Instagram Adds GIFs to Stories and, Yes, It's a Direct Shot at Snapchat

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Credit: Instagram

Instagram said Tuesday that users can now add GIF stickers to all photos and videos uploaded to Stories, the platform's popular Snapchat-esque offering. The move underscores the high-stakes battle for active users with rival Snapchat, in particular, those from Gen Z.

The feature allows users to select from more than 100,000 moving stickers, as well as see which movable images are trending. GIFs will also be searchable through GIPHY, an online database of sorts that allows people to search for specific GIFS using descriptions like "deep dish pizza" or "feeling happy."

"Any brand that wants to appeal to this younger generation is going to have to start adjusting their Instagram posts to incorporate these," says Josh von Scheiner, founder and creative director at social media agency VonShine Industries. "Initially, it'll probably be the brands that are doing really well on Snapchat just porting their creative over."

Von Scheiner says Instagram's move is another shot across the bow at Snapchat. "While Instagram is obviously a lot bigger, Gen Z is on Snapchat," he says. "Millennials and, to some extent, Gen X, are on Instagram. Should this work according to Instagram's intentions, you'll see Instagram grab a young and very active audience, which opens a lot of new possibilities for marketers."

Despite having more overall active monthly users, Instagram only has 4.2 million people aged 12 to 17 on its platform, according to eMarketer. Snapchat, meanwhile, has nearly four times that, or about 16 million.

Von Scheiner adds that stickers like those found on GIPHY are a language. "These are emoticons for the next generation and it's the language of the future," he says. "We saw emoticons change language—now the same mechanisms are affecting how we create and share images, as well."

Meanwhile, the death of vertical video and photos may also be on the horizon, as Instagram says it's rolling out the ability to upload photos or videos of any size to Stories. Any extra room will be filled with a "custom color gradient" that will match what the person shared, it says.

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