A year after Instagram Stories launched, it’s seen some outstanding results. Snapchat may once have ruled the ephemeral messaging game, but Instagram Stories halted Snapchat’s growth and stole the thunder from a highly anticipated IPO that fell flat under the weight of unmet expectations. Where Snapchat added just 8 million daily active users, increasing from 158 million to 166 million between Q4 2016 and Q1 2017, Instagram’s Stories feature alone sees more than 250 million daily users.
Instagram Stories isn’t just a hit with users, though — marketers are winning big with Instagram Stories, too. It may once have been the home of square photos but with a bevy of new features, Instagram’s become a marketing power house and the clear choice for advertisers. Here’s why Instagram Stories is coming out on top for marketers who are looking to reach large audiences through ephemeral messaging.
A big part of Instagram’s success has to do with its size. With more than 700 million users, Instagram’s reach is much larger than Snapchat’s (more than four times larger). The use of Stories alone outpaces Snapchat’s entire user base. For marketers who are looking to reach a large number of users, Instagram is something of an obvious bet.
Instagram is massive compared to Snapchat, and advertising to a larger base means that brands are able to scale a brand message and reach a wider audience. 30% of all internet users are on Instagram, and over 80% of Instagram’s users live outside of the United States. The diversity of its user base speaks to its ubiquity, and it gives marketers a chance to communicate with a wide variety of users or to target specific users with a wide variety of specific interests on the platform.
Though Snapchat touted its loyal audience, declaring in its S-1 filing that average Snapchat users under 25 spent more than 30 minutes in-app per day while users older than 25 spent roughly 20 minutes in-app, Instagram’s recent announcement shows it supplanting that metric (too). The average user under 25 spends 32 minutes on Instagram each day while users over 25 spend over 24 minutes in-app per day.
Instagram isn’t just stunting Snapchat’s growth, it’s outdoing Snapchat in engagement, too.
With a larger, more engaged user base, marketers may find fewer and fewer reasons to invest in Snapchat when Instagram boasts better performance. Snapchat may have some tools meant to woo advertisers, but at the end of the day, the ability to reach users may be more important than any ad interface.
Snapchat is known for its interface, which is notoriously hostile to new users. It’s unintuitive and requires a fair amount of trial and error to develop a clear understanding of when to swipe and when to tap, and there’s a steep learning curve that seems to have kept Snapchat from reaching the masses in a meaningful way beyond Snapchat’s core younger demographic.
Instagram, by way of contrast, has long been known for having an interface that, while occasionally clumsy, is easy to figure out. As Instagram’s matured, it’s also made it easier for users to discover new content on the platform. Its Explore page, along with suggested users and accounts, makes it possible for Instagram users to easily search, discover, and follow new Instagram influencers and accounts.
Snapchat isn’t quite as user-friendly or as discoverable, which means that while its most ardent users curate their experiences, brands and marketers don’t have the same discovery opportunities.
With Instagram and Instagram Stories, great content, sponsored or not, can be discovered organically or promoted. Whether brands are buying ads through Stories, posting original Stories content on their own Instagram accounts, or partnering with influencers to create Stories, Instagram’s discoverability means that those efforts may go further. With Snapchat, chances for discovery are limited.
Instagram is owned by Facebook, which is a treasure trove of data for marketers. Profile information through Instagram may be relatively limited, but Facebook provides way more detail on demographics and interests. Facebook and Instagram share information, which means that when marketers buy ads through Instagram, they’re targeting an audience based on more complete and more robust data and insights.
With better information, advertising content on Instagram and Instagram Stories has a shot at being more effective. Effective targeting means that advertisers are using insights to make sure that the money they commit to advertising on Instagram may go further and find the audiences that are most likely to be interested in what they have to say.
Whether or not Snapchat’s dying or dead or fully a thing of the past for all but its most avid users remains to be seen. But with stumbling stock prices and stagnating growth, Instagram Stories is emerging as something of a clear winner for advertisers. As Instagram Stories continues to grow, marketers will likely begin finding new ways to use Stories and other Instagram features to continue pushing forward their marketing efforts on one of the world’s most popular social media platforms.