Instagram launched the latest shot in its ongoing competition for young people’s attention Tuesday, when it announced the introduction of a new feature called Instagram Stories. As you might have guessed from the name, Instagram Stories is designed to mimic the function of Snapchat Stories, a tool that more than 30 million people use daily to post a series of often-whimsical, public-facing photos and videos that disappear within 24 hours.
And yet! There are still a number of differences in how these two features look and feel, and these differences will be crucial in determining which platform brands and consumers wind up migrating to.
How successful will Instagram be? Well, let’s take a look at how these dueling Stories stack up:
If you use your account for personal use—you'll probably like Snapchat better.
If you use Snapchat stories and the people you want to see them are already on the platform, there’s really no reason for you to bother with Instagram’s version. Simply put, the Snapchat camera is just way more fun to use than the one included with Instagram Stories. On Snapchat, you can do all kinds of crazy things to your content: you can put your videos in fast-forward or reverse, you can apply a bunch of 3D stickers that move along with your face, you can morph your face and voice into that of an alien or a giant bee if you want.
By comparison, Instagram Stories’ editing tools are rather limited. It has a cool neon highlighter tool that I like and six different lighting filters, but none of the dynamic filters that make the Snapchat camera so much fun to mess around with even if you’re just taking photos to amuse yourself.
Perhaps most importantly, stories are a means of giving your friends an intimate look at the last 24 hours of your life, and Instagram is just not as conducive to this level of intimacy. When I open the Snapchat app, I’m doing so because I want to fool around with my friends in a way that feels authentic and personal. By contrast, Instagram is where I go to post photos of my vacations so that my followers know I am doing well and am achieving conventional success.
But if you use your account for professional or personal branding use—Instagram might be your new favorite.
That being said, Instagram Stories does have a few major advantages over Snapchat. Expecially among those using their accounts for professional or personal branding use.
To start, Instagram has about three times as many daily users as Snapchat, 300 million to 100 million, meaning there are millions of people who use Instagram and have never even tried Snapchat Stories. Instagram Stories, which are now displayed at the very top of the home screen, could increase engagement with these users by offering them a new way to use the app.
Not to mention, followers are much easier to comeby on Instagram. Instagram users can find new accounts to follow via search, hashtags, mentions, or by following people their friends follow. None of which is available on Snapchat. Because of this, users typically have a larger following on Instagram over Snapchat, making it the perfect tool for sending photos out to a larger fanbase of users.
That's why brands like Nike, L'Oreal, & Sephora have been quick to get in on the action.
Already, brands like Nike are experimenting with Instagram Stories, and finding that way more people are seeing them than their Snapchat videos. According to an interview Ad Age did with the sportswear brand’s social agency Laundry Service, the company got 800,000 views on an Instagram story it posted Tuesday, as compared to a peak of 66,000 views for its previous Snapchat content.
In addition to Instagram’s inherent reach advantage, the app makes brands’ stories more visible to users by allowing people to click a button on the brand’s profile to see their story. By contrast, people can only see a brand’s Snapchat stories if they choose to follow them.
Equally important from a branding perspective is the role that Instagram has come to play in the purchase funnel. Over time, the platform has established itself as a destination for fashion and design enthusiasts, and, like Pinterest, many users look to the app to inspire their next purchase. It’s no surprise, then, that beauty brands like L’Oreal and Sephora have jumped all over Instagram’s new feature, posting things like behind-the-scenes videos with popular vloggers and new product showcases.
In short, the intimacy that makes Snapchat a sort of awkward place for brands isn’t quite as much of a barrier on Instagram. As such, retailers will be free to make more direct sales pitches to their audiences, which could lead to higher conversion rates.
Bottom line: Use Instagram for your professional life, and Snapchat for your personal life.
Though there are exceptions, for marketers, Instagram offers a larger platform that allows brands to post their content in more prominent locations. Further, the more public environment of the platform makes it much more conducive to e-commerce, meaning Instagram Stories could one day be a very valuable sales tool.
And for professionals and public figures, Instagram Stories offers an enticing way to present themselves to the public in a curated way that still manages to give off the appearance of intimacy. It would not be surprising if the next DJ Khaled rose to social media stardom on Instagram Stories instead of Snapchat.
However, part of what makes Snapchat Stories such a special tool for personal use is the environment that surrounds it. Because people don’t have a profile page with their stories attached to them, and because it is more difficult to find people on Snapchat than it is on other social networks, the Snap Stories are a bit like hanging out at your favorite college dive bar.
Yes, your behavior is performative and yes, you’re actively seeking the admiration of your peers, but your inhibitions are lowered because there’s a sense that you’re surrounded by "Your People" and insulated from the glare of the outside world. On Snapchat, you can be yourself, or at least something approaching that.