Social Media Story Smackdown: Instagram vs. Snapchat

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Published on October 17, 2017, at 1:29 p.m.
by Brooke Bailey.

In the battle between rapid-fire, photo- and video-sharing services, it can be difficult to know which platform is best for an organization: Instagram “stories” or Snapchat. Since Instagram introduced its “stories” feature, there’s been a virtual arms race between the two social media giants. Each service finds itself continuously adding and updating certain features in order to keep up with the other.

If you’re wondering whether it’s worth the effort to use both for your company or organization, it’s probably not. But how do you choose between two very similar services? While both platforms have pros and cons, I believe that one stands far above the other when it comes to benefits, ease of use and features.

It’s time to finally settle the debate over which platform is better for your brand.

Brand usage:

Screenshot of Snapchat's "Discover" pageSnapchat has been successful for a long time for a reason: It’s innovative. This concept was pretty revolutionary when it was first released in the early 2010s, and it’s kept up that creative spirit ever since. The app has added tons of new features over the years, some successful (see: face filters) and some not-so-successful (see: live chat).

Most of Snapchat’s features are great for sending silly pictures directly to your friends or posting a quick update on your story, but how are brands using the platform to reach their audiences?

In 2015, Snapchat rolled out its “discover” feature (pictured right). It allowed major media outlets such as CNN and Buzzfeed or TV channels like Food Network and National Geographic to premake and upload their own content, breaking from the traditional “on-the-fly” style of capturing and posting. This feature has grown since, opening the market to other outlets, sporting leagues and anyone else willing to pay to have their organization featured.

Other organizations choose to use Snapchat as if they were an actual user; they use the app’s normal features to interact with their audiences, sometimes giving a behind-the-scenes peak at the company. But, they aren’t able to upload premade content as effectively as their counterparts in the “discover” section.

Though Instagram has been around for quite a while, its “stories” feature is relatively new. In what was seen as pretty blatant copying of Snapchat’s model, Instagram rolled out its version of “stories” in the summer of 2016. With the app only growing in popularity, this seems to have been a smart (though controversial) move and an example of how social network developers are trying to keep their users engaged.

The new feature didn’t take long to catch on, especially with companies and organizations finding that it was a great way to push out more content to the pre-existing audiences they had on Instagram. Personality-driven brands and celebrities tend to use the feature for behind-the-scenes looks at operations, similar to Snapchat, while others make good use of the feature’s ability to post premade content straight to the story.

One feature both platforms share is the ability to add web links to published story content; each allows viewers to “swipe up” to access the web page on a built-in browser. To access this feature on Instagram stories, users must have over 10,000 followers, which significantly affects smaller businesses that could benefit from adding links. Snapchat allows all users to access this feature, regardless of how many followers they have.

Similar to Snapchat, Instagram also has an “explore” page where users can find new content that may not be on their feed. This system is based on recommendations tailored to each user, not sponsored content.

Pros and cons:

Snapchat pros
1. Companies can connect with their audiences on a personal level, which can help with brand transparency.
2. “Discover” allows new audiences to learn about a company they may not have heard of before.
3. Any user can attach a link to their post, regardless of how many followers they have.

Snapchat cons
1. It’s not easy to find accounts on Snapchat, and the added effort turns many people away from adding even their favorite brands on the app.
2. Companies can’t upload their own, premade content to their story without paying for a feature in the “discover” section.
3. The age range of the audience on Snapchat limits who brands can reach on the app.

Instagram pros
1. Companies can upload their own, premade content without having to pay to do so.
2. The app streamlines follower experience; users can get the same content on one app instead of two.
3. It’s very easy to search and find a company on the app, without having to know the exact username.

Instagram cons
1. Users can’t add a link to “story” content without having 10,000+ followers.
2. Account managers have to put in effort to create a personal experience in their “stories.”
3. The “explore” page is based on recommendations for each user, so it’s more difficult to target new followers.

My winner: Instagram “stories”

As a social media professional, it’s easy to think that more is better; the more social media platforms your business is on, the more exposure your business gets. But this approach is typically unfounded and more trouble than it’s actually worth. With the introduction of Instagram “stories,” businesses can reap most of the same benefits they would have on Snapchat, without having to handle two separate accounts in two separate apps.

Instagram “stories,” done well, give followers a seamless brand experience in the same place. They can swipe up to visit a company’s website or other links, they can access the main company profile from a story, and they can easily replay a story from that page. The pros outweigh the cons here for most brands, but it is always important to do the research and find out which platform best suits your brand.

Whatever you do – stay far, far away from Facebook “stories.”

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