Instagram Stories or Snapchat

First things first, I hate Instagram Stories. (Just kidding… sort of!) The day it went live, I did a little rant on both platforms to boycott the feature. The purist in me believed that each social media platform should have its own unique special thing. That’s not how it works in the real world, unfortunately. Romanticism aside, this is what big businesses do and the social media landscape is no exception. It’s not the first time a platform is copying a competitor’s feature and it won’t be the last. The allure of having content disappear after 24 hours is a powerful feature for engagement so you can’t hate Instagram for straight up biting Snapchat.

Yes, I’m a big Snapchat fan. It’s fun to see personal, in-the-moment peeks into the lives of my favorite artists and celebrities. Personally, I think it’s a great tool for indie artists looking to engage their fans in a more raw and intimate platform. However, it’s not for everyone. Maybe you think Snapchat is a fad and not worth investing your time in as an independent artist. Now that Instagram has one of the core features of Snapchat, maybe you are considering trying it out. The goal of this blog is help you decide which platform is ideal for you moving forward.

Brief History

Before jumping in, I always feel context is important. These platforms have some history that explains this tech beef that’s been going on. Here are a couple points you should know:

Facebook tried to buy Snapchat

In case you didn’t know, Facebook (who owns Instagram) tried to buy Snapchat for $3 billion dollars in 2013. As I write this in 2016, Snapchat is valued between $18 to $22 billion. Ever since Facebook failed to buy them, they tried to imitate Snapchat in different ways that did not work out. Facebook even created their own version of Stories but decided not to release it. Instead, they let Instagram take the first big blow against Snapchat.

Snapchat is currently the fastest growing social media platform

Snapchat’s growth has been impressive. According to a study by Infinite Dial, Snapchat usage in the last year (2015 to 2016) went from 17% to 23%. To put into perspective, Twitter use grew from 15% in 2013 to 21% in 2016.

Top social media usage

Despite being more popular for teens and millennials, there’s no denying the power of Snapchat. As a brand, it offers a unique experience that other social media platforms out there didn’t offer. Snapchat is now used more frequently (8%) than Twitter (5%) and Pinterest (4%), which have been around much longer.

When comparing time spent on each app, the average Snapchat user spends 25 – 30 minutes a day on the app. On the other hand, the average Instagram user spends 21 minutes.

Social media used most often

Make no mistake, Instagram is the other hot social media platform boasting 500 million monthly active users. Its usage has grown from 19% to 29% between 2014 – 2016. Snapchat and Instagram fight over a similar core user base (ages 16 – 24), with Instagram having an edge on the older end of millennials (ages 24 – 34), so it’s no wonder they are in competition with each other.

Why would Instagram copy Snapchat’s core feature?

As I’ve mentioned, Snapchat has picked up a lot of momentum this past year and is looking to take the next step for mainstream appeal. It’s working to expand outside its core user base of users ages 18 – 24 to include members in the 24 to 34 group. From this perspective, you can see this copycat move is a well-timed attempt by Instagram to steal some thunder and try to slow Snapchat’s growth.

The large appeal for Snapchat has been its ephemeral posts that you can only see once when sent privately and lasts for 24 hours when posted in your story feed. As indie artists, this gives you the opportunity to create and share stories that use a strong psychological trigger called FOMO (or fear of missing out) for fans to see your content. Fans will feel a sense of urgency to watch your Snapchat stories, assuming you are putting together cool content that appeals to them. With Instagram Stories in the mix, artists can now take advantage of this same benefit on a platform you may already be comfortable using and have a strong following on.

According to Instagram, one of reasons why they decided to mimic Snapchat was due to performance anxiety. Platforms that have public timelines and visible engagement metrics (likes, comments, shares) create a performance anxiety for certain users. There are people out there, especially the younger age groups, that will delete posts if they do not get enough engagement within the first several minutes of posting them. By addressing this issue with Stories, Instagram felt it will encourage users to share more content when they don’t have to worry about what others think. Content that disappears in a short amount of time create less pressure for people who are self-conscious about the likes, comments or shares their posts receives.

Differences between Snapchat and Instagram Stories

Before laying out the differences, here’s how both features are similar. They operate in the same basic way with 10 second video clips or photos strung together like a slideshow. (Update: Instagram Stories allows you to record up to 15 seconds each clip as opposed to Snapchat’s 10 seconds.) Stories only last for 24 hours once they are posted, but you can always save them to your phone. You have the ability to see how many people have viewed your stories, but that number is not publicly displayed.

Here’s how they differ. Although Instagram Stories is a direct rip off of Snapchat’s core feature, it’s still bare in terms of options. Snapchat is known for the unique (possibly annoying for some) features like lenses (face filters), geo filters and stickers. The combination of these things give you a variety of ways to be creative with your storytelling. On the other hand, Instagram Stories gives you a small selection of color filters to change the look of the video or photo. You can also overlay text and draw in different brushes.

A recent added feature on Snapchat, called “Memories,” allows you to add saved content from your phone and insert them into your story. This is something Instagram doesn’t do.

In terms of usability, Snapchat is a bit less user-friendly and less intuitive to navigate. Instagram still has the upper hand in this respect. Chances are you should have an Instagram account already so you’ll learn how to use Instagram Stories pretty easily, especially if you have experience with Snapchat. To post a story, you just swipe right on the home screen of the app to pull up the camera to capture a video or photo story. Stories from everyone you follow are posted as circles on the top of your news feed. You can also go to an individual profile and click their profile image to view their stories. Anyone can view your Stories on Instagram (as long as it’s not private) even if they do not follow you.

The big advantage Instagram has over Snapchat

As an artist, this is what you probably will care about the most. One of Snapchat’s biggest limitations has to do how people can find you within the platform. Currently, there’s no easy way for someone to search or find you in the app. If you search for a celebrity, it will list the user as an “Official Story” to show it’s an official account. Otherwise, someone will just have to hope your artist or band name is the same as your Snapchat user name.

Because of the lack of a discovery feature, it’s harder to build a Snapchat following without having an audience following you on another platform. One way you can build your Snapchat audience is to cross promote on other channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or even your website. However, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have announced that they do not want you to promote their competitors and have set policies against it.

With that said, Instagram has an advantage because you should already have an audience that can see your stories. Even non-followers can see them. As an artist, you can now reap the benefits of this engaging feature on a platform that allows you to be more accessible and easily found.

So which one should you use?

Depends. It really comes down to what your current goals and priorities are as an artist or musician. Remember that the true power of social media in general is in nurturing the relationships with your fan base by being authentic and personable. In my opinion, this is where Snapchat excels at. But as a more private and intimate community, it’s not as easy for new fans to find and follow you. Snapchat helps to deepen your connections with fan to build loyalty but it does not widen your audience.

If you already have a strong Snapchat following, I see no reason for you to invest too much time in Instagram Stories. This applies for a small minority, as it’s generally harder to build a Snapchat following without a large audience on other social media platforms to cross promote on.

If you do not have a strong Snapchat following,you should try to give Instagram Stories a shot. There’s no harm in testing, especially when you should already have an audience on Instagram. If you’ve never used Snapchat before, I definitely encourage you to try out Instagram Stories to at least get a feel for this popular feature. Not sure what to post? Try observing and seeing what others are doing first.

If you’re still trying to grow an audience and fan base, your priorities should be on other platforms like Instagram. Instagram Stories allows you to reach a larger audience on a platform that makes it easier to find you.

Lastly, here’s an interesting stat to keep in mind. Snapchat users (ages 13 – 24) were asked early in 2016 which social media platform they follow the most celebrities on. Here were the results:

  1. Instagram (25%)
  2. Twitter (23%)
  3. Facebook (19%)
  4. YouTube (12%)
  5. Snapchat (10%)

I’m sure most of you reading this would not identity as a celebrity, but it’s a close enough category right? Instagram is already a strong platform for indie artists so the introduction of Stories can strengthen this bond.


It’s still early so we’ll have to wait and see how people respond to Instagram Stories. I’ve been watching Instagram Stories closely on my personal account to see if artists, celebrities and personalities are using it. There’s one particular artist I know who made a Snapchat account months ago but never used it. I see now he’s using Instagram Stories. Could that mean something?

We’ll have to see how Snapchat responds to this news. The biggest knock on Snapchat has been the limited ability for users to find and discover new accounts to follow built into the app. It’s possible that fixing this will be their next move.

Maybe there is more up Instagram’s sleeve, so let’s see what happens.

My Question for You

Which of the two are you currently using? Which do you like better, Instragram Stories or Snapchat?

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