Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the case of Instagram versus Snapchat, imitation may also be fighting words.
Last August, Instagram’s launch of its now wildly popular Stories feature appeared to forgo any subtlety as an attempt to poach Snapchat’s defining 24-hour ephemeral content feature of the same name, Snapchat Stories.
Instagram has not been shy in its admission of the practically identical offerings, either—CEO Kevin Systrom candidly told TechCrunch that Snapchat deserved all the credit for the concept.
Yet consumers tend to care most about the experience and interface—areas where Instagram Stories is arguably already superior to Snapchat Stories despite obvious similarities.
In fact, a Delmondo study found roughly a 40 percent drop in unique viewers after measuring 21,500 Snapchat Stories starting in July 2016 (just before Instagram stories came out) through November 2016.
Snapchat’s overall growth rate of daily active users has been dramatically decelerating in recent months as well, causing speculation that the platform may have plateaued.
Regardless, brand marketers might be having trouble telling Instagram and Snapchat apart these days, and there are several aspects to consider when prioritizing one channel over another—especially when it comes to influencer marketing.
Notably, influencer marketing company Collective Bias has been methodically testing and exploring solutions for brands to leverage Instagram Stories utilizing Instagram influencers.
Here are a few reasons why Instagram is proving to be the preferred platform versus Snapchat:
Although Instagram got a head start and launched one year before Snapchat, there are more than 600 million monthly active Instagram users, compared with more than 300 million for Snapchat. That’s a considerable difference in audience size and when thinking about the potential reach of each channel.
Not to mention, Instagram’s user base shows no signs of slowing down, with 2017 projected to be the year when more than one-half of all social network users will use Instagram.
It’s also worth noting that in addition to the slowing growth rate of Snapchat, which became widely known for its coveted younger user base, much of its growth now is coming from older Americans, and its usage projections for the 24-and-under demographic have decreased.
For influencers, Instagram affords much broader exposure for their content when compared with Snapchat.
Think of influencers as one-person businesses. By switching accounts over to Instagram for Business as “public figures,” influencers can take advantage of the various insights the platform provides.
Although analytics features are somewhat rudimentary for Instagram, they are still more accessible than Snapchat. The ephemeral, organic nature of Snapchat means that metrics are essentially a scattered assortment of manually extractable data.
While elements like screenshot totals or completion and fall-off rates can shape a better understanding of how Snapchat users are engaging with content, this still doesn’t overcome the platform’s biggest measurement barrier. The fleeting nature of Snapchat’s content may be revolutionary for social sharing, but it is a nightmare for measurement—temporary content means temporary metrics. Brands and influencers would be required to perform daily monitors and invest considerable time into Snapchat to ensure accurate data.
Conversely, Instagram offers the permanent feed, and its business profiles provide filters to look back on content performance retrospectively up to two years.
Perhaps the steal of the decade occurred in 2012, when Facebook purchased then-13-person startup Instagram for a cool $1 billion—today, Instagram is worth upward of $50 billion and has become invaluable for Facebook’s future.
Obviously, Facebook will go to great lengths to protect and support its investment, which further fortifies Instagram’s market dominance.
And while Instagram is backed by a company that could realistically be worth $1 trillion one day, Snapchat has a less-than-amicable relationship with it. It’s hard to imagine anyone defying Facebook, but that’s exactly what Snapchat did in rejecting Facebook’s all-cash acquisition offer of at least $3 billion several years ago. Given the now $34 billion valuation for Snapchat following its initial public offering, the decision has clearly paid off so far, but it doesn’t help the whole, “If you’re not with me, you’re against me” scenario with Facebook.
Make no mistake, Facebook has not forgotten about Snapchat as the one that got away, and the OG social network juggernaut has an abundance of resources at its disposal. Instagram could easily emerge as the mainstream replacement for Snapchat in the coming years, and if Instagram’s updates don’t convince you that Facebook is out to get Snapchat, then just check out its new Messenger Day feature.
Content sharing on Snapchat is more peer-to-peer oriented and, aside from submitting stories for consideration to be featured on public filters, users tend to be more private with their use of the platform.
Snapchat is less intuitive than Instagram for searching and discovering content. Instagram’s wide use of hashtags and other more organized search features makes it easier to hone in on influential users or specific topics.
With 70 percent of the most-used Instagram hashtags being branded, there is clearly a consumer appetite for engagement with influencers and brands on this channel. In fact, just a couple of years ago, Instagram brand engagement was reported by Forrester Research as 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest and 84 times higher than Twitter.
While neither platform is going anywhere anytime soon, the similarities between Instagram and Snapchat should give marketers pause when deciding where to invest time and effort. After cloning many of Snapchat’s core features, it’s no secret that Instagram is making serious moves to capture market share. There are also plenty of indicators to support Instagram as the more optimal influencer channel over Snapchat.
Either way, marketers should experiment with both platforms to determine which will ultimately best support their business.