When it comes to digital marketing, every business just wants to be heard. Social media platforms keep rolling out features that are helping brands cut through the noise and stand out. Yet, there are so many platforms to choose from that it can be hard for small businesses to decide where to invest their time.
One thing is for sure: video storytelling is here to stay and brands are working to figure out how they will use video successfully. Since the introduction of Instagram stories back in August 2016, many are questioning which “story”—Instagram or Snapchat—is a better investment. Especially now that Instagram uses live video and direct messages…the two platforms are even more similar than before. Take a look.
Instagram and Snapchat stories both:
- Capture video and photos
- Last for 24 hours
- Can be recorded in 10-second increments
- Have the ability to send and receive disappearing photos and videos
- Can swipe left to rewatch a story
- Have the ability to add text, drawings, and emojis to photos
- Allow viewers to send messages via stories
With so many similarities, loyal users of each platform are torn between where to devote their time. Should they share video to both? Cut one out completely or give in to the hype?
For a small business owner, simply put, “You ain’t got time for that.” Focus on where your customers are and where you should invest your valuable time.
So let’s break this down to help you figure out which “story” is right for your business. Let the battle of Instagram stories vs Snapchat stories begin!
Audience and demographics
The first thing you should consider when choosing a social media platform is whether or not your target audience lives there. The size and type of audiences vary from platform to platform, but as a small business owner you want to go to where your people are.
Instagram for business
Chances are, most small businesses are already dedicating their time to posting on Instagram, making it easier to utilize the audience they’ve already built. Instagram stories can be viewed by your followers, as well as anyone else who comes across your profile and in search.
This means you have the opportunity to reach an even greater audience. What sets Instagram apart is its large user base—it counts over 300 million daily active users, which is almost double that of Snapchat. And 90 percent of those users are under the age of 35, making it a solid choice for brands focused on the 18- to 34-year-old age bracket.
Snapchat for business
Many marketers recognize that Snapchat is extremely popular with young social media users. In fact, most Snapchat users are millennials. Brands hoping to reach a younger demographic would best invest their time there. But as with all social media, the platform is ever-changing and still growing. In fact, half of new Snapchat users are over the age of 25, allowing the opportunity to reach a wider age range. Users on Snapchat tend to be very loyal and extremely engaged, which we’ll discuss below.
Think about the audience you currently have—the one you want to acquire and then go straight to the source. Ask your customers if they’re using Instagram or Snapchat, and where they prefer to consume your content.
Instagram & Snapchat marketing tips
Although both Instagram and Snapchat stories are now extremely similar, they still have a few differentiating features that may help to promote your business in a unique way.
Marketing for Instagram
Talk about a platform that loves marketers! Instagram business accounts, stories, and more make the user journey flawless. Everything is in one place, so your audience basically never has to leave the app!
Think about it like this: before, you could only say so much with a single post. Now, you can share product photos to your Instagram feed, tell users to continue to the story for a live demo or coupon code, and, if viewers are interested, they can jump directly back to your profile and click the link in your bio or even the contact button (if you have a business account).
Impressive, right? It gets better. Instagram gives you the ability to insert links in your stories, so users don’t have to rely on the solo link in your profile. Your account must be verified in order to do this, but it creates the ultimate call to action! You can also tag other users in your stories to help cross promote.
Marketing for Snapchat
The biggest differentiator here is those filters everyone is crazy about. But unless you are the product of your business, chances are you won’t be needing a flower crown filter any time soon. However, there are other creative features that can enhance your videos—like a time or temperature stamp, changing the playback speed, or adding emojis.
The biggest feature for small businesses is the ability to create custom geofilters that can feature your logo. Use it to promote an offer, event, or even catch random users that are in the vicinity of your business (can you say brand awareness?). Plus, Snapchat has dabbled in the advertising space to grow brand awareness and promote their creative tools.
Both platforms allow you to utilize a mixture of photos, videos, and drawings to tell an evolving story, but do users have different expectations for each?
Content for Instagram
Now you have the opportunity to share more than you were able to with a single photo. You have a chance to show off the personality of your business, give a behind-the-scenes tour, and offer demos, how-tos, recipes, and more. To boot, Instagram live video lets you share even more as it’s happening in the moment! And if you're looking to get your best content to the right people, brush up on Instagram’s new algorithm.
With the addition of stories, you can continue telling the story beyond the photos on your feed. It may be difficult finding a balance between Instagram posts and stories, but if you do, it can be pretty powerful and effective (recall the customer journey above).
But because of the public nature of Instagram stories, many users are questioning if they have to be “Instagram ready” in their stories. With Instagram feeds becoming so aesthetically pleasing, will users expect well-manicured stories as well? In the case that they do, there’s an option to add photos from your camera roll.
Fortunately, Snapchat has paved the way for more authentic, casual stories—and many businesses are already using Instagram stories in a similar way. In fact, Snapchat users will get the best of both worlds by saving their Snapchat stories and sharing them to Instagram (we’ll share how to do this at the end).
Content for Snapchat
Getting users to follow you on this platform requires you to bring them from somewhere else, such as your website, Facebook page, newsletter, or even Instagram. So there is a pressure to make sure the content you’re sharing in other places is engaging your following. If it is, those users will follow you to Snapchat as well. The additional features on this platform allow you to share geofilters, time stamps, temperature, and speed, which can assist in telling your story.
Instagram is a follower platform, where Snapchat is more of a best friend platform. The followers on Snapchat are invested and interested in your business, which can create a feeling of exclusivity. You'll also want to use Snapchat stories to share upcoming product releases, promote meetups, or even give out monthly coupon codes to loyal customers that are most likely following you.
Both Instagram and Snapchat allow users who are watching a story to directly message the brand. But the big question is, what’s the likelihood your audience is actually watching your videos?
The biggest advantage that Instagram stories has over Snapchat is that there are already millions of users on the platform. Over 60 percent of users log in daily, making it the second most engaged network after Facebook. But with that being said, will the app be too clogged? It’s convenient to have everything in one place, especially since viewers can click directly to your profile while watching a story. But if your audience isn’t already engaging with your content, they could miss your story.
Instagram stories are featured at the top of a user’s feed. The order is not chronological but instead based on engagement. The ones farthest left (and first to be seen) are accounts that users interact with or view most often. If you find that your number of views isn’t increasing, or you’re already seeing a dip in engagement on your feed post as a result of Instagram’s algorithm change, then you might consider directing your audience to Snapchat.
As mentioned before, Snapchat users tend to be more invested in your story because they had to physically add you, meaning they already had an interest. The process to follow someone requires a few more steps than just clicking the follow button on Instagram, which is why most Snapchat feeds are tailored to what the user is engaged in. Not to mention, the platform is focused around consuming stories, with the average active user spending 25 to 30 minutes on the app every day.
There is also an argument that these users have a higher sense of urgency because the platform doesn’t provide any direct links and such. For instance, if you share a promo code, this audience may be more likely to jump off the app and go to your site before they forget the code because there is no “link in the bio” or additional post to reference.
When it comes to social media, the most common challenge is cutting through the noise and getting noticed. If nobody ever sees what you share on social, how will they start following you? The journey to account discovery varies from platform to platform.
There is a discovery page built into the app that features accounts a user hasn’t followed yet. This collection is based on an algorithm and selects photos based on a user’s interests, current followers, location, etc. And with Instagram stories on the discovery page, you have another opportunity get more eyes on your story and grow your following.
If your Instagram account is public, your stories are too. Anyone who visits your profile will be able to view your story. This means that you have two chances to earn a follower: through the content on your Instagram feed and through the content in your Instagram story. It’s no surprise that big brands like Nike are already seeing more views on Instagram than on Snapchat.
Building a following on Snapchat can be difficult. We’ve already discussed that helping brands grow a following isn’t really what Snapchat is all about, and that is very apparent in the app. There is no discovery feature, no suggested followers, and when adding a username, it doesn’t even auto-populate potential matches. Snapchat users have to know your exact username or snapcode to begin following you and your story.
Growing a following on Snapchat involves promoting it via your other channels. So feature your Snapchat name on your website, add it to a newsletter, or ask your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram followers to add you on Snapchat. Then, depending on how engaged this audience already is, they will either listen or they won’t. If you find that they aren’t listening, it may make more sense to invest time into Instagram—at least until Snapchat creates a discovery feature.
Best of both worlds
Still not sure whether to use Instagram or Snapchat for your business? Try both.
Simply start by using Snapchat, save each post to “my memories” as well as your camera roll, then upload them through Instagram stories. Bam! Same story on each platform. This way you can compare the numbers of views, the growth of your following, ease of use, audience engagement, and see what’s worth your time.
Remember, you can save some time and go straight to the source. Ask your audience where they want to see you! Social media is all about trial and error, so don’t be afraid to get out there and test what works best for your business.
Karolina Bakanovas is well-versed in all areas of social media. Her passion for discovery and writing led her to a create her own lifestyle blog, Sunkissedway.com. When she’s not busy blogging, she’s off being a “cool” cat lady, running half marathons, and soaking up the sun.