Instagram Stories thrives in social media's copycat culture

Social Cues: Social media is an endless cycle of stealing content. Sometimes, it helps your company make millions.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
3 min read

Social Cues is our look at what people are talking about across Twitter and Facebook.


"Good artists copy. Great artists steal." - Alfred Ng*

Instagram said Thursday that more than 200 million people are using Instagram Stories every day, surpassing the 158 million daily active users for Snapchat. That's despite the Facebook-owned Instagram shamelessly copying every aspect of Snapchat.

Drawing on the selfie? Yep, Snapchat did it. Face filters? Snapchat did it. Then there's stickers, location tags, geostickers, posts disappearing in 24 hours, a 10-second video limit, cut-outs, temperature filters. You know the drill.

An Instagram spokeswoman called Stories a new format that it was improving on. Snapchat has not publicly commented on Instagram Stories, but Miranda Kerr, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel's fiancee, has called out Facebook, asking why they "steal all my partner's ideas."

Snap, Snapchat's parent company, was valued at $24 billion during its initial public offering, but now risks becoming the Hydrox to Instagram's Oreo. Original content is the life force for media empires like Netflix, which found massive success through its shows like "Stranger Things" and "Orange is the New Black." But on social media, copycats have found a place to thrive.

Of course, someone has to make the content, or else there would be nothing to copy. But on social media, a person with a larger audience can get much more engagement than the person who actually created the content. Kind of like Instagram and Snapchat.

Stealing content on social media is a quick route to success, thanks to a platform that cares more about the content than the creator. On Twitter, accounts like @Dory have 1.75 million followers despite ripping original works from people online. In February, the artist Shitty Watercolour tweeted at @Dory after it stole his image without giving him credit. The account deleted the image, and yet continues to steal viral posts from other people online.

When it comes to social media, solid jokes are a serious business. These thieves can make thousands of dollars off funny tweets, according to a BuzzFeed report on the "Twitter illuminati."

"They can get the engagement, and nobody is policing their content, and they're getting away with it," said Jennifer Grygiel, a social media professor at Syracuse University.

Often times it can be because it's hard to track down a meme's origins, other times it's blatant theft. She recommends social networks implement a "source" field to curb plagiarism on social media.

On Reddit, common reposts are shamed in the comments section, but still get upvoted into the front page. Look at this heartfelt post about growing older, that received 2,171 upvotes and was given gold six times. That comment was stolen word-for-word from another user from 2013, which was only gilded four times and received 3,508 upvotes. They did all this for fake internet points that don't matter.

And they don't just steal from Reddit. This post was the top post on Reddit in March with 59,000 upvotes, where the title was a direct copy of a popular tweet:

It shouldn't be a surprise that Instagram Stories is surpassing Snapchat. With Instagram's 500 million users already on its platform, it's easy to amass an audience using Stories. And people are already familiar with the format, thanks to Snapchat.

*Yes, I stole that quote. From a man who stole it from another man.

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