It seems like every few months, there’s a hot new social media platform that marketers flock to. However, for every up-and-coming social media channel, there are dozens that end up failing before you ever hear of them. So when a social media platform is still experiencing growth years after it launches, you need to pay attention. Two social media apps that have proven to be a lot more than just dots on the radar are Instagram and Snapchat.
These visual driven apps have been around for quite some time, but have really started to take off in the past couple of years.
Instagram vs. Snapchat: A Brief History
Instagram is the older of the two, and it has completely transformed the way we look at social media. From the start, Instagram stressed that it was all about capturing moments as they happen. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other popular social networks, Instagram chose to focus on content within the app itself rather than rely on people sharing content from other sites.
Then Snapchat came along, and took the concept of capturing moments to the next level. Although the app started out as a way to send self-destructing messages to friends, it has evolved into the ultimate story-telling platform. The Snapchat Story feature allows you to string together a series of Snaps to create a narrative. The catch is your stories are only available for 24 hours.
Perhaps the biggest draw of both Instagram and Snapchat is the fact millennials, a demographic that social media marketers are dying to reach, have gravitated to both. Next to Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and Instagram are tied for the second-highest used messaging app for millennials at 47%.
Instagram and Snapchat also hold the No. 3 and No. 4 spot for most time spent on a platform by millennials. This is huge considering Twitter and Facebook have been around for at least a decade or more.
The question is, which of these apps should you focus your effort? Let’s breakdown the Instagram vs. Snapchat debate.
Instagram vs. Snapchat by the Numbers
Both platforms have had tremendous growth. While they’re not seeing Facebook sized numbers, there’s more than enough reasons to be excited about Instagram and Snapchat.
- 400 million monthly active users
- 80 million photos shared per day
- 3.5 billion likes per day
Data provided by Instagram
- 8+ billion video views per day
- Over 100 million daily active users
- Over 60% of U.S 13-34 year old smartphone users are on Snapchat
Data provided by Snapchat
The numbers are pretty comparable. One of the biggest similarities between the two is the amount of content being published. Both apps rely on users creating content, and that’s what has led to their success. It’s a sign that people aren’t just creating accounts and never logging in again. Snapchat and Instagram have active and engaged audiences, which is perfect for businesses.
Instagram vs. Snapchat: Audience
As we hinted at earlier, Snapchat and Instagram have very similar audiences. Both cater to a younger crowd, which tends to be the case for most successful social networks in the beginning.
Here’s a look at Instagram’s key demographics:
As you can see, a majority of Instagram’s users are millennials and young adults. One interesting point is the 30-49 age group. Since Instagram has a reputation of being a younger person’s platform, companies targeting a slightly older demographic have steered away from it. But as the platform grows in popularity, the diversity of Instagram has as well. This is the same trend we saw with Facebook, Twitter and virtually every other popular social network. The younger users drive growth, and after a while everyone else catches on.
Now let’s take a look at Snapchat’s demographics. Since it’s a younger platform, there isn’t as much data available. But there’s enough to give you an idea of who’s using the app the most.
Here is a deeper breakdown of Snapchat’s age demographics:
- 13-17 year-old: 23%
- 18-24 year-olds: 37%
- 25-34 year-olds: 26%
- 35-54 year-olds: 12%
- 55+ year-olds: 2%
Snapchat’s users are primarily women, whereas Instagram has a more even split. This doesn’t necessarily mean brands that target men shouldn’t use Snapchat. However, Instagram might allow you to reach a wider audience.
Since both of these visual apps reach similar users, demographics alone shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
Instagram vs. Snapchat: Engagement
Instagram is the king of social media engagement, generating a 4.21% engagement rate per follower. No other social media channel even comes close.
Unfortunately, engagement is one of the downsides of Snapchat. The issue isn’t that users aren’t engaging, it’s that tracking and measuring engagement is a little more complicated. Snapchat doesn’t have likes, shares or other common types of engagement metrics. Instead, you’ll have to rely on manually tracking stats like views and screenshots taken.
Also, you’ll have to manually record these metrics on a daily basis because it will all go away once your Snap or story expires in 24 hours.
Another advantage Instagram has over Snapchat is the ability for brands to publish a piece of content, get feedback and reply. Since interactions are key for social media marketing, the lack of this feature (aside from one-to-one interactions) on Snapchat was a drawback.
However, with the Story Reply feature, this could change. The feature allows users to swipe up and reply to a story, which creates a private conversation.
The downside is the comments aren’t public. Part of the draw of Instagram is the community aspect, where you can post a picture and create a conversation around it. For instance, Sneaker News posts pictures of new shoes on its Instagram account. The images themselves are great.
However, the reason why the Instagram page is able to attract so much engagement is because of the thousands of people commenting on the posts and @mentioning their friends, which amplifies its organic reach.
For broadcasting content, Snapchat is great. But if your goal is to engage and interact with your audience and community, Instagram has more options right now.
Instagram vs. Snapchat: Adveritsing
Instagram and Snapchat are in the early stages of their advertising platforms, but the former is definitely much further along.
One of the main reasons Instagram ads are in a better position than Snapchat is because it has the advantage of being linked up with its parent company, Facebook. This gives advertisers access to Facebook’s advanced targeting filters that lets you drill down your audience by age, interests, actions and more.
Instagram ads blend in fairly well with the organic content you see in your feed. In fact, they identical with regular posts with a couple of exceptions. For one, ads are marked “Sponsored” to distinguish them from other posts. The second key difference is the call to action feature, which allows you to place a clickable button in your post.
Although Instagram has an advantage as far as targeting goes, Snapchat is revolutionizing mobile advertising for social media marketers. As you saw, Snapchat is the go-to social media app to reach millennials, and Snapchat’s 3V ads put you right in front of this trend-setting demographic.
The second advantage Snapchat has over Instagram and most other advertising platforms, is the way its ads are delivered. They are made specifically for mobile devices, so they have a vertical orientation and also are shown in full screen view.
Instagram ads is open to all businesses with a Facebook page, and is handled from within Facebook’s advertising platform. Snapchat’s 3V ads are only available to a select few brands for now.
Instagram vs. Snapchat: Functionality
Despite the natural knack for technology that millennials have, they still like simplicity, particularly when it comes to social media apps.
Instagram simplified the way social media worked by getting rid of all of the additional features people are bombarded with. Remember, most of the larger social networks started out as Web applications, and were adopted for mobile devices. As a result, they didn’t need to be as streamlined in the beginning. With mobile-first apps like Instagram, you have a much different experience.
Just take a look at this comparison of Twitter’s desktop interface vs. Instagram’s mobile app.
Desktop interfaces tend to be more hectic and crowded, while mobile is more lean and gives you essentials.
With Instagram, all you have to do is open the app, take a picture or record a video, add a filter, write text and you’re done. No concerns over updating your status, customizing your profile design or any other features. Simple.
Then Snapchat came along and made content creation even simpler. Take a snap, add a caption if you want, then you’re done. There isn’t a vanity aspect like Instagram, where some users obsess over taking the perfect picture. Snapchat is more about capturing raw moments and sharing them with your audience. Since stories disappear after 24 hours, there isn’t as much pressure.
This is why younger users gravitate toward Snapchat. It functions the way they want it to, and is all about entertainment.
Which Is Better For Brands?
There is no clear winner between Instagram and Snapchat. Although the two are very similar, there are enough differences to make it worth your time to explore both.
Instagram has solidified a spot in the social media marketing world, and has proven to be great for branding and connecting with your audience.
Snapchat is the up-and-comer that’s experiencing tremendous growth and looks like the next big thing. It’s so new that most brands aren’t even on it yet, which gives you the advantage of being an early adopter for your industry.
If you want to create and distribute visual content that people will actually engage with, make sure you have the right Instagram management tools to drive your content and easily measure engagement.
@rkat7 Thanks! Glad you liked it.
Excellent article. I'd like your opinion on the temporary nature of Snapchat's content. Pro or con for business owners?
@davidmcbee Thanks David. I actually really like the expiration on Snapchat's content. Obviously there's the downside of having fans miss out on some of the content you post. But I love the sense of urgency it creates. It cuts out on a lot of the people who just follow for the sake of following. The people checking a brand's Snaps regularly are engaged. And Snapchat also got the Gary Vaynerchuk stamp of approval, so that helps!