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28Jun / in technologies 


Social media stories are draining your mobile data

As you probably know, Facebook recently launched Facebook Stories. This follows the recent release of Instagram Stories, which was widely thought to be copying Snapchat’s Stories feature, in an apparent attempt to acquire its users.

This new and overwhelmingly popular trend suggests that video content is the new normal and “stories” are the new newsfeed.

But what does this mean for your business’ data consumption?

Video newsfeed

The video newsfeeds mentioned above are designed to play short user-recorded videos one after another. If you haven’t had a chance to see these videos as of yet, we’d advise against immersing yourself in them. The habit of continuously streaming them is a shockingly easy one to become addictive.

Informed mobile users would have a definite fear of letting this kind of video feature run on their devices because they know the process of doing so will eat up tons of mobile data.

But then there are the other, less conscientious mobile users. The ones who aren’t paying for their own phone plan or aren’t aware of how much data these features consume.

To ensure our enterprise customers are knowledgeable on the issue, we did some original research to find out if ‘stories’ are really draining their mobile data.

Stories vs. Stories

Instagram Stories launched back in August 2016, and has since accumulated approximately 150 million daily users. Snapchat reportedly hit that same number of installations around June 2016.

How did this happen? Wasn’t Snapchat the incumbent in the market? Well, people loved the Snapchat feature, but offering the same functionality to Instagram’s already massive and active user base achieved huge success.

The important question to ask here though, is what is this hugely popular feature doing to your data plan?

Data hungry Instagram

Our data shows that when Instagram first launched Stories, data usage was up 41% in the month following launch.

This tells us there was an instantaneous effect on the amount of data the app was using, even during the earliest adoption phase.

The next question that comes to mind is if this was an impressive uptick in user activity or a poorly designed and inefficient feature?

Due to the feature’s ongoing popularity, we are inclined to think this was simply an uptick.

The Stickers flop

Evaluating Instagram usage just before Christmas (when Instagram launched Stickers) suggests that users were excited about a new feature.

Data usage was up 23% month-over-month. After just two weeks however, usage returned to normal, indicating the fascination with the new functionality was only temporary.

Live ups the stakes

Nearing the end of January 2017, Live Stories, the update to Instagram Stories, made its debut. Thanks to this release, Instagram saw a 28% increase in data usage. Unlike in the case of Stickers, this spike in usage shows no sign of slowing down.

This may be due to the fact that users don’t have the choice of waiting to connect to a Wi-Fi network to view the live content. The value proposition of the feature relies on users recording or watching live.

The hard hitting data impact

Obviously, Instagram has made its grand entrance into the video world in the past year with its continuous launches of new features.

The combined effect of these updates on data consumption is absolutely insane. Stories was the most noticeable turning point. Instagram now consumes an average of 71.5% more data since Stories was launched.

When it comes to overall data usage, the numbers speak for themselves. Daily data usage for Instagram in 2017 averages around 28.4MB per user, a rise of 74% compared to 2016, when data consumption was at an average of 16.2MB.

All hope is not lost

While this data doesn’t inspire confidence, the good news is: it’s manageable. For users, the insight here should be to curb your social media addiction. Wait until you are connected to a Wi-Fi network to use video features! A few hours of waiting won’t kill you.

For businesses, there are solutions out there that can give you the granular control you need to block data-hungry social media apps (or social media services as a full category) over cellular connections. You can also cap individual users if they continuously run over their data allocation.

Video isn’t going away anytime soon, so we all need to become more intelligent about how we consume it without letting it take over our lives.

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