than Snapchat”, referring to view count.

As for downloads, App Annie shows Snapchat saw a big drop right when Instagram Stories launched at the beginning of August. It fell to its lowest ranking all year, #11, after hovering in the top 3 for the first half of 2016. It’s unclear why it bounced back at the end of October, but it’s begun to slip again.

snapchat-download-ranking

Removing Auto-Advance Added Friction To Snapchat

snapchat-story-playlist

One thing that’s important to know as we review these reports is that Snapchat removed its Auto-Advance feature on October 7th, so users could no longer instantly watch every Story in their list in a row. Instead they had to manually select Stories to load as an ad hoc Story Playlist (pictured here), though there’s a little-known way to select all Stories with by tapping the triangular dot button.

This change should have directly caused some drop in views since Snapchat users aren’t being shown Stories they’re less interested in, which they might have fast-forwarded through while still triggering view counts. Snapchat marketing and analytics company Mish Guru’s CEO Thomas Harding says that in October when Snapchat removed Auto-Advance, a selection of its client accounts that have been posting consistently saw an immediate 9.64% drop in views.

You could argue that the remaining views are more intentional and therefore more valuable. But the change also made it less convenient to lean back and watch a day’s worth of Snapchat the way you used to on Snapchat and can on Instagram thanks to its Auto-Advance feature. And several sources think that’s leading some users to open Snapchat less overall.

Stars See Snapchat Views Down 15 to 30 Percent

Social talent agent Charlie Buffin who represents some former Vine stars says one of his top creators was averaging 330,000 views per day on Snapchat in late 2015 until June 2016. But by December, they were receiving 205,000 to 250,000 views per day.

“It is clear to us that regular users’ Snapchat usage/engagement have gone down significantly since the release of Instagram Stories” writes Buffin. He also noted that “Snapchat removing the Auto-Advance feature has affected the natural ‘binge-watching experience’ for consumers, which is really cutting into views for creators.” But Snap Inc doesn’t seem to care. “Snapchat has always remained distant from its creator community, which is not a strong move for the company” Buffin concluded.

snapchat-ad-deck

 

One star, Hannah Stocking, saw her Snapchat Stories views fall from 150,000 on August 16th to 90,000 on January 17th. That’s despite massive growth on other platforms like YouTube, and Instagram where she rose from 1.2 million to 4.3 million followers in the same time frame. “Her Instagram Story numbers are growing faster than anything right now” says John Shahidi, founder Shots Studios, the Justin Bieber-backed selfie app and video creation startup that represents Stocking.

Media marketing and business development agency Fighter Interactive’s CEO Kwasi Asare tells me “Snapchat opens have gone down a minimum of 15 percent for some big social media stars.” He sees the removal of Auto-Advance as mistake, saying “Snapchat messed up by letting people choose whose stories they view individually. Instagram has more of a flow where it allows you to watch the stories of everyone you’re following.

Asare also believes Instagram’s clone has quickly risen to equal status with teens, noting that “Most kids are starting to post on Instagram or Snapchat, and then post on the one they didn’t post on first.”

Influencers Crave Instagram’s Reach

Social talent media company Galore’s CEO Mike Albanese says “Influencers that were late to build an audience on Snapchat pretty much abandoned the platform because it was so much easier for them to reach more people through their existing audience on Instagram Stories.”

Snapchat doesn't have an Explore tab to promote social stars the way Instagram does here

That said, he was the only source we asked who said that they’d seen growth in Snapchat views, though that was for “top Snapchat influencers” like models Val Mercado and Sahara Ray, and actress Ava Allen who he says pour a ton of effort into Snapchat and heavily promote their account through their other social presences. But he believes “there are less Snapchat Stories being published on a daily basis overall versus August of last year.”

A leading social media talent company’s co-founder tells me that amongst the stars they work with, “Almost all of them are down about 20 to 25 percent on Snapchat” since August.” One of their creators was seeing 75,000 opens per Story in August, and only 50,000 now. Another went from 50,000 to 30,000. Meanwhile, the stars are seeing 6 to 10 percent of their Instagram followers opening their Instagram Stories each day, which the co-founder called “really f*cking high”.

“Marketers are dedicating more resources to Instagram because you can’t grow on Snapchat. Now there’s a lot of campaigns we don’t even need to do on Snapchat.”, they say. “The only way to grow is from [cross-promoting on] YouTube or Instagram. Snapchat is making some of the same mistakes as Vine. They aren’t embracing creators. They want to be private messaging.” In contrast, Instagram promotes social media stars and helps them grow their Stories views by featuring them on its Explore tab that Snapchat lacks.

Then they gave perhaps the most damning quote we heard. “Everyone has forgotten that Instagram Stories is a Snapchat clone.”

Raining on Snapchat’s IPO Parade

 

These industry reports build on a mountain of anecdotal evidence about Instagram stealing Snapchat users that I’ve heard online and from my network, and seen in my own usage and view counts.

It seems Facebook has finally found way to challenge Snapchat after multiple failed attempts since it turned down the social giant’s first acquisition offer in 2012. Poke, Slingshot, Bolt, and Flash all flopped as standalone apps, while baking Snapchat’s best features deep inside Facebook seemed to have little effect.

But by putting a Snapchat clone front and center atop Instagram’s feed, the Facebook family of apps discovered a way to make its version more convenient to use than the original. And emboldened by Instagram’s success, now Facebook is testing similarly designed Snapchat clones in its main app as Facebook Stories, and its chat apps as Messenger Day and WhatsApp Status.

instagram-600m-2016-12

Snapchat lovers are exporting and syndicating their Stories to Instagram for extra reach. Those who’d only recently gotten into posting Snapchat Stories are finding it easier to watch and share on Instagram where they already spend time and have built a social graph. And people who’d never tried Snapchat but were intrigued by Stories are finding Instagram is good enough that there’s no need to sign-up for Snapchat.

It’s that last one that might be most threatening to Snap Inc’s IPO. We’re already seeing how Instagram is eating up Snapchat usage, reducing the Stories views it depends on to drive ad revenue. Yet what matters to Wall Street is growth potential. Ad-driven social networks need massive scale, which usually comes from international domination.

That can’t happen if Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp deliver the Stories feature to foreign countries where Snapchat hasn’t gained traction already. Around 80 percent of Instagram’s 600 million monthly users are international. And if Instagram Stories continues on this trajectory, it could prove bigger than the app it copied.

As I wrote a week after the launch, Instagram Stories castrated Snapchat, even if it can’t kill it. Snapchat will continue to have a lively user base, though Instagram may inhibit its continued expansion.

snap-inc-hardware

 

Reports from social media celebrity managers and analytics companies that work with big accounts may present a more dire outlook than what’s going on with average teens on Snapchat. Kids under 25 in the US who are completely immersed in Snapchat might not stray. But Instagram may be convincing the 25 to 35-year olds who came of age on its app to stick around, while it’s swooping on international teens before Snapchat gets popular in their market. Plus, vanity dictates that people will share where they get the most views, and many people have spent years longer building their Instagram audience.

Going Public With A Different Story

With its future in broadcast social media under fire, Snap Inc may need to tell a different story for its IPO. At the least, it might have to concentrate on touting its average revenue per user rather than its scale.

It has spent the past quarter repositioning itself as “a camera company” that makes hardware like its Spectacles camera-sunglasses. It’s also tried to double-down on the app’s first feature, disappearing private messaging, by adding a groups feature and improved navigation. But scrounging together hardware profits and monetizing chat directly can be quite challenging.

In six months, the game has changed for Snapchat, and not in its favor. Once the undisputed king of cool amongst Western teenagers with the potential to disrupt the world’s biggest social network, it’s now in danger of becoming just one of several popular apps for ephemeral storytelling.

New Report Underlines Growth of Social, Opportunities in International Markets

Every year, We Are Social releases an updated version of its Digital Trends report, a comprehensive round up of the latest data on how digital adoption is evolving around the world.

The report provides a great resource and reference point, particularly for those looking to get more specific, regional data on such trends and go beyond the numbers provided by the platforms themselves.

This year, the company has teamed with Hootsuite to produce their latest analysis of social and digital trends in 238 countries, the first part of which they’ve release this week. And it’s definitely worth a read – here are some of their key findings:

More Users, More Often

New Report Underlines Growth of Social, Opportunities in International Markets | Social Media TodayThe researchers found that global internet penetration has increased 10% in the last 12 months, and is now up to 50%. That’s a big jump from the numbers Facebook’s internet.org initiative had been sharing at this time last year, putting that figure at more like 33%. It’s feasible that connectivity has improved this much since then – internet.org itself says it’s connected 25 million people – while the number itself highlights the rapid growth of internet access, and the opportunities of such connectivity.

One of those opportunities, of course, is social media, and in line with increased access, social media usage has also increased 21%, now reaching 2.8 billion users (37% penetration). But even more than that, mobile social media use has continued to grow at the fastest rate, rising 30% year-over-year to surpass 2.5 billion users globally – with a massive 91% of social media users accessing social from mobile.

New Report Underlines Growth of Social, Opportunities in International Markets | Social Media TodayYou’ve heard it many times before, you’ll hear it many times more in 2017 and beyond – you need to be factoring in mobile and how consumers are now accessing content. Part of that is mobile optimization, of course – you need your website to be optimized for mobile display and response – but it’s also important to consider how people are using their mobile devices, the means through which they’re spending their time.

For example, a report released back in 2015 showed that consumers spend 85% of their time on mobile in apps, but that only five apps, on average, see regular use. Without that full context, your strategy could be missing out on massive opportunities – while you need to be factoring in mobile adoption and use, you also need to be meeting consumers where they are, on the platforms they’re already using.

Going on this data, that means being active on social networks.

Regional Growth

In terms of region-specific growth, the researchers found that Indonesia has seen the biggest increase in active internet users, rising more than 50% year-over-year.

New Report Underlines Growth of Social, Opportunities in International Markets | Social Media TodayIndonesia was followed by the Philippines (27%), Mexico (27%), India (23%) and Thailand (21%), underlining the growing potential in Southeast Asia and India specifically.

India has been a big focus for Facebook in particular – last year, India banned Facebook’s Free Basics initiative to connect more of the nation due to concerns over control of the program and how it would potentially give Facebook a competitive advantage. The focus on India makes sense – the nation is the second most populous in the world, with 1.3 billion people, the majority of whom are currently not connected to the internet. If Facebook can connect them, that’ll deliver significant benefits for those users, but it’ll also likely provide a huge boost in audience for Facebook – data shows that one in every three users who can access Facebook, do so. It’s easy to see why Facebook is working to increase their Indian presence.

Social Focus

In terms of social media adoption and usage specifically, the report highlights social media penetration by region, along with specific audience stats.

New Report Underlines Growth of Social, Opportunities in International Markets | Social Media TodayQatar comes out on top for social media adoption, with some 99% of the population active on social in some form. North Korea has the lowest audience penetration rate.

New Report Underlines Growth of Social, Opportunities in International Markets | Social Media TodayThe popularity of social in China, meanwhile, has continued to grow, with the largest increase in active users.

New Report Underlines Growth of Social, Opportunities in International Markets | Social Media TodayAnd Facebook, of course, remains the clear leader, with Australia having the most daily active users on The Social Network by comparison to total users.

New Report Underlines Growth of Social, Opportunities in International Markets | Social Media TodayWe Are Social’s researchers also looked at mobile social media usage, and the regions with the highest percentage of mobile active users, which again offers some great food for thought.

New Report Underlines Growth of Social, Opportunities in International Markets | Social Media TodayThere’s a heap more data in the full report, providing a great overview of the current online landscape, particularly in regards to regional usage behaviors and trends.

If you work in social and deal with international markets, the report is definitely worth a read. And if you don’t yet deal with international audiences, the report may get you thinking about how you could and should go about connecting with them.

Here’s How Many Bad Ads Google Blocked In 2016

istock499206148Google said it blocked 1.7 billion “bad ads” in 2016, or more than double what it did the previous year.

Ads that are misleading, inappropriate, promote misleading products or trick users into installing harmful software are generally deemed “bad,” Google said. The company also blacklisted ads that were once considered acceptable in 2015.

Payday loans that carry an annual interest rate higher than 36%, for example, were banned from appearing as Google search ads last year. The company was applauded for its move, as the measure was expected to cost Google millions in revenue. Yet digital loan sharks quickly adapted to Google’s newfound rule, as many loan companies now offer payday loans with an APR as high as 35.99%.

That means a $5,000 loan with an APR of 35.99% would cost a borrower $13,745 over a seven-year span, which is a common time allotment offered by the predatory loan companies Google is trying to blacklist.

Still, Google said it blocked 5 million payday loan advertisements from appearing in 2016. Scott Spencer, director of product management at Google, said it takes time for the company to adapt to new schemes.

Meanwhile, the company said the biggest trend to come out of 2016 was the rise of “tabloid cloakers,” a new type of ad that tries to game Google’s system by pretending to be news. One example the company shared was about an ad showing Ellen DeGeneres and aliens. However, consumers who click on ads like this are taken to a site selling weight loss products, for example.

Google said it suspended 1,300 accounts for tabloid cloaking last year. In one sweep, the company took down 22 accounts that were responsible for displaying 20 million cloaker ads over a one-week period.

The company added that it also removed 112 million ads that aim to deceive users into downloading apps or malware, six times more than what it did in 2015. The company said it removed 68 million ads for healthcare violations in 2016, up from 12.5 million in 2015. Another 17 million ads were removed for promoting illegal gambling, Google said.

About 900,000 ads were disabled for containing malware. And an additional 6,000 accounts were suspended for attempting to advertise counterfeit goods, the company said. From November to December, Google said it reviewed 550 sites that were suspected of misrepresenting content or were impersonating as news organizations like CNN. Of those, Google took action against 340 of them for violating its policies. An additional 200 publishers were also permanently banned, Google said.

YouTube Announces New Ad Targeting Options, Improved Measurement Tools

maxresdefaultAs Facebook continues to advance its video ambitions, the current online video leader, YouTube, is also looking to add more functionality to boost its platform’s ad options.

Today, YouTube has announced a set of new changes, most of which are focused on the expanding role of mobile – YouTube notes that over 50% of YouTube views come via mobile device.

To help brands tap into this audience, they’ve adding some new targeting options, while they’re also looking to improve their insights and data.

Here’s what’s been announced.

Targeting by Google Activity

First up, YouTube’s looking to make their ads more focused by enabling advertisers to use information associated with people’s Google accounts for targeting.

“So, for example, if you’re a retailer, you could reach potential customers that have been searching for winter coat deals on Google and engage with them with your own winter clothing brand campaign at just the right moment.”

Google integrated the YouTube advertising platform into AdWords back in 2015, so the two networks have long been connected, but this is the first time Google has opened up Google search data for YouTube targeting purposes.

The option gives advertisers more ways to hone in their YouTube ads on relevant audiences

In addition, YouTube’s also boosting their Customer Match targeting, which enables advertisers to upload their own data – like e-mail addresses and phone numbers – to help focus their YouTube ads.

Improved Measurement

YouTube’s also announced that they’re developing a “new, cloud-based measurement solution” which will help provide more advanced, accurate insights – with a particular focus on cross-device measurement.

As noted, with 50% of YouTube’s traffic now coming via mobile, the platform says their existing measurement tools are not as effective as they once were.

“While technologies like pixels and cookies still have a role in the broader ecosystem, most were built for a single screen – neither pixels nor anonymous cookies were designed for the ways in which users increasingly watch content on YouTube, like on the mobile app or in the living room. This can lead to inconsistent measurement and less relevant ads across screens, making it harder for people to control the ads they see or the data used to show them.”

YouTube says they’ll be working with third-party analytics providers like comScore, DoubleVerify, IAS, MOAT, and Nielsen to create this new, “cutting edge”” measurement system – though there are no examples of how it might work as yet.

As part of this shift, YouTube says it will also be reducing its reliance on cookies and pixels and moving more towards tracking signed-in user IDs and mobile identifiers, similar to the tracking tools used by Facebook and Twitter.

User Controls

And the final element of YouTube’s announcement relates to user controls, adding a new way for users to maintain their ad preferences across devices.

“In the coming weeks, we’ll enable a user control that was built with cross-screen viewing in mind: if a user mutes an advertiser on Google Search, ads from that advertiser will also be muted when they watch on YouTube. For example, if you see a gym membership ad but have already signed up for a gym as part of your New Year’s resolution, you can mute that ad in Search, and you won’t see ads from that advertiser on YouTube.”

Interestingly, reports have also emerged today that YouTube has discovered an error in their ‘Lifetime views’ metric which inflated view counts on channels’ About page. YouTube has said that the issue doesn’t affect revenue or reports, and that they are working to resolve it.

YouTube’s also come under fire of late over perceived changes to their algorithm – high-profile YouTuber PewDiePie noted that older videos have been getting more exposure in YouTube’s recommended listings, while views for newer content from the same source are dropping off. The issue may have been the impetus for the announcement of a new ‘On the Rise’ tab in the YouTube app.

Changes are clearly afoot at the video giant – YouTube’s also recently announced a new payments system for live-stream creators and in-app messaging to boost engagement. With the competition for video audiences heating up, it’ll be interesting to see if YouTube can evolve fast enough to hold onto their audience.

Snapchat Advertisers Can Now Target the App’s Users Based on Offline Sales Data

snapchat-oracle-hed-2017.pngSnapchat advertisers are about to find out if offline data can drive better campaigns on the app. After forging measurement partnerships and data partnerships with companies like Moat, Nielsen and Millward Brown over the past year, Snap Inc. has now signed a deal with Oracle Data Cloud (formerly Datalogix) to arm marketers with more intelligence.

The partnership entails Oracle’s data from offline purchases—like stats from a loyalty card program—that will be used to target consumers with relevant Snapchat ads based on products that they’ve purchased. Using hashed email addresses and anonymous files of mobile IDs, Snapchat matches up the data with Oracle’s audiences of past purchase behavior.

Honda, STX Entertainment, Kia and The Honest Company are testing the new ad-targeting tool. STX Entertainment, for example, is zeroing in on sales from movie theater tickets.

“STX Entertainment continues to be impressed by how aggressive Snapchat has been in looking to solve our business challenges,” said Amy Elkins, svp of media and marketing innovation at STX Entertainment in a statement. “Onboarding ODC moviegoer data eliminates marketing waste by allowing us to reach an audience that we know visits movie theaters.”

Meanwhile, Snapchat’s bigger push is to prove that its advertising creates revenue. Snapchat also offers interest-based targeting called Snap Lifestyle Categories that serves ads to users based on what Discover and Live Stories content they watch across 60 categories like music genres, hobbies and sports.

That kind of ad buying is akin to TV and brand advertisers who buy media based on interests and reach. Now, with the addition of Oracle Data Cloud, Snapchat could be opening the ad spigot to categories like consumer packaged goods, retail and auto that heavily lean on offline purchase data.

Snapchat parent Snap Inc. now has 15 such partnerships with measurement firms, but the Oracle deal is noteworthy since it’s the first time Snapchat has opened up its platform for third-party data. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest advertisers also use Oracle Data to track if a digital promo led to an offline sale. Facebook pioneered the tactic a few years ago by partnering with Datalogix.

Here’s What Marketers Can Expect From Pinterest in 2017

pinterest-tt.pngTwo and a half years after launching its first paid ads, Pinterest is finally ready to compete head-on with Google, Facebook, Snap Inc. and others for big brand dollars.

Specifically, the San Francisco-based player has spent a couple of years building a measurement and data tool, search-like targeting and video ads to make the case for bigger brand budgets. But Pinterest’s ad business has been slower than others to catch on—it reportedly made $300 million in 2016—partly because its 150 million monthly users are small potatoes to behemoths like Google or Facebook.

“I think people have crossed into a threshold where they’re really paying attention and seeing us as a platform where they need to invest in the same way that they have to invest on Google and Facebook—I didn’t feel that a year ago,” said Tim Kendall, Pinterest’s president.

Adweek talked to Kendall about the virtual pin board’s video, measurement and ad plans for 2017 and why more brands are buying into the site’s advertising.

Adweek: You’ve been president of Pinterest for about 10 months and have made a number of acquisitions, hires and new features. What can we expect for 2017?
Tim Kendall: The eye-opening point that you’re going to hear from us all year is, “We’re a mass reach play.” A marketer tends to think, “If I want mass reach with my customer, I go to Facebook with their 1.7 billion users or I go to Instagram because they have 600 million users.” But if you think about the major CPGs and retailers, the audience that drives all the decision-making are women, 25 to 54. If you want to reach those people, we reach 80 percent of what Facebook reaches every month. And we reach more of that segment than Instagram, Snap or Twitter.

Read the rest of the article here.