A running joke I have with my friends is that I am fueled by caffeine and Wi-Fi. If I have these two items in place, it really can’t be all that bad. If I have neither, I’m probably not going to be very functional. Truth be told, I live a lot of my life on the Internet — both on my computer and on my smartphone — and I spend a little too more time on social media than I care to admit.
One trend that has become all too clear in recent years is that every social network is effectively borrowing features from every other social network. The “like” may have been popularized by Facebook, but you’ll find it on just about every other social media platform these days. Even Twitter switched from “favorite” to “like.”
And if you want to stay competitive in any industry or any vertical, you might have to “borrow” some inspiration from your competitors too.
A prime example of this is Instagram Stories. People can snap pictures or shoot videos, apply some filters and doodle on top, and then share this string of photos and videos together as a cohesive “story” before the whole thing “deletes” itself after a 24 hour period.
Does that sound familiar? It should, because that’s exactly what Snapchat is all about. The Facebook-owned Instagram must have felt that it was losing some of its audience to the more millennial-focused Snapchat. The look and feel of Instagram Stories is so strikingly similar, the connection simply cannot be denied.
But Instagram can leverage its existing advantages and make its “Stories” even bigger than its humbler Snapchat-based origins. Instagram is much more public and more mainstream, boasting a significantly larger active user base. People said a lot of the same things when Instagram introduced video to counter the rise of Vine, and now video is just as integral a part of Instagram as its square photos.
You don’t have to be quite as blatant and brazen about borrowing inspiration though. You can look at what’s working elsewhere and integrate it into what you’re already doing in a new and creative way. Twitter Moments is a good example.
On some level, it could be related to the trending news section on Facebook, which itself “borrowed” by the trending section on Twitter itself. On another level, you might say it’s similar to a news aggregator like Pulse. On yet another level, the automatic “unfollow” after a story is done could be related to the fleeting nature of Snapchat.
With Twitter Moments, you get all the “biggest stories in the world” presented to you through the “best tweets” on the subject, all without having to “worry about finding the right accounts to follow to get the story.” You may have followed a hashtag before, but that might simultaneously be not enough and too overwhelming with the deluge of tweets.
At the end of the day, you have to come to the realization that you don’t have to be first in order to be successful. Great men have stood on the shoulders of giants for centuries. I’m not advocating for outright theft, but don’t assume that you need to innovate in isolation either.
Just look at the perpetual power struggle and trading of “inspiration” between Samsung and Apple. Neither company would be where they are today and neither company would have the devices they have today if the other one didn’t exist. Whether you’re a fan of the Galaxy phones or the iPhones, we’re all better off for this contentious relationship. Just like Twitter and Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.