Instagram Vs Snapchat: Which Is The Better Option For Brands?

By now, the whole Internet knows the big news: Instagram has launched Stories, a new section of their app that allows users to post ephemeral (ie, short-lived, disposable) content, a function which is invariably being compared to Snapchat.

Everyone and their mother posting about the subject are falling into one of three topic categories:

1- Instagram has copied Snapchat. The gall!

2- Instagram will kill Snapchat.

3- Instagram Vs Snapchat, which do you like best?

Out of the three, #3 is the only valid topic worth discussing. Social media offers something for every person, and there are no absolute laws that dictate that you must be eternally present on any one channel.

The other two topics, are… well, the same tired stuff everyone talks about whenever a new platform comes out. Social media channels don’t really “kill” other channels. Facebook never “killed” MySpace nor Google+. Instagram never “killed” Vine. Channels that die typically do so because they stay behind the times. This may possibly happen to Snapchat, but right now it’s too early to tell.

Social media channels don’t really “kill” other channels. Channels that die typically do because they stay behind the times. (tweet this)

The more important question — for me at least — is this: Which is the better platform for brands?

Allow me to list the most important aspects that a brand looks for in a social channel, and then we can discuss who has the better toolset.

Here I’ll discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both channels on 7 distinct criteria, and then declare who gets the clear upper-edge (in my book). My criteria on priorities for brands are:

  1. Discoverability
  2. Sponsored Content
  3. Analytics
  4. Pre-Produced Content
  5. Flexibility
  6. External Linking
  7. Share-ability

Let’s get down to each, shall we?


On Instagram, you have at least 4 or 5 separate ways to discover accounts: Search, Hashtags, @ mentions by other accounts, comments, and profile descriptions… if I’m not forgetting any others…

Oh, you can even do a Google search for a brand’s name plus the word “Instagram”, and 99 times out of 100, the big G will serve up the brand’s IG profile, which you can even click through and follow right from your desktop browser, provided you’re logged in.

Snapchat on the other hand forces you to learn the handle (which sometimes is clunky and unpredictable), and enter it without any typos, while offering one of the worst search experiences, that of hit-or-miss 1-result at a time searching. Imagine using a version of Google that only serves up one result at a time, and that’s Snapchat search for you.

Plus you can scan the Snapcode. In both cases, you need to know what you’re looking for; otherwise, good luck to you.

— Winner: Instagram

Sponsored Content

It might be unfair to judge Instagram so early in the game, being that it’s just the week of its launch, but the plain fact is that beyond what they can post themselves, it offers no Sponsored Content opportunities for brands. At the same time, judging by Instagram’s trend up to this point, it is unclear whether they will open this opportunity for brands, as it hasn’t been a feature of their already-existing app functions.

Gal Gadot snaps on the Wonder Woman branded lens

On the other hand, Snapchat has offered some of the most creative Sponsored Content opportunities. From their Lenses — which give brands countless idea outlets to feature their brand assets on top of user’s pictures and videos— to branded geofilters, all the way to the more traditional video interstitials and up to the premium featurings in their Discover content section.

— Winner: Snapchat


Instagram’s analytics suck, at least compared to Facebook Pages and Twitter’s Analytics tools. Instagram offers no easy panel to find out things like how many Likes you have across all posts during a 30-day span, among other metrics…

…Unless you upgrade your Instagram account to a Business account, in which case you will have access to a decent set of metrics to go by.

In any case, in the Instagram Story department, the mere fact that I can easily figure out a new metric I just made up which I’ll call SVR or Story View Rate —measured as (Story Views/Followers)*100— already places this platform way ahead of the game.

For example, the SVR for my very first Instagram Story came out to 14.75%, which I’m quite impressed by; but by just knowing that number, my brand can invest in specific initiatives on the platform to increase that number and objectively know that we’re moving ahead.

On Snapchat, apparently you have to call their HQ to get the number of followers you have, ‘cause the app sure ain’t tellin’ you. Seriously. You’ll be able to read the amount of views your story has had, but you’ll never get a sense of your potential reach. This means that a brand is completely blind as to whether they should invest in gaining new followers, or continue just focusing on engagement while trusting the ghostly fairies that everything will be OK.

That’s all fine for a teenager snapping on what Justin Bieber dared to say about One Direction, but for brands it’s a big nuh-uh.

Winner: Instagram

Pre-Produced Content

Brands can’t really play around, and can’t afford mediocrity. Working with brands on social media is a delicate balance between engaging an audience and ensuring your communication is consistent and on point.

So when you force a brand to only post from a smartphone, just the same as every other user, it severely limits what they can do.

Instagram allows uploading pre-produced content directly into Stories, whether it be graphic title cards, high-quality photos, interstitials, you name it.

Now, I know exactly what some of you are thinking, “But Snapchat is better because it’s authentic!!” Well, to that I have two responses:

  1. There’s plenty of fakery going on on Snapchat, actually. Just because you force a brand to post through the phone doesn’t preclude them from emitting false claims or pretending to be something they’re not.
  2. Who said authentic is better and more enjoyable anyway? Millions of fans enjoyed LOTR, Harry Potter, and the Marvel movies, yet nobody criticized their lack of authenticity. Oftentimes audiences are wowed by the best of the best, which is rarely possible by shooting from a smartphone.

Instagram offers a much richer toolset to give audiences what they want on a frequent basis and at a lower barrier of entry, whether a great story, mindblowingly-creative ideas, or just a release from the day-to-day routines.

Snapchat on the other hand forces brands to be the friend nobody likes… you know, that buddy neck-deep into Multi-Level Marketing, who shares smartphone videos about his/her life and then ends it with a call to action to buy his products at his next “home party.”

Winner: Instagram


I see the best brands using Instagram for everything it offers. For example, posting a teaser video on their Profile to go watch their Story of the day. Or vice-versa, posting a Story inch-by-inch teasing you about a contest, with the big reveal as a traditional Instagram photo. Or vice-vice-versa, a Profile post explaining a contest, and then inviting people to go to their latest Story to find the clues; then if you send a comment on the right clue they’ll DM you a link to your prize.

So. Many. Possibilities.

Snapchat on the other hand is about a linear content consumption experience. Yes, a few creative things have been done by asking for screenshots and comments, but without a permanent content “base” to go back and forth from, you’re depending on people’s attention span or fast-twitch reflex to really catch your message.

Winner: Instagram

External Linking

Make no mistake: The Web is still important, and much more for brands. This means that the ability to drop a call to action to visit a URL at a strategic moment in the campaign will still be a relevant necessity.

…the ability to drop a call to action to visit a URL at a strategic moment in the campaign will still be a relevant necessity. (tweet this)

Aside from ads, Instagram only allows for one single link from within the profile description. The next best thing is to drop a URL within a DM, and then asking people to copy and paste it in their browser… which is clunky as hell.

While Snapchat doesn’t allow for links on the Profile (what Profile btw?), it does allow you to post clickable URLs elegantly inside their private chats, which is cool. In this round, Snapchat takes it.

Winner: Snapchat


The evolution of Google’s Zero Moment pegs their Third Moment as that which lets common people like you and I share with others about a brand we love. This is the moment of maximum credibility, given that no brand can authentically force an individual to talk about them.

The game of brands is to influence those Third Moments to occur more and more frequently, but in a constrained environment that doesn’t let you share easily with others, it just doesn’t inspire brands to put their best content there.

On Instagram, users can mention the brand in post descriptions and comments, can repost to their accounts, and can post User Generated Content under a brand hashtag.

On Snapchat, unless you pay big dough to get a branded Lens, or find a way to compel people to actually post content using your geofilter, you can’t really go any farther than snapping a picture of your laptop screen. There’s no simple way for users to “re-snap” or amplify brand content at all.

Some of you will say that this is generally a good thing, because you don’t tend to want to see brand content posted by your friends, and for the most part, I would agree; yet the reason I’d agree isn’t because posting branded content is inherently dirty, but rather because most branded content is just terrible.

Branded content that is valuable, outstanding, or particularly entertaining is that which you feel delighted to share, as well as see your friends share. The issue here is about the quality of the content shared, not the fact that your friends share or not.

Branded content that is valuable, outstanding, or particularly entertaining is that which you feel delighted to share. (tweet this)

Yet even if brands manage to produce outstanding and amazing content, Snapchat would be a horrible place to bring it to light, as re-sharing is just a non-existent term in its vocabulary (again, unless you’ve paid prime dough to be featured by Snapchat in the first place).

Winner: Instagram

Final Score — Instagram: 5 ; Snapchat: 2

Verdict: Instagram is Better for Brands

Now despite our conclusion, Snapchat still has a lot going for it as a solid content and audience platform. Among them:

  • Great visibility for interstitial ads.
  • Fantastic platform to treat as an easy-to-consume media pipeline
  • Content brands are doing great stuff on the Discover side of the app experience
  • Event brands are making great use of geofilters for awareness

In the end, I don’t think this is a war, nor is this matter an either/or proposition across the board. There’s nothing saying that brands must be on one channel and not on the other.

The question here is: given limited resources, if brands had to choose one ephemeral content channel over the other, which would it be?

I think the decision should be Clarendon… I mean, clear!

If you enjoyed reading this, would you please slap that heart ❤️ icon button below? It would help others see this story, and would even make my aorta wiggle a little.