The Instagram Stories vs Snapchat debate for content marketers

August 2nd was an auspicious day for Instagram lovers — Instagram Stories dropped in full emoji-enabled regalia. Much like the incumbent ruler of peer to peer video sharing (guess who), the feature threatens to change the face of content marketing. Snapchat, which exploded in 2012, may now have been demoted from headliner to supporting act. Observify’s media analytics detects an air of resignation; a sort of early nostalgia for the platform that was once its users’ principal form of validation.

As Snapchat blossomed, seemingly every digital strategist and his/her dog championed its benefits for content marketing. Heavyweight SEMrush blogged about “unwritten rules” for engaging the platform’s 150K strong user base, while the highly regarded Content Marketing Institute extolled Snapchat’s virtues for reaching millennial audiences.

Buzz around Instagram Stories has predominantly gravitated toward comparing its alleged lifting of Snapchat due to their uncanny similarities. Which, actually, was acknowledged with Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom’s ready admission to TechCrunch that he owes Snapchat a thank you note.

How, then, will this tug-of-war impact content marketing?

What’s in a community?

The aforementioned Content Marketing Institute held Snapchat up as the premier platform for piercing the veil of Gen Y. Being born and raised on digital implied a certain level of disregard for online messaging. Snapchat however, in all its emoji — and later, face swapped — encrusted glory was a goldmine. Millennials became easier to ‘befriend’ via approachable video content, with a tongue-in-cheek vibe.

As #InstagramStories is built on such a lighthearted, impromptu format, can it really reconcile this with the discerning taste of its 400M users? On the other hand, Snapchat has a clunkiness factor built in, when looking to gain users. Connecting with friends for Snapchatters requires knowledge of their phone number. As Dan Frommer mused in a Recode post, “I’d love to see Stories from some of the coffee shops, fashion designers, chefs, photographers and airline pilots I follow on Instagram — none of whom I’m currently Snapchat pals with.” Time for content marketers to get tweaking.

Much of a muchness?

When Snapchat, originally a peer-to-peer messaging service, launched Snapchat Stories a year or so after its birth, user growth really kicked into high gear. More than candid disappearing videos, here was a 24 hour window into the Story poster’s life in full colour. Along with Snapchat’s own transparency around their demographics, the original Stories triggered the millennial perception of the brand. Only viewable when followed, stars from Jared Leto and Kim Kardashian to public figures like Michelle Obama self-curate content exclusive to Snapchatters.

Instagram’s version — the clone of contention — presents users with select stories at the tops of their feeds. Each story pertains an account, showcasing the past 24 hours’ posts. According to The Verge, favourite accounts display first, based on an algorithm.

Where Snapchat excels at creating ‘narratives’ — by tying posts about events (e.g. Mardi Gras) together in quick succession, many wonder whether Instagrammers will accept sponsored content. Proud members of an organically grown community with certain unspoken standards, it’s highly likely that they’ll spot ads coming a mile off.

Observify’s sentiment analysis of 69 000+ mentions (in just 24 hours) reveals some fiercely dedicated Snapchat fans. Primarily social, conversation tends toward negative assumptions of Instagram “copying” the app. 35% of the 65K tweets collected point out that Instagram Stories is largely populated by people promoting their Snapchat handles and feeds.

If anything, despite post titles peppered with references to ‘near-perfect copy’, ‘brilliant’ and implications of a new Snapchat killer, the tone is distinctly sympathetic toward the underdog. Business Insider claimed that Facebook has long attempted to carbon copy various Snapchat features.

Will rusted on fans be enough to let Snapchat keep its crown? Whatever the future holds, content marketers need to keep a close eye on which strategies work best, and where.

Dennis Engkvist — PR & Analytics at Observify

Amy Ma — Content Manager at Observify

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