This is a guest contribution from Nick Rojas.
When Instagram unveiled its new Stories platform in early August, the social network made no bones about that the fact that it was inspired by Snapchat’s pioneering feature of the same name. Some social media watchers went even further, calling it a blatant ripoff.
In less than a month, however, many marketers are have already concluded that Instagram Stories is more than just an alternative to Snapchat Stories. There is a growing movement of advertisers who consider Instagram Stories to be a genuine improvement over its predecessor.
Is Instagram now a better place to host content than Snapchat, the originator of the Stories format?
Some recent converts would ask you only to look at the facts.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Instagram Stories: A Much Larger, More Diverse Group of ‘Painters’
When it was first released in 2013, Snapchat Stories was revolutionary, but Snapchat allowed it to idle by leaving it virtually unchanged. In an article for The Next Web, Bryan Clark wrote that Stories “needed exactly what Instagram gave it — a new coat of paint, and a new audience to do the painting.”
Let’s start with the painters.
Snapchat is now and has always been a platform overwhelmingly dominated by young people — a full 85 percent of users are 13-35 years old. While millennials are a coveted demographic, marketers value diversity. Instagram is not only far more diverse when it comes to the age of its users, but its user base is nearly equally split between men and women.
The other user statistic that can’t be ignored is the one that reveals Instagram’s sheer reach and muscle. 20 percent of Internet users are on Instagram, including more than one-quarter of all Americans. The image-based social channel boasts 500 million monthly users — 300 million of whom are daily users.
Snapchat, on the other hand, claims 100 million daily users.
Instagram Can do Everything Snapchat Can do and More
It’s not just the number of painters and their demographic diversity that makes Instagram so attractive to marketers, it’s how the network enables them to paint.
Snapchat limits users to the fleeting story format, which dooms content to a 24-hour shelf life. Instagram, on the other hand has both feed and Stories tracks. This gives marketers the option of targeting users with Stories, which are authentic and engaging. Unlike Snapchat, Instagram also has a permanent feed. If content is successful on the short-lived Stories track, marketers can display it permanently on their feeds.
This feature allows brands to allocate more budget and resources to creating Instagram stories, as they have potential to be amplified and maximized by the brand. Impermanent stories can’t be leveraged to create strong branding opportunities, which is one of the reasons brands don’t invest heavily in Snapchat. Combining Stories with a permanent newsfeed gives Instagram a strong advantage over Snapchat.
Finally Instagram was and still is a photos-first platform. It’s the place users went to showcase their best, most engaging images. Now that it added the Stories track, Instagram gives users the Snapchat-esque ability to create authentic, chronological, fragmented glimpses into the user’s life.
There’s a more “real life” feel to Instagram Stories that was often missing in Instagram, and from which Snapchat was profiting. Snapchat was the place to go when you wanted to be playful, have fun, have a few laughs, and create interactions that resemble real life in their spontaneity and authenticity. At the same time, now Instagrammers can still use the platform to create elegant, stylized, highly-produced artistic images. Instagram captures the best of both worlds, all served in a silver platter to marketers and brands that have been building their audience on Instagram over years and years.
Snapchatters, on the other hand, can do one, but not the other.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Baby Boomers Are More Likely to Open the Door for Instagram Marketers
Baby Boomers have been nervous and skeptical about Snapchat since teens first exploited the network’s disappearing content format to exchange sexually charged messages when the app was still new.
Although parents and teachers are unlikely to understand the youth-centric Snapchat, it is very likely that they can navigate Instagram. Many are even users themselves. If parents want to monitor their children’s Instagram accounts, or control who can see their stories, Instagram makes it easy. If an Instagram account is private, Stories are only available to followers. Even better, users can easily prevent anyone from seeing any story, even if that person follows their account. Now an entire generation that was leery of using Snapchat can jump into the Snapchat-like features on a platform that they know and love.
Snapchat is by no means dead. But by borrowing and improving upon its Stories feature, Instagram added a powerful new marketing weapon to its 500-users-strong platform. Instagram stories is still relatively new, but it is already making waves as a versatile, far-reaching tool for marketers, advertisers and consumers alike.
Nick Rojas is a business consultant who shares his expertise working with startups in publications like Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, and Yahoo. With 20 years of experience growing successful businesses, he has a passion for implementing strategies that foster growth through marketing, sales, and social media.