Yes, both Instagram and Snapchat have a feature called the same thing—Stories. But the way that businesses and users interact with these two social media platforms is quite different. Because Snapchat came out with the idea of “disappearing” content first, they have a significant advantage in the market, even though there are more users in a wider age range on Instagram.

In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of Instagram Stories and Snapchat as a whole (since Snapchat’s content disappears after 24 hours or, in some cases, after being seen once). While it makes sense for some businesses, like Taco Bell, to be on both platforms, you may find that it works better for your business to focus on one over the other.

Choose Your Target Audience

Snapchat reaches 41 per cent of all 18 to 34 year-olds in the United States every day. This is their main audience, though the age ranges on each end continue to grow steadily.

By comparison, Instagram has a much wider user base. Over 28 per cent of all internet users and 24 per cent of the entire adult population (anyone over 18) uses Instagram. This is more than Twitter or LinkedIn.  Instagram also has three times as many daily users as Snapchat—300 million versus 100 million.

So, if your target audience is 15- to 37-year-olds (millennials and generation Z), creating more content for Snapchat may be worthwhile. However, if your brand is more high-end or appeals to a wider age range, Instagram is worth more bandwidth, especially because their daily user numbers are so much higher.

However, there’s more that goes into deciding where to focus your social media strategy besides audience size. Voice and features play a part, too.

Choose Your Target Voice

The perfect Instagram account is an art form. There are books written about Instagram visual and media strategy.

Here’s an example of what I’d consider to be a visually stunning Instagram account. Look at the thought and effort that went into producing each image: The photography rules, subjects, filters, and colour all make a stunning impact.

By contrast, here’s the type of content people share on Snapchat: complaints about being stuck in traffic, sly photos of celebrities in restaurants, or pictures of a guy picking his nose on the subway. Snapchat wasn’t built to be an art form. It was built to be fun. Therein lies the main difference in voice that brands and individuals need to pay attention to.

Humour can translate onto Instagram (Beige Cardigan and Buzzfeed BFF are good examples) but humour that works takes effort. Hours of illustration, searching, or planning go into it. Conversely, Snapchat users that usually get the most attention create spur-of-the-moment content that is planned minutes before it is recorded and pushed out to the world.

Pros & Cons of Instagram Stories

As mentioned previously, Instagram has three times the audience and overall reach that Snapchat does. However, the Stories interface isn’t necessarily intuitive, especially because there’s no help button, and many users didn’t know how to use it when their Instagram app updated.

For instance, the plus button in the top left has no real indication it’s for creating a story. Additionally, the circles along the top of the screen are all users I follow who have published Stories I can view, but it doesn’t specify that in the app. A user would only find that out by reading about it or experimenting with the content when it’s made available.

Instagram Stories do have a few nuances that are different from posting a regular Instagram post. You can use a series of photos and videos (just like Snapchat). Additionally, when creating a story, you can slide down from the top of your Stories screen so you can use photos and videos you took earlier that day—but it only allows you to use media you’ve taken (including screenshots) in the last 24 hours.

Any images taken before 24 hours in the past will not show up as an option to be added to a story. Instagram Stories do allow text and drawing on the images, but don’t allow captions, clickable hashtags, or URLs—just like Snapchat.

Even though Instagram is just getting started with 24-hour Story creation, its dedicated user base has wasted no time in utilizing the new feature. Brands like NASA have jumped on board to create stories as an addition to their current Instagram content.

Extra tip: Instagram also allows you to pause a video by tapping on it—which is useful if you get interrupted while watching. When a video is playing in Snapchat, if a user is touches the screen, then lets go, it takes them back to the main feed.

While the user interface takes some getting used to, Instagram does have a much wider audience, and the visibility of Stories is currently better than a regular post. This is especially true since Instagram announced in June 2016 that they added an algorithm to determine how posts are shown in feeds (the original default was by most recent). 

Pros & Cons of Snapchat

Because Snapchat was built to create temporary stories and posts, posting and sharing content is much more intuitive. You can add to your story while also sending the same snap to individual users, all from the same screen.

A user simply taps the Story circle, and then their friends’ names to send to multiple places at once.

Another benefit of Snapchat Stories is that you can allow users who follow you to reply back through a private message or by sending a Snap reply. Instagram Stories have a “Send Message” option, but it can be disabled by the user. This feature is great for brands that want to get personal with their audiences through feedback and brand engagement. Being able to send a direct message to a brand or celebrity also helps grow brand sentiment, as it makes the business or person seem much more accessible.

Users can also access Memories on Snapchat, which are past Snaps, for reposting, or they can pull images and video from their phone’s entire history, instead of just the past 24 hours. This is useful for re-sharing a coupon or content, or answering a common question.

Finally, when directly comparing (Snapchat) Stories to (Instagram) Stories, know that Snapchat also offers the ability to add creative filters to images and video, like the ever-popular dog ears, face swap, or flower crowns. This unique feature has made augmented reality (AR) mainstream.

Animated, real-time additions to media has long-term effects on how smartphone users interact with social media and technology going forward. If you use AR every day on Snapchat, it’s a natural progression to want it on other forms of social media and technology. While it’s usefulness still can be argued (according to this hilarious clip from Silicon Valley), it makes for a fun way to manipulate the images and video you are creating.

How Do You Decide What’s Best to Focus on?

Both versions of Stories disappear after 24 hours, but they do differ. The best accounts on Instagram have always placed a bigger emphasis on the visual art of photos. According to the Daily Dot, Snapchat has always been more about the quick and dirty: fast videos and goofy images of what’s happening in the moment.

When it comes to deciding where to spend your efforts, think about what you’ll be capturing, your target audience, and your end goals. If you want to combine advertising and media, stick with Instagram. If strengthening your voice casually and with humour is the goal, consider Snapchat. Either way, you have two robust platforms that continue to grow their user bases daily.

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