We all love a good rivalry. Yankees vs Red Sox. Ali vs Foreman. Silicon Valley is no different. Mac vs PC. Uber vs Lyft. One of the most interesting battles shaping up is the rivalry between Snapchat and Instagram. It is officially over a year since Instagram introduced (copy/stole?) Instagram Stories. I have written about these two platforms in the past (Snapchat, Instagram Influencers). With the one year anniversary of Instagram Stories and Snap Inc.’s earnings report last week, I thought it would be best to compare and contrast the two platforms. For business owners who are looking to manage and expand their social media reach and influence, understanding the ins and outs of these platforms is necessary when budgeting and allocating resources for your marketing team.
I first heard of Snapchat’s mysterious disappearing messages in early 2013 (although the app originally launched in 2011 under the name Pictaboo). This was back in the days when the obnoxiously yellow app was simple. I say simple, but that app has always had an “interesting”, unnatural user interface. Originally, you could send and receive disappearing messages. Over the years, to grow revenue streams, Snapchat has launched Discover, a place for brands to create channels. They also launched stories, chat, video messages, and wearable glasses, called Spectacles.
Somewhere along the line, Zuckerberg took notice of Snapchat’s rising star and reportedly offered Evan Spiegel and crew $3 billion for the app. At the time, people thought Zuck was ludicrous. They thought Spiegel was more so for declining. Today, Snap is valued around $15 billion (who’s laughing now?). In an attempt to capture the growing trend toward visual communication forms and video, Facebook launched Instagram Stories (in addition to stories on every other Facebook app… it’s exhausting).
Today, Instagram Stories have over 200 million daily users, compared to Snapchat’s 160 million. Snapchat Story views have decreased by 40%. The numbers don’t look great for Snapchat, and for businesses allocating time and money. No one wants to invest in a “dead” platform. Nevertheless, while I think Instagram has its benefits (see below), I think the comparison of these two apps is largely an apples to oranges analogy. You need to understand your consumers and what you’re trying to say as a business. One size doesn’t fit all.
Snapchat is better if you are targeting a younger demographic. The penetration rate among 18-24 year olds is double the rate for the 25-34 age range. Over 60% of Snap users are under 25 years old. Another thing to consider is the gender of your consumers: Snap’s user base skews female. The one stat that Snapchat can brag about is engagement metrics. Snap users spend half an hour on the app per day, and 60% are actively creating content. Instagram users spend only an average of 15 minutes, and most of that activity is browsing.
Snap’s format lends itself to spontaneity and quirkiness. It is a good platform if your business wants to give consumers a glimpse behind the scenes, and share personalities of your employees. It’s an app to have fun, and take risks with. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon uses Snapchat extremely well. You can see guests behind the scenes, and every Thursday they do a ticket give away. An intern takes a Snap at a random place in NYC and whoever finds them first gets two free tickets (I’m a little bitter that I didn’t get there first).
Instagram, on the other hand, possesses a slightly older demographic. 59% of Instagram users are in the 18-29 age range. However, Instagram also bodes well in the 30-49 age range (33% of Instagram users).
In my opinion, Instagram is more suited for product-based business that can use posts and stories to showcase your inventory in an aesthetically appealing way. Content on Instagram is more “stylized”. Whereas Snapchat emphasizes spontaneity, images on Instagram should look professional and compelling.
See, apples and oranges…
Why I Think Instagram is Better
The platforms are different, and should be incorporated in different manners depending on your business needs. As a self declared (and humble), tech aficionado, I believe Instagram to be the better product. On a pure feature to feature basis, I feel Instagram stories are superior to Snapchat’s for a few of reasons.
It’s hard to find people on Snap
As a business, one of your goals is to grow your audience. How can you grow if you can’t be found? Snapchat’s search function makes it much harder to follow someone than on Instagram. Through discovery on Instagram, you can stumble upon a brand you might like. On Snapchat, a user has to actively search/know your user name to find you.
No tagging, or links
The ability to link to your company website or a YouTube channel is a must for businesses. Tagging employees or an influencer is also a perk too. Snapchat does have a web-link ability, but it’s only available to select brands, and must be done through advertisements. Regular folk (like us) and small businesses can’t take advantage of it.
Quality of Content on Instagram
On Instagram Stories, you can add photos or video take from the previous 24 hours. This allows you to edit and perfect your content (and use a non-phone camera). On Snapchat, everything must be taken live, in the moment. How many Snaps have you seen that actually look good? Not many.
Instagram has the full power of Facebook Insights on its side. Instagram provides everything: followers, website clicks, impressions, reach, engagement, demographics, etc. On Snapchat, you can’t even see how many followers someone has! Snapchat gives you the bare minimum: views, unique views, number of screen shots.
Please calm down. The sky is not falling. Coming off the heels of Snap’s Q2 earnings, Wall Street sent Snap Inc.’s stock to lows of $11 (down from highs of $27 per share after IPO). The bearish investors are citing slowing user growth.
I think investors are not considering key performance metrics that actually matter to the people who are spending on Snapchat: marketers. Yes, number of eyeballs is important, but advertisers care more that these eyeballs are engaged. People are cancelling their cable subscriptions, but TV advertisement costs are increasing. Why? Because it boasts a captive audience.
Snapchat has the highly valuable 13-24 year-old demographic, and has a similar captive audience. Users growth may not be accelerating as quickly as before, but advertising revenue jumped 146% year-over-year. Ad spending grew by 101%. It’s not the end yet.
As with most great rivalries, you often have to choose a side. While I may be leaning to team Instagram, businesses need to choose based on their own unique marketing goals and objectives. Some may think that Instagram stories are a blatant rip-off of Snapchat’s feature. I feel that Instagram has built on, improved, and grown its offering to be better. Paraphrasing Picasso, Steve Jobs famously said, “good artists copy, great artists steal”. Overall, the question is not who copied who, or even who will win this rivalry. The appropriate question should be, how your business will use the combination of the two to connect with current and potential consumers. Good luck!