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If you’re using digital marketing to reach your target demographic, you should be familiar with and comfortable using the two largest platforms, Facebook and Instagram. If not, click this link and take a few minutes to read up on the differences and similarities between them.
But increasingly, digital marketers are feeling pressure from upper management to explore a third platform—Snapchat. Chances are they heard about it from a teenager or college student in their life, and now they think that your company should be advertising there. Or maybe on the flip side, you’ve been encouraging your company to advertise on Snapchat, but you’re receiving pushback from your company due to Snapchat’s dubious reputation (some claim that Snapchat was founded to enable sexting, but founder Evan Spiegal denies this).
Either way, this article will help you decide whether or not you should devote your time and budget to Snapchat. Since Instagram is the platform that competes most directly with Snapchat, we’re going to look at them side by side. But first, an overview of Snapchat for the unacquainted.
Basic Overview of Snapchat
Snapchat is a messaging app that allows you to take photos, videos, and voice messages (all referred to as “snaps”), add fun filters, text, and drawings, and send them to your friends. Originally, the primary differentiator is that on Snapchat, unlike Instagram, the photos and videos you send are only visible for a few seconds before they disappear forever.
Not surprisingly, people have found a way to hack the system and uncover supposedly deleted content. Still, this probably doesn’t need to be a concern for your business. The basic rule of thumb for every company should be to only produce marketing content that wouldn’t damage your reputation or harm your brand if it was shown publicly.
I say originally because Instagram caught wind of what Snapchat was doing and quickly added Instagram Stories which offer similar functionality, with the added bonus that they are easily searchable. Now Snapchat has some other interesting features like Spectacles by Snapchat that set them apart from the competition in other ways (for now).
If you’ve never used Snapchat before and need a more basic overview, first I’d suggest just downloading it—it’s fairly intuitive. But if you need more help, check out this easy to use guide.
Snapchat vs. Instagram: What’s the Difference?
Snapchat and Instagram are both popular among a wide range of audiences, and both can be advantageous for your marketing strategy. But just because you can advertise on a platform doesn’t mean that you should. Especially if your marketing department is small or you have limited capacity. Key differences between Snapchat and Instagram should be considered before allocating your marketing dollars.
Snapchat boasts an impressive 187 million daily users, but Instagram is significantly larger, with 400 million daily users. Snapchat is the app for Generation Y, as these graphs show, while Instagram outperforms Snapchat for Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and beyond. Despite that fact that Instagram has three times as many users as Snapchat, the younger demographic still prefers customizable but short-lived snaps over Instagram photos and videos. Of course, all of this may change as the platforms go head to head in their competition for key age groups. I wouldn’t be surprised to find significant usage increases for either platform, but Instagram in particular, as they pivot to counter Snapchats new features.
Snapchat Users by Age
Instagram Users by Age
Pro Tip: Instagram offers the ability to reach more people, plus its ad platform is integrated with Facebook, making campaigns on both platforms incredibly simple. However, Snapchat may be better suited for humorous, silly, and goofy ad content due to its filters and custom effects.
Both Snapchat and Instagram usage increases significantly at the $70k mark when viewed through the lens of household income. But Instagram usage increases significantly again at the $100k threshold, perhaps due to the way Instagram lends itself to conspicuous consumption and “Instagram celebrities” who show off their style with photos and videos that anyone can see.
Snapchat Users by HHI
Instagram Users by HHI
Pro Tip: Lifestyle brands should focus on Instagram, while raw, authentic brands may perform better on Snapchat, where live content is more common.
Global penetration is where Instagram clearly wins over Snapchat. Both do well in the US, with Snapchat’s 109.5M users against Instagram’s 121M, but Instagram’s popularity in countries like India, Brazil, and Indonesia make it a clear winner if your goal is to target users in these up-and-coming economies.
Snapchat Usage by Country
Instagram Usage by Country
Pro Tip : When targeting consumers in other countries, remember that messages are perceived differently in other places. What works in the US may not be appropriate somewhere else, and may actually damage your brand and hurt sales. It’s best to work with local experts when marketing internationally.
On Instagram, browsing photos and videos is half the fun. If the people you follow haven’t posted anything interesting in a while, you can always tap the magnifying glass at the bottom of your screen to access Search & Explore and scroll curated content to your heart’s content. If you’re new to Instagram the content may seem random at first, but the app is actually aggregating your previous hashtags and search terms to present you with content that may be of interest to you. One of the key benefits to using Instagram is that your content doesn’t disappear, so it can be found organically by users who type in the hashtags you’re using. Plus, you can link to our website on your profile. Snapchat doesn’t offer nearly the same functionality, making Instagram the clear winner in this category. For example, when I’m browsing Instagram looking for inspiration for a new hike in the Cascade Mountains, it’s not uncommon to see an ad for hiking boots, an ice axe, or some other type of gear I might be interested in. As a business owner, I can tell you from personal experience that creating these ads are simple, and they are quite effective.
Snapchat is another story. While there is a Discover function in the bottom right corner, it is not nearly as user friendly as Instagram’s Search & Explore, and due to the temporary nature of Snapchat stories, the depth and breadth of content isn’t there. The closest thing you’ll find is the “For You” section, which contains content from celebrities and companies like Now This and ESPN. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t advertise, however. Snapchat offers your business the unique opportunity to create geofilters that are location specific—meaning you can create a custom Snapchat filter people can use when they’re at an event you sponsor, or in other situations where someone might be inspired to send a snap from your locale. You can also sponsor lenses, which allow users to modify their own images by changing their eyes, mouth, or hair for example. This feature comes at a hefty cost, however, and is likely to be more appealing to larger brands.
Every good marketing strategy begins and ends with consumers. If you’re going to reach them, you have to know where they are. These statistics can help you discern where to make the best use of your marketing budget, but the next step is to really get to know your consumers and create the kind of content that converts.
Note: This article first appeared on the SF Gate's Hearst Bay Blog.