Snapchat and Instagram are two platforms that serve a similar purpose—sharing and distributing images and videos— but that do so in different ways.
We’ve talked about how both can fit into a marketing strategy for small and medium businesses, and they both can. But if you’re short on time, or if you don’t know which platform you want to get started with, which should you use?
In the debate of Snapchat vs. Instagram, each platform as their own distinct strengths, weaknesses, and best uses, and which you should use depends on your individiual business. That being said, we broke down Facebook Ads and Twitter Ads, and we wanted to do the same here.
So which is better for your business, Snapchat or Instagram? Let’s find out..
This article was first published last summer, and in less than one year there have been some big updates to both Snapchat and Instagram. To make sure we’re giving you the most relevant information, we’ve got our 2016 updates—and some new best examples—towards the end of the post.
If you want, you can click here and go straight to the new content, but if you want the whole picture… keeep on reading!
Launched in 2011, Snapchat is a social media platform that allows you to take pictures and videos, add text to them, and send them to either one friend or to share them with all the people following you.
It comes with a fun twist—once viewers open your Snap, they only have ten seconds to view it (or the duration of the video) before it automatically deletes itself and it’s gone for good. They operate on the “now you see it, now you don’t” principle.
Technically, yes, you can take a screenshot of your entire screen, but the sender of the Snap gets notified (just for fun, I use this tactic to annoy my best friend every time she sends me a Snap). The image on Snapchat, however, is gone.
Facebook, who owns Instagram, has taken interest in Snapchat and offered 3 billion to buy it out. If Facebook is interested, then everyone else should be paying attention, too.
Though still not used as frequently as some other social media platforms, it’s possible that as Snapchat expands, its place in marketing could be cemented only further.
There is currently no ad platform for Snapchat. (This what we originally wrote in 2015. Now Snapchat has its own Ad platform, keep on reading or click here to know more!)
Important Metrics & Stats
Part of knowing what’s best for your platform means knowing the statistics and metrics that help determine Snapchat’s marketing potential overall and for your specific business. Here’s the ones that count:
- Estimated daily active users: 100 million (though some sources believe it could be closer to 200 million)
- Number of Snaps sent each day: 400 million
- Percentage of users that are women: 70%
- Core users’ ages: 13-24 years old
- 77% of college students use Snapchat
- Only 1% of advertisers are using Snapchat for marketing (which means there’s not a lot of competition, and there’s a whole lot of room for you!)
Snapchat has a few really big strengths that marketers should at least consider using.
Though it’s a relatively new platform, it’s still incredibly popular and growing quickly. Being one of the first to establish yourself and your brand on the platform could be beneficial, and perhaps even relatively easy, since there is such little competition from other brands and advertisers as of right now.
Snapchat is also used frequently by the users who have it. This is a good thing. It means that they’re active and more receptive to messages that you’re sending; they’re also more likely to see them.
Snapchat is also ideal for creating a sense of urgency. Because that Snap only lasts 10 seconds, it’s easier to keep people’s undivided attention before it’s gone (even if they would have scrolled past the same image on Instagram without giving it a second glance). This sense of urgency can encourage users to take action faster, and can be a powerful motivator.
Snapchat’s primary weakness is their limited audience. Compared to the majority of other social media platforms, their audience is extremely narrow, though admittedly very distinctive (this is good for you if you’re targeting teens and college students—not so good for you if you’re trying to target anyone else).
Though they are expanding and more users from different audience categories could easily trickle on (think about how quickly Facebook expanded from just college-aged students), right now you’re looking at teenagers, college aged students, and maybe users who are just out of college—and a lot of them are women.
I’m also going to put down the automatically deleting images as a weakness; even though this feature has its benefits and can be considered a strength, the 10 –second-only view time does have some drawbacks, too.
If people aren’t paying enough attention, or if they want to show your friends their Snap, or if they accidentally open it without realizing it, your message will be lost and the marketing potential for that particular Snap is gone.
Timing is everything for Snapchat, because the image won’t hang around to be viewed later at a more opportune time. There’s no permanence. Some of marketing’s success can come from prevalence, where users will scroll past an ad or an image multiple times before they succumb to the temptation of purchasing or clicking. Snapchat doesn’t give you that option. It’s there, and then it’s gone forever.
Snapchat’s best uses include targeting young students that are tweens, teens, and young adults. If that sounds like your target audience, jump on Snapchat immediately.
Snapchat’s also used well for campaigns that seek to utilize or create a sense of urgency or timeliness. Having a post that only lasts ten seconds makes users a lot more likely to take action on it right now, right at this second, before the image is gone and they forget—especially if a coupon code or sale is posted on a Snap.
For examples of businesses using Snapchat well and taking advantage of their strengths, you can read more in this post here.
Instagram is a sister company to Facebook, and allows users to post images and videos online to the users following them (or, in the case of a public profile, to everyone who views their profile or a used hashtag). Descriptions of the images are also posted, and often contain clickable links and topics in the form of hashtags.
Instagram offers a ton of editing features including filters and photo editing (allowing you to edit things like color saturation or brightness of the image). This encourages artistic and high quality images.
Unlike Snapchat, these images are here to stay—they’re like Facebook’s posts, and unless deleted, can be accessed at any time in the future.
As of now, businesses can run ads on Instagram similar to promoted posts on Facebook. In the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if Instagram took a note out of Pinterests’ book following their Buyable Pins success.
Important Metrics & Stats
Here’s the important metrics and statistics Instagram has that marketers should be taking a look at…
- 300 million monthly active users
- 75 million daily users
- An average of 70 million photos posted daily
- The like button gets clicked 2.5 billion times a day
- The average user spends 21 minutes a day on Instagram
- 41% of users are ages 16-24, but 35% of users are 24-34
- Their engagement has surpassed Twitter’s.
One of the most important strengths Instagram has is the hashtag. Like on Twitter (and Facebook, though the feature is rarely used on FB), Instagram users can—and often do—attach one or more hashtags to each of their images.
These hashtags become clickable links that take users to feeds of images that use the same tags. This is a huge bonus, because it allows marketers to use smartly-placed hashtags that not only help enhance their brand, but also connect with interest users and potentially even generate conversation. So, to recap: you can use this to target users as well as to boost engagement and conversation about your content and business. That’s a strength.
With their connection to Facebook, Instagram also provides the added bonus of seamless integration and allowing you to cross-promote your content—this means more eyes on it in more places, which is always a good thing. You’re getting more bang for your buck, being able to create content that will be shared across multiple platforms.
Images on Instagram are also often a higher quality—there are a ton of filters you can use to edit your image, and beautiful pictures look more at home on Instagram. Your product will automatically look more appealing here.
Engagement and interaction is also public. People can comment on or like your videos publicly, instead of responding privately. This allows you to gain momentum and engagement, as well as generate conversation further. You can even tag users in your description or comments.
Finally, Instagram also offers permanence—unless you decide to delete an image or video, it’s there to stay. This means that users can scroll through your images weeks or even years after it’s been posted, and it will still have the same value that it did the first day. The products you promote once will still be visible to new users following you, or old ones that look back.
This is a massive advantage of Instagram, and part of the reason I recommend it more heavily to marketers and businesses than Snapchat.
Instagram doesn’t work well for posts that are of a particularly urgent nature, or at least they don’t work as effectively as Snapchat. The posts can hang around long past they are effective or active, such as a post about a quick sale or a happy-hour special. Posts that expire quickly past their posting do better on Snapchat.
Instagram also really only works well if you’re selling a visual product. Snapchat’s platform (and Pinterest’s) makes written messages more appealing than they would appear on Instagram, for example. Instagram is all about the image, so having your product stand out visually and aesthetically is important. Your images are also expected to be of a higher quality on Instagram, meaning it takes more time to create and edit them.
Instagram is also much more popular among marketers. Your image is going to have a lot more competition. It’s easy for users to scroll past your image without giving it a second look, where Snapchat’s layout practically demands their attention—if they click on it.
Instagram is ideal for products that visually stand out, or other images that perform well (such as behind the scenes pictures or videos). High-quality images have found a home on Instagram.
It’s also the ideal platform when you’re looking to connect with a lot of new users, thanks to their hasthag. The hashtag can also be an extremely valuable tool for building your brand and generating conversation around it.
Images that could use or require more descriptions belong on Instagram; especially if you can tag people in them!
In the past year, since this post was originally written and published, some of the metrics have changed, and new features have been added for both platforms.
To keep our information relevant and up to date, we’re posting this update that covers all the new changes so that you can take them into consideration when deciding which platform works best for you (or how to use them both!).
2016 Metrics, Stats, & Relevant Information
In less than one year both Instagram and Snapchat have grown as platforms, changing their metrics and relevant statistics.
Here’s the updated information:
Updated Instagram Metrics
- Instagram now has over 400 million monthly active users
- 5 billion likes a day
- 80+ million photos are shared per day
- 75% of users are outside the US, giving you an international reach
Updated Snapchat Metrics:
- There are more than 100 million daily active users
- Snapchat still has a mostly young audience, with only 14% of their audience not falling into the millennial category.
- Up to 8x the amount of US 13-34 year-olds watch live stories of an event vs the same event on TV.
- There are more than 8 billion video views every day on the platform.
Within the past year, both Snapchat and Instagram have updated different features on their respective platforms. These features can be an important decision-making factor if you’re choosing between which platform to start with first.
New Features to Instagram
Instagram has given us some powerful new features, and third party software developers have provided us with a few others, filling in the blanks of services we needed.
The biggest new features marketers now have on Instagram include:
- Instagram Ads. This is hands-down the biggest addition to the platform. Instagram Ads are available for businesses through Facebook’s Ads Manager, and comes as additional feature of the highly effective Facebook Ads. Objectives include increasing views, engagement, and—most recently—traffic and conversions on your site.
- Instagram Analytics. While Instagram itself doesn’t provide an analytics tool, there are a variety of third-party services that do. If you don’t know what to choose, pick one of the 7 Best Instagram Analytics Tools selected by the experts at Hootsuite). I have not seen anything like this for Snapchat, but if anyone else has, let me know in the comments!
- Instagram Shop fronts. Prior to the new sellable Instagram Ads objectives, the only way businesses could drive traffic to their site from Instagram was a the single link available in their profile’s bio. Instagram selling tools like Have2Have.IT capitalized on this, finding ways to make selling on Instagram possible.
- An algorithm is coming. You know how on Facebook, you don’t see every single thing that every single friend has posted, in order of posting, all the way down the newsfeed? Instagram has announced they’re going to introduce an algorithm that will prioritize the content in your newsfeed, giving each user more from the users/brands/content most relevant to them. They say it will be a work in progress, and they’ll work hard to get it right.
- Support for multiple accounts. Instagram has officially rolled out the ability for one user to log into multiple accounts. For those with both business and professional accounts, this makes everything just a little easier.
- Landscape and portrait modes. Instead of only being able to take images and crop them into perfect Instagram squares, you can now share images in portrait or landscape mode. This can help make your image more diverse, standing out in the newsfeed.
This list doesn’t contain every single Instagram update that’s happened in the past year, but it shows how quickly the platform is growing, and the support and focus that’s showing up for businesses on the platform.
New Features to Snapchat
While Instagram’s new features have brought a lot of great additions for businesses and marketers using the platform (which does also benefit users), Snapchat’s new features are almost exclusively for users. This makes sense, as I consider Snapchat to be almost entirely user-driven as a platform, more than any other social media site we see.
Some of the new features to Snapchat relevant to our discussion include:
- Updated Platform. While this is more for users, having more creativity options on the platform is never a bad thing. Snapchat recently launched Snapchat 2.0, which offers a slew of new user features, including stickers in chat, new filters and lenses, replays, and more.
- Choose view length. Instead of being stuck with the ten-second view for your users to look at your image, you can increase or decrease the time they have available to use it. If you’re using Snapchat as a campaign, being able to increase the time can be helpful.
- Video and audio chats. Similar to Facebook’s video calling in their private message system, you can have video or audio chats with other users in Snapchat’s private messaging. If the other user you want to talk to isn’t available, you can leave them brief video or audio recorded messages through the private chat messaging.
- Auto-advance stories. Now, when a user is done watching a story of viewing a Snap from a certain user, they’ll immediately be shown any Snaps or Stories that came after it that are still available to watch. This is a nice way to encourage users to view more of your stories; they have to actively click away not to watch it, instead of choosing to click to watch each one.
- Geofilters. Geofilters can allow users to share where they are, without sharing their explicit geographical location. They’re currently only available in a few select places, but this could be really awesome for businesses in the future.
- Snapchat Ads. Snapchat now has an ads program, where the ad units are called 3V ads. 3V ads allow for stories to be shared in premium and curated contexts; even if a user isn’t following you, they can choose to view your ad. Brands like CNN have had great success with using this to connect with a new audience.
Regardless of which platform you decide to use, there are a few things you can do to increase the success of your campaigns. We’ve got two of the best uses for each platform discussed below.
While multiple different tools now allow you to sell on Instagram, engagement is still the super power of the platform (and, to me, engagement still feels like the currency of it). Engagement rates are insanely high on Instagram. It’s a great way to build rapport with your audience, while making sharing polished images of your products and business.
That being said, using Instagram as a vessel to sell can be a powerful one. Since businesses sharing links to get traffic to their site is so scarce (because there are so few options for it), the few links users see may carry more weight and be more effective. And with the engagement on Instagram, that can be powerful.
Driving mobile app installs via Instagram Ads has also proven to be successful for many businesses.
Snapchat’s best use is going to be to connect with millennials in a fun, playful way. Interactions and campaigns geared towards this age group will be the most successful. Images are taken quickly and hastily, and don’t need to (and shouldn’t) have the same polished look you’d expect to see on Instagram.
Use the full scale of features when appropriate; if a user engages with you, you can use the chat feature to send them a private promo code, for example. Snapchat focuses on a different type of creativity- a silly one, for lack of a better word, and the platform shouldn’t take itself too seriously.
Snapchat vs. Instagram: Which Works Better for Your Business?
This is a question that only you can answer, and it’s one that will be different for each and every business. Some small businesses will only find a use for Instagram; some will automatically lean towards Snapchat. There will be some businesses who use both, or neither. It all depends on you.
If your business has an audience of people ages 13-24, for example, I would highly recommend getting on Snapchat immediately—particularly if you can target girls and women. Snapchat is also beneficial for a unique marketing angle that does well with urgent campaigns that rely on timeliness—such as making people hungry for Taco Bell at 2 AM when nothing else is open.
Instagram offers more permanence, as well as a more artistic focus—the images are often a higher quality and can be edited. More text and descriptions can be added, and hashtags are frequently used, meaning it will be easier to find your target audience—they don’t necessarily just have to find you.
Combined with the seamless integration to Facebook, Instagram’s content is viewed in two places, by two audiences, which is always a good thing . The images are also around to stay for good, so users can scroll through your past posts long after you’ve posted them—the hard work doesn’t just go away in ten seconds.
Overall, and in general, I still personally prefer Instagram for marketing purposes in 2016. Again, each business is different, however—it’s up to you to determine which platform will be best for you.
Which performs best for your business, Snapchat or Instagram? Do you use either for marketing now? Will you? Leave a comment and let us know!