Snapchat v Instagram Stories: Which Is Better?

Sometimes technology moves so fast it can give us whiplash. We finally get our heads around the advantages of one platform and suddenly we’re adding another. And now, to confuse the situation, they’re starting to duel for our attention. Of course, we’re talking about the Snapchat v Instagram Stories showdown. Whether you use the platforms for your business or personal account, we weigh these similar mediums up against each other.

Instagram recently delivered the equivalent of a king hit to our yellow snappy friend in the form of ‘Stories’. And no one’s even pretending it isn’t a direct rip off.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so we’re thinking the folks at Instagram are pretty damn sincere. If you didn’t know that Instagram were gunning to take down old Snappy, you do now.

But like any stoush, the real question comes down to the innocent bystanders; the users. Do we still love both? If nobody got time for that and we have to choose sides, which is better?

Anyone handling multiple accounts (business, personal, body inspo, food inspo etc) knows that social’s constant demand for our attention can be exhausting. As Zoe Foster-Blake once put it, “social media is like having many mouths to feed” and it’s with this in mind that we often have to make the decision to push a baby from the social nest.

As we negotiate our business and personal accounts through this new territory, it’s time to figure out what’s best for us. Snapchat or Instagram Stories? Here we go.

What’s the difference anyway?

Instagram had most of us at ‘hello’. It offered a way of sharing well-filtered photos from real life with friends and family, while connecting your business to its customers in a personal, but highly curated way. It also helped the exponential rise of the ‘influencer’.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 7.38.27 pm

This Instagram looks mighty fine.

When it came to Snapchat, the attraction was far from instant. At development stage, Snapchat was actually called ‘Picaboo’ to reflect the short-lived nature of the images shared. This brevity meant that its main audience included horny teenagers sharing nudie-rudies, and the rest of us were lucky to get a random drunk photo from a mate. But all the while, that sneaky yellow ghost icon hung around. 

Then, about six months ago, Snappy suddenly rose from the wasteland of social media relevance and under the golden gaze of influencers and celebs, we began devouring the feed (and the filters) as hungrily as if it were a new episode of Suits.

It also became a great new opportunity for brands to communicate with their followers via low-fi, live content. There’s been huge groundswell in the popularity of video as a platform, and despite some efforts from Instagram to push video, it wasn’t taking off how they would’ve liked.

Let’s go round-for-round on features and benefits

Low production vs highly curated content 

For as long as video content has been around, we’ve been told that grainy, wobbly and crackly is bad. High definition, highly produced and highly edited = good.

If you’re going to praise one massive change that Snapchat brought to our flat-lay filled lives, it is that it encouraged us to share content without the usual filter. And no, we aren’t referring to the puppy dog one.

Instead of our filter of perfection – set-up shots, models, hair and make-up, great lighting – Snapchat encouraged us to ditch our ‘we can’t share that!’ exclamations. It was a strangely fascinating look behind the veil of carefully constructed reality which let us see IRL life. And most importantly, this ease meant we would start creating content. ALL. THE. TIME.

It sounds a bit scary but for anyone with a business account it’s a breath of fresh air. Brands could suddenly produce regular content of highly questionable quality and post with abandon. No fear of backlash or criticism, available only for 24 hours (and easily deleted) – most of us felt like we’d returned to the concept of ‘live’ social media.

This ‘in the moment’, no production, authentic vibe became highly addictive for creators and viewers alike and a low-budget-wielding marketer’s dream.

Not to say that Instagram didn’t give the same opportunity, but the expectations seemed somehow higher. It had to look better, it seemed more permanent. We all agreed that what you’d be happy to post on Snapchat would rarely appear on Insta.

So with vigour, we began posting crap, engaging content. And the battle lines were drawn.

Winner: Snapchat

Engaging your followers 

When it comes to the business of social media, engagement is the real deal.

Up until recently, the number of Insta and Facebook followers you had was an indication of your worth. But with the rise of fake (bought) profiles, the move to measure ‘engagement’ has surpassed everything else.

Now, brands would rather interact with influencers that have highly targeted, highly engaged audiences, but less followers. Likewise, businesses are focusing on finding the core customers and rewarding their loyalty, rather than just making a grab for likes.

And that’s where our old flame Instagram has had the upper hand. With transparency of comments and the implementation of increased data analysis we’ve become even more wedded to the medium. Sure, it’s a lot more permanent – no disappearing within 24 hours – and requires some skill and attention, but it’s also highly measureable.

This coupled with the fact (like Snapchat), Instagram Stories can be made public or you can target to just your followers or certain people, it’s a #marketingdream.

Snapchat has missed the boat on this one. Businesses and influencers have difficulty proving their following because the ‘score’ we’re all given is based on interactions (messages we send/reply to etc) rather than how many followers we have, or how high the engagement.

And while the number of views and screenshots – the loophole of the quick-lived nature of Snapchat – can be measured, it’s hard to compare data when everything is removed after 24 hours.

As entrepreneur and author, Lisa Messenger recently admitted, although she loves her Snapchat, her Instagram Stories have been gaining at least 15 times the engagement because that’s where most of her followers are. Pretty lofty numbers for Snapchat to compete with.

Winner: Instagram Stories

Market research  

A major benefit of Snapchat, besides the ability to produce great live content at no cost, was the opportunity to use it immediately for market research. That’s FREE market research. Throw a freakin’ party and delete that line in your budget!

Want to test how a product will do on the market? Snap it and ask your followers to screenshot their favourite or direct message you with their thoughts. Want to choose a colour for your brand identity? Make your customers a part of the process! Kylie Jenner has been a master of this with her Kylie Cosmetics line.


Now it’s arguable that this option was always available on Instagram but the permanency and beauty of the platform has made it a lot harder to post vids/photos of products, logos, samples without ruining the aesthetic of your feed. The whole ‘here for a good time not a long time’ nature of Snapchat was the key hook.

With Stories, Instagram have taken a swing at Snapchat around this market research bonus. Not only is it temporary, your followers can direct message in relation to specific posts to find out more, subscribe to emails and give feedback – and no doubt your audience is bigger than on Snapchat.

Winner: Instagram Stories

User interface and finding your people 

Snapchat doesn’t make it easy to connect. In fact, Snapchat’s entire user interface is a mystery to oldies, and notoriously difficult to use. The difficult of connecting to other users is a massive downfall that we’ve all overlooked because… gold butterfly crown.


You can’t tag other users easily, you can’t share with your mates and finding your favourite brands or celebrities depends on getting their username perfect. You’re a little demanding, Snapchat! The only upside was the ability to post your personalised Snapcode for quick followers.

Flip that and reverse it and Instagram has created a far simpler user interface, and Stories makes the choice to promote yourself and others, endless. While the pool of competing brands is larger and noisier, so is the potential following.

Winner: Instagram Stories

The endorsement 

In a time of media cynicism the tongue-in-cheek endorsement has become very popular. Think Ricky Gervais in those Optus ads. Or from Jonah Hill for the Reebok x Palace collab. We don’t know why but if it’s funny, then it’s passable. If it’s serious, then it’s a little daggy.

Enter the world of the Snapchat endorsement.

No longer do influencers need to do a gorgeous flat-lay to make a product look like it’s a seamless part of their lives. Snapchat has born the age of the ‘product to camera’ where it was absolutely ok to say loudly ‘look at this new mascara that’s been sent to me by X brand, let’s try it out’ *winkwink*

If you don’t know what we mean, follow Kim Kardashian. She’s brutal with her endless shots of paid-product inclusions on Snapchat. Would we expect anything less?

Perhaps we’re fine with this as an audience because the content is low-grade and it disappears, so these dodgy endorsements don’t seem to piss us off quite as much. We aren’t offended when brands push their wares – hell, we love it when our fave brands snap their newest collection.

Instagram’s seriousness makes product endorsement feel little faux in comparison.

Winner: Snapchat

All of the filters 

Laughed so much you cried recently? There’s a 90% chance that those tears have come from applying Snapchat filters. Especially Face Swap. That sh*t is hilarious.

One thing that Snappy has on its new rival is the filter. So far, Instagram is expecting us to deliver real-world content – which means we have to bare our honest, non-filtered faces without the ‘hot’ filter. No thanks.

Snapchat filters are widely considered to be one of the few app inclusions that Instagram just can’t rival (as yet). But surely there’s an imminent arrival? If you’re going to copy an idea Instagram, at least do it properly.

Entrepreneur and author Lisa Messenger says that without her Snapchat butterfly filter, she’s feels a little naked and so having adopted the platform with gusto over the last few months, it will be difficult to sway her away from her beloved Snapchat.

Zoe Foster-Blake has resorted to getting crafty with a handmade ‘wilted rose flower crown filter’ for use on Stories.

ZFB crown

Winner: Snapchat… at least for now.

Is there a verdict? 

If we’re honest, we feel like Instagram and it’s Stories might have this one in the bag. And if they launch filters, it’ll be a heavy blow to Snapchat. But according to our rounds, it’s a tie at three for three.

The reality is it’s too early to choose one over the other. Keep experimenting because it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

When it comes to business accounts, it’s simply about the best medium to communicate the brand personality and where your target market lives. If you’re going for the young kids, then Snapchat seems to be the go-to platform. If you’re looking for fashionable, urban women, then Instagram should be your focus.

And if you have the time for both (oh yeah, of course you do!) then ride the wave and see what happens next.

Zoe Davis is a Sydney-based freelance writer, consultant and lecturer specialising in partnerships, marketing and music.  Find her on Twitter and Instagram @agirlcalledzoe