Many were quick to pronounce Snapchat dead in the water with the launch of Instagram’s near identical “Stories” feature, which lets users publicly share photos and up-to-10-second videos on their profile for 24 hours before they vanish. As a business, the Stories feature is great for a more behind-the-scenes approach to marketing, providing an alternative to the filter-heavy, painstakingly curated photos that call Instagram home.But now that this unpolished and raw photo sharing alternative is available on the Gram, is Snapchat in danger of losing its relevancy for marketers? If you were considering joining Snapchat but are rethinking the whole idea with the emergence of Instagram Stories, I’d advise you to think twice before you write it off completely.

Here are 5 reasons why.

1. Snapchat has a captive audience

Let me begin by addressing the elephant in the room: the numbers. Snapchat has an indisputably smaller user base than Instagram, with 150 million active users compared to Instagram’s 500 million. This smaller audience means less reach for marketers, as Nike has been quick to point out when comparing its Snapchat and Instagram Story views– it’s gotten 66,000 views for its top performing Snapchat Story, compared to a whopping 800,000 on its very first Instagram Story.

Despite having a smaller audience, however, Snapchat’s is a captive one. Take a look at some of the stats:

  • Snapchatters view roughly 10 billion videos per day– that’s a lot of video!
  • The average Snapchat user spends 30 minutes using the app everyday– Snapchat encourages active interaction more so than Instagram’s passive liking and commenting on photos.
  • Sixty percent of Snapchat’s daily users contribute to the platform- Snapchatters aren’t just voyeurs, they’re actively participating in the network.
  • Over 400 million Snapchat stories are created a day– it’s no wonder Instagram wants in on the action.
  • Its demographics are maturing– while 60 percents of users are under the age of 25, more than half of new users signing up to Snapchat are over 25. (Sources: HootSuite, CMO)

Even if Instagram has a larger and more established audience, the fact that Snapchat has more users than Twitter, Linkedin, and Pinterest makes it nowhere near a no-man’s land for marketers.

2. Snapchat Stories allow for creativity…

Instagram copied Snapchat Stories for a reason– it’s one of the app’s most successful features, especially when it comes to branding and marketing. Brands and celebrities have had huge success with the feature thanks to its mass reach, replayability, and endless opportunities for creativity.

GrubHub, a food delivery service, is an example mentioned time and again for its innovative use of Snapchat stories for giveaways, contests, and discount codes for users who interact with its Snapchat account. They’ve even been known to use it to recruit staff.

GrubHub on Snapchat

GrubHub used Snapchat to look for its next intern. (Source)

Taco Bell is another pioneer in Snapchat marketing, using doodles to help promote its new product offerings and attracting customers to come in to the fast food chain.

TacoBell on SnapChat

TacoBell has fun with the drawing function on Snapchat. (Source)

These types of Stories, both promotional, fun (thanks in part to doodles, filters, and lenses, which I’ll touch on later), and successful, are what have helped make Snapchat Stories a sought-after format.

3. … but it’s not just a “stories” app

Let’s not forget that stories aren’t the original, and certainly not the only, feature of Snapchat.

It all began with disappearing photo messaging sent directly between users in 2011. Stories were added in 2013 as a more public way to share collections of images that could be viewed an unlimited number of times for 24 hours.

Brands, celebrities, and public figures have been quick to make use of the added publicity of Snapchat Stories (probably why Instagram copied the feature), but Snapchat still has a strong hold on the direct photo messaging market, which has proven useful for businesses too.

Just ask organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, whose Danish branch used Snapchat to send disappearing photos of nearly-extinct animals directly to its Snapchat followers as a fundraising campaign. They met their monthly fundraising goal in three days.

The World Wildlife Fund's #LastSelfie campaign

The World Wildlife Fund’s #LastSelfie campaign (Source)

Some companies have also used it the other way around, asking users to send snaps in return for things like giveaways or discount codes. 16 Handles, a New York frozen yogurt chain, did just that, giving customers discounts for sending snaps of themselves eating their froyo. Even real estate agents are using Snapchat to help sell homes, sending snaps of properties to potential homeowners for an immediate look inside.

This type of direct marketing is far common on Instagram.

4. It’s got filters and lenses

Instagram’s focus has always been on pristine images, and its users can be pretty unforgiving– if you don’t have a consistent timeline with perfectly curated photos, you ain’t got nothing. Snapchat, on the other hand, celebrates the flaws, taking a cue from the meme-loving, GIF-giving online crowd.

Because Snapchat images are ephemeral, companies can get away with grainy images and blurry videos, in no small part thanks to its doodles, filters, and lenses.

Filters are Snapchat’s standout feature, and whether it’s because of Instagram’s more “professional” feel or that it just hasn’t gotten around to adding them yet, filters are still largely unique to Snapchat. There are two types of filters in question here: filters and lenses. Both can benefit your business’ marketing strategy.

In basic terms, a filter lets you add an overlay to an image or short video clip, which can include anything from a timestamp, to a geo-location tag. A lens, on the other hand, uses facial recognition to add interesting features to your selfies, like the (now-classic) dog ears.

snapchat-filters

Social media manager James and I showing off the geo-filter on the left, and the dog lens on the right.

Geo-filters have been especially useful for businesses and brands promoting their products in various locations or during events.

This year’s Olympic Games had geo-filters for the medal count based on which country you were in, as well as unique lenses and stickers throughout the games. On a similar note, clothing brand Lilly Pulitzer developed Snapchat filters matching its bright clothing patterns, made available to shoppers while in store.

Lily Pulitzer Snapchat

Lily Pulitzer created in-store filters that matched their fashion. (Source)

Even without a Snapchat account, companies can make use of filters and lenses. Gatorade is a great example– it created a lens of a “Gatorade bath” (when players on a winning sports team celebrate by pouring their cooler over the coach) during this year’s Super Bowl, promoting the lens on Twitter with a short GIF using tennis star Serena Williams. The promo proved to be tremendously popular: the filter had over 100 millions views and Gatorade got huge brand exposure during one of the biggest live events of the year.

Gatorade Snapchat

(Source)

Filters and lenses add to the fun factor of Snapchat, contrasting the slightly more fancy-pants feel of Instagram.

5. It’s constantly evolving for business use

Instagram’s morphosis over the years seems stagnant compared to Snapchat’s. Stories have been Instagram’s most innovative addition to date, whereas Snapchat has had many more changes, experiments, and additions over its short four year lifespan.

What started as a simple messaging app for exchanging cheeky photos, has morphed into a full-on social platform. Aside from the added ability to be able to text; save images, videos, and messages; make video calls; send money; use stickers and bitmojis; and add stories, filters and lenses to photos and videos, Snapchat has been one to embrace participation with companies by adding features developed exclusively for marketing and advertising.

Notably, some publishers have a big presence on the social network through its Discover feature, although it’s limited to a select few including ESPN, CNN, VICE, and National Geographic, among others. This feature gives publishers a coveted spot on the Stories page, as well as a box in the Discover page, which they can update with their most popular news stories daily for more brand exposure.

Snapchat Discover

There’s also the “LIVE” feature to allow for multiple users to add snaps to a collective story, which can be anything from live snaps for a city, to an event, curated by Snapchat and lasting 24 hours.

Most recently, Snapchat has continued its ambitious efforts to target businesses with an expansion of its ad platform to help advertisers reach its coveted 18 to 34 year old target market.

Snapchat your way to success

Instagram hasn’t shied away from giving Snapchat full credit for its newly unveiled Stories feature. In fact, the similarities are so jarring that there’s virtually no way Instagram could deny it being a blatant copycat.

As demonstrated here though, Snapchat’s still got a lot going for it, and rather than choosing between one or the other, marketers should find unique ways to use both platforms to reach even larger audiences and target their users accordingly.

While Instagram may be encroaching slightly on Snapchat’s Stories feature, it remains to be seen how Instagram will make use of it to the same extent that Snapchat has.

What’s next?

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