Last year, during the dawn of Instagram Stories, I made a bold claim: that Snapchat marketers had nothing to fear. Snapchat, the pioneer of the stories feature, had a captive audience, unique messaging capabilities, and fancy filters that made it a good place for marketers to reach their followers in creative ways. Eight months later, I’m eating my words.
Since its launch in August 2016, Instagram has already surpassed Snapchat stories in views, clocking in 200 million daily views compared to Snapchat’s last reported high of 160 million. Since then, reports say that daily unique views of Snapchat stories have plummeted as low as 40 percent, while some influencers are seeing as much as a 28 percent increase in their Instagram story views compared to the same stories they’ve posted to Snapchat.
Even I’ve noticed a decrease in Snapchat usage, both my own and that of my fellow Snapchat friends. I’ve almost abandoned posting Snapchat Stories, and my feed is about as empty as a Blockbuster parking lot.
Though I said last year that Snapchat for business still has marketing potential, I’m changing my tune. If you’re yet to use Snapchat for business, don’t start. Here are 4 reasons why Instagram and it’s stories feature is better than Snapchat for business.
1. Instagram has a larger audience
Instagram has always had a larger, more established audience than Snapchat. That was never the question (Instagram has 700 million monthly active users, compared to Snapchat’s 300 million). It was Snapchat’s high growth rate (17.2 percent in Q2 2016 over Q1 that same year) combined with its high levels of engagement (60 percent of users were actively engaging with the platform daily as of August 2016) that was always the biggest potential draw for marketers.
That changed with the emergence of Instagram stories. In Q3 2016, Snapchat’s growth rate fell to 7 percent, with an all-time low of 3.2 percent in Q4 2016.
This slowed growth rate has made Snapchat less appealing than Instagram to marketers (not to mention put it in a precarious position after having gone public earlier this year), as Instagram’s growth rate has seen it add 200 million monthly users in less than a year.
Speaking with Margaux Krane, Communications and Marketing Manager at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), she decided to take the plunge and eliminate Snapchat from NOMA’s marketing strategy in favor of an already established base on Instagram.
“I was a huge Snapchat proponent for a long time, and very vocal about the notion that Snapchat and Instagram stories do not serve the same purpose due to different audiences on the platforms, but when I started at NOMA in December, I made the strategic decision to abandon the museum’s Snapchat account, and focus my efforts on Instagram and Instagram stories, leveraging our already-existing 15K community on the channel,” says Krane.
“As far as reception by our current Instagram audience, our followers seem to be a captive audience when we post to stories– we don’t see a lot of drop-off from image to image. That’s a huge measurement of success for me– not only does it mean our content is interesting to our audience, but it also means that our targeting has been successful.”
Ella Ozery, founder of fitness subscription service BarBella Box, feels the same, noting the usefulness of stories for getting people excited about upcoming product deliveries on a social network that its target audience is already using.
“… Instagram stories have been a huge advantage for BarBella Box. Most of our target market and niche are located on Instagram over SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and now with Instagram stories, we can get into the eyes of an even larger portion of the people that love our brand.”
2. People don’t want to use two platforms for the same thing
I originally underestimated the Instagrammer’s need for pristine photos. Snapchat may be known for its more “fun photos”, but it turns out that Instagram users don’t mind letting their hair down a little bit. Stories provide an outlet where photos can live temporarily, taking the pressure off of editing every Instagram photo to perfection, while providing more opportunities for sharing.
This is part of the reason that users are abandoning Snapchat in favor of Instagram: why use two apps when you can use one? For businesses, it’s one less platform to have to worry about marketing on, especially if your audience isn’t already there.
Says Steph Taylor, digital marketer and founder of health and wellness marketing agency Wildbloom Creative:
“I have been using Instagram stories for my clients and for my own business, after previously recommending Snapchat marketing as a highly effective way of reaching the millennial audience. The main reason why I switched to Instagram stories is because a huge percentage of the audience weren’t moving across platforms. Even by enticing Instagram followers with giveaways, many still wouldn’t convert to Snapchat followers,” says Taylor.
Part of the reason that people have trouble moving from Instagram to Snapchat is that Snapchat is notoriously difficult to wrap your head around. Millennials who grew up with Snapchat have little difficulty navigating its home screen, story, and messaging features, but older demographics still view Snapchat’s user interface as unintuitive and unexpected. The fact that Snapchat removed autoplay on its stories (something which has been very successful thus far for Instagram) doesn’t help with Snapchat’s usability or story view count.
3. Instagram has upped its feature set
When Instagram stories first launched, it was a pretty bare bones version of Snapchat, offering little more than a couple of photo filters to its stories feature. Fast-forward less than a year later, and Instagram has progressively added stickers, location tags, hashtagging, linking, and the Snapchat favorite, lenses, to its repertoire of features, surpassing even Snapchat’s feature list.
Location tags are an especially big benefit for brick and mortar retail stores and restaurants, who can get a ton of exposure to local audiences through networks of people who tag their location in their own stories. Notably, Instagram’s also recently been testing location-based stories in its discovery section, where Instagram users can get further exposure to people other than their followers when tagging themselves at various locations (not to mention that stories themselves have been added to the discovery section). It’s even added the ability to broadcast live stories, sending push notifications to users when a story goes live.
According to Krane, “our Instagram follower growth […] spiked in 2017, which I believe can be attributed to the additional content we’re pushing out on Instagram stories, because that content increases our visibility through Instagram’s Discover feature.”
Taylor adds, “as Instagram’s algorithm has changed for traditional posts, stories have become a new way for brands to get their most recent content in front of their followers. The new hashtag and location featured stories also offer new ways for Instagram marketers to grow their followings.” The ability to add hashtags and links in Instagram stories– a feature which doesn’t exist on Snapchat– also provides a unique opportunity for increased web traffic (I’ll expand later).
Notably, lenses and stickers, a Snapchat staple, may not be overly useful for businesses, but the fact that they’ve been added to Instagram are two more reasons why Snapchat users might make the switch to Instagram.
4. Instagram offers more opportunity for growth
What many of the points above have alluded to is the much larger growth potential that Instagram stories offer over Snapchat. Given it’s more advanced feature set and its more robust insight into viewers, Instagram offers great potential to grow a following, but also to drive traffic to your website. Both Taylor and Krane have seen the benefits.
“With Instagram rolling out the ability to link to a website from stories, businesses can now use stories to drive traffic to their website. I have yet to see this being used in conjunction with a hashtag/location featured story, but it could potentially be a huge source of traffic for brands on Instagram,” says Taylor.
On top of that, the visibility and metrics available on Snapchat aren’t great– you don’t really see much beyond unique views, completion rate, and time of day activity– offering little incentive for Snapchat marketers to continue running campaigns on the social network.
Says Krane about NOMA’s strategy:
“As we all know, Snapchat is really hard to measure, and there isn’t a good way to determine the size of your following. Why not shift those efforts to a channel where I have a built-in audience?… My predecessor had not implemented Instagram stories, so just adding this effort on to what we were already doing on the channel was a pretty seamless way to extend our reach by the hundreds each week, while rewarding our audience with behind-the-scenes material that wasn’t necessarily suited for our more polished Instagram presence, or Facebook… Reception internally has been very positive as well, because Instagram stories provides metrics, making it easy to report on our efforts and further prove the value of social media to our stakeholders.”
Unlike Snapchat, Instagram shows you exactly how many followers you have, meaning that calculating the number of viewers and completion rate on your stories can be calculated as a ratio to the number of followers that you have. With the ability to add links to stories, you can even calculate click-through rates on your stories. This means that as Instagram offers opportunities for growth, it also offers opportunities to measure that growth.
Don’t bother with Snapchat for business
According to eMarketer, almost 50 percent of brands were using Instagram last year, with that number expected to rise to almost 70 percent by year’s end. With the success of Instagram stories, that number is sure to hit (and maybe even surpass) that projection.
If you’re already using Snapchat for business and seeing results, stick with it. If you’re yet to take the plunge, however, it might be worth investing more of your time (and money) into Instagram. Its larger audience, advanced features, and potential for growth and monetization offer much more opportunity than trying to penetrate a platform which your target audience isn’t already using.
If you’re hoping to get even more from your social media strategy, start with social media marketing software.