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Instagram Versus Snapchat: a Side-by-Side Comparison

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is how the old saying goes, but Snapchat likely isn’t charmed by other social apps copying its capabilities.

From offering vertical video ads to releasing its own versions of Stories and face filters, Instagram has been adopting many of Snapchat’s distinguishing features, and it could be taking a toll on how marketers view Snapchat. Consider: A Social Media Examiner survey found that 54% of the more than 5,700 marketers polled say they commonly use Instagram; however, just 7% said the same about Snapchat. And while 24% of respondents said they regularly use Instagram ads, just 1% said they regularly use Snapchat ads.

So, what unique benefits can Snapchat offer marketers that Instagram cannot (and vice versa)? We compared the two social apps and outlined each of their appeals below.


Instagram has a larger audience than Snapchat

A social network’s clout is often measured by its user base, and Instagram is beating Snapchat in this numbers game.

In April, Instagram announced that it had 700 million monthly active users. Snapchat hasn’t revealed its monthly active user count; however, in May, it announced that it has 166 million daily active users. Even though this isn’t an exact side-by-side comparison, the magnitude of Instagram’s audience can be gauged by looking at its Stories feature. According to TechCrunch, Instagram Stories has 250 million daily active users — that’s more than the number of daily active users Snapchat has on its entire platform.

Instagram has a shorter conversion funnel than Snapchat

One reason Instagram may have a higher user base is because it has a shorter conversion funnel.

According to Thomas Cilius, CEO and cofounder of Snaplytics (an analytics and marketing platform for Snapchat and Instagram Stories), Snapchat’s content has “almost no virality.” So, consumers aren’t likely to see a brand’s Snapchat content unless they’re already on Snapchat and they’re already following the brand.

To acquire new followers, brands have to already be in contact with consumers and promote their Snapchat username via other channels, Cilius explains, such as via other social networks. However, this is where things get tricky: Cilius says consumers have to be interested in the brand enough to start following it on Snapchat (this is where some drop-off can occur), and they have to already have a Snapchat account.

Marketers can rely on other methods like Snapcodes or deep-linking to up their follower count, but these tactics aren’t as effective. According to Snaplytics’ Q4 2016 “Snapchat Quarterly Report,” 64% of new followers analyzed in Q4 2016 searched for a Snapchat username, compared to 25% and 9% who used Snapcodes or deeplinking, respectively.

Instagram, however, gains followers by having people like your profile, Cilius explains, which generally happens after people have browsed hashtags, see trending content, or specifically search for the brand. Consumers can also discover brands on Instagram through influencers.

Instagram embraces influencers

Speaking of which, influencer marketing is another place Instagram seems to have a foothold. Check out these figures reported by Digiday: According to the “2016 Influencer Marketing Report” by visual marketing solutions provider Chute and influencer search engine Thuzio, 89% of the more than 200 marketers surveyed say they work with or find influencers on Instagram; however, about half (45%) say the same about Snapchat. Research company eMarketer also estimated that 2016’s global influencer marketing revenues totaled more than $570 million for Instagram alone.

Orli LeWinter, SVP of strategy and social marketing for digital marketing agency 360i, says Instagram offers influencers a bigger community with more scale. This creates a greater sense of efficiency, she says, in terms of ensuring that the content they invested time and resources in is seen. Influencers can also often use their high Instagram follower count to negotiate pay.

“It’s a currency they know how to barter with,” Cilius says.

Then again, consumers in different countries can exhibit different social media behaviors. In Germany, for instance, 55% of the roughly 1,600 Snapchat users surveyed say they follow celebrities, according to eMarketer. What’s more, 22.2% follow between 11 and 20. Germany’s Snapchat users are predominantly teens. According to eMarketer, 65.7% of users polled are 14 to 19 years old.

Instagram is owned by Facebook

When it comes to favorites, marketers have a fondness for Facebook. According to the Social Media Examiner study, 94% of polled marketers say they regularly use Facebook. In fact, 62% of respondents consider Facebook their most important social channel.

There’s a reason for all of this, of course. Facebook has robust targeting capabilities for its slew of ad products and offers marketers more performance metrics than other social platforms out there.

“Facebook is the most developed out of all of the social platforms when it comes to the tools and APIs they provide,” LeWinter says. She also says marketers and agencies are more comfortable using Facebook’s tools because of the social network’s longevity — although, it has had a few measurement hiccups along the way.

As a Facebook-acquired company, Instagram gets to take advantage of these targeted advertising capabilities. Moses Velasco, chief product evangelist for social marketing and analytics solution provider Socialbakers says marketers can create targeted ads on Facebook and seamlessly run them on Instagram. This allows marketers to broadcast their ads across two platforms with massive audiences at once.

Instagram’s metrics are easier to measure.

Snapchat works with several measurement solution providers, like Nielsen and Millward Brown, to track metrics like viewability, reach, resonance, and reaction (i.e. sales lift). However, Velasco says it’s still “very difficult” for other vendors to provide clients with Snapchat performance analytics.

Indeed, in a previous DMN article, Erna Alfred Liousas, an analyst for research and advisory firm Forrester, described Snapchat’s metrics as “skimpy” and listed the following as some of its main metrics: how many users viewed an ad, how many times a brand filter or lens was used, and how many people swiped over an ad to see additional content. Tiffany Elliot, who at the time was an analyst for advisory firm Digital Clarity Group, also said in the article that marketers could track number of users, screenshots, times users snapped them back, and whether a story was watched all the way through.

Instagram, however, can leverage Facebook’s reporting capabilities and offer deeper insights on its followers’ demographics and post/Stories engagement. 

“Overall, you’re just always going to get more level of detail from Instagram and Facebook than you are on Snapchat,” LeWinter says.


Snapchat doesn’t have to fight as hard for eyeballs

Snapchat and Instagram serve different purposes. According to Cilius, Instagram is a platform people use to follow brands, friends, and influencers; Snapchat, however, is more of a platform for one-to-one communication with peers.

But Cilius says this can actually work in marketers’ favor. If a consumer follows a brand on Snapchat, he says, that brand becomes a member of that consumer’s “exclusive club.” As a result, there’s less competition for eyeballs, he says, and consumers are more likely to engage with a brand’s content.

According to the aforementioned Snapltyics report, 54.8% of followers for an account will open a story. What’s more, 87.5% of those people will watch the story from the beginning to end, according to the report.

Snapchat embraces authenticity.

While Instagram is a platform used to share edited and curated content, Snapchat’s content is more authentic. Indeed, Cilius points out that the content has to be posted in real-time. This gives brands the opportunity to appear more human and produce genuine content, like Stories about people who work for their companies, Velasco says.

Snapchat is a favorite among young consumers.

Snapchat is known as being the app for teens. As Business Insider reports, investment bank and asset management firm Piper Jaffray found that 39% of the approximately 5,500 teens surveyed said Snapchat was their favorite social network app compared to 23% who deemed Instagram their favorite.

However, teens seem to use both apps regularly. According to the aforementioned study, 81% of teens say they use Snapchat every month versus 79% who say the same about Instagram. 

What’s more, Snapchat seems to be attracting older consumers. eMarketer predicts that 70.4 million people in the U.S. will use Snapchat this year; 6.4% of this population will be made up of consumers 45 to 54 years old. Although, consumers 18 to 24 years old will still make up the majority this year (about 30%).

Snapchat isn’t Instagram.

Despite all of Instagram’s benefits, Snapchat still has one thing over the app: It’s not Instagram. Some people just prefer one platform over the other, and marketers need to still communicate with their consumers in the channels in which they play.

According to a study by comparison app Wishbone reported by the Huffington Post, 75% of the more than 32,000 young consumers surveyed said they would not consider deleting Snapchat even after Instagram debuted a similar “Stories” feature. What’s more, 57% said they would not consider deleting Snapchat if Instagram implemented filters. Although, this study came out in 2016 and Instagram didn’t launch its face features until May 2017, so their sentiments may have changed.

“You still may need to cater to two different audiences across channels,” Velasco says.

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