Instagram and Snapchat have established themselves as two of the most popular social media platforms today. With over 1.1 billion monthly active users between them, these sites represent an enormous opportunity for businesses to advertise their products and services.
But how do you determine which platform is best for your business? What are the pros and cons of using one over the other?
In this post, we look at both Instagram and Snapchat as advertising platforms for e-commerce and other related businesses. Whether you’re a small-to-medium enterprise or a business behemoth, you’ll be able to find some tips on using Instagram or Snapchat to attract customers and boost sales and awareness.
Instagram: Photos, videos, and more
Instagram launched in 2010 as a photo sharing app. It was bought by Facebook two years later for a mountainous $1 billion. Since then, the platform has enjoyed a massive following, attracting new users every single day.
It rolled out Instagram Stories in 2016, a feature similar to Snapchat’s concept of disappearing posts. In September 2017, Instagram reported 800 million monthly active users and 500 million daily active users. Their ad program started in 2015, and today 2 million advertisers use the service to promote their brands.
Influencer marketing is an especially effective method of Instagram promotion. There are many Instagram influencer marketing guides out there to help get you started. Sponsoring your brand within existing popular accounts is a great method to attract more followers. Managed from the same dashboard that’s used for Facebook campaigns, any regular advertiser on the platform shouldn’t have much of an issue adding Instagram to their arsenal. For inspiration on ads and even organic posts, check out these Instagram tips for tourism businesses.
Snapchat: Sharing moments
Snapchat began in 2011, initially as a person-to-person photo messaging service. It has since evolved into a photo- and video-sharing app.
It introduced the concept of disappearing posts and the option of adding virtual stickers and augmented reality objects to each post.
Since Snapchat posts, called “snaps,” disappear after 24 hours, it is sometimes considered more “authentic” than Instagram posts. Users do not feel the need to curate their posts for Snapchat as much as they do on Instagram. Snapchat feels more random and casual, while Instagram’s format and reach make you want to edit your posts to make it “Instagram-worthy.”
Differences between Instagram and Snapchat audiences
One of Instagram and Snapchat’s differences lies in their demographics— the majority of Snapchat’s users are under 25, while 33 percent of Instagram’s users are over between 30 to 49.
Regarding geographic location, 80 percent of Instagram’s users are outside the United States. For companies with a global reach, this statistic (among other Instagram stats) is important to consider. Meanwhile, 43 percent of Snapchat’s daily active users live in North America.
Snapchat users spend an average of more than 30 minutes per day on the app, compared to about 15 minutes for Instagram users. Snapchat has asserted this statistic to attract more advertisers, moving the conversation away from quantity and into quality.
Advertising Options for Instagram and Snapchat
When it comes to advertising, Instagram has a much more traditional format than Snapchat. Instagram’s ads are coursed through the Facebook Ads Manager, an easy to use tool that also includes useful data analytics for marketers.
Businesses can choose from five types of photo and video ads:
- Single photo: This type of ad looks just like a regular Instagram post, so it doesn’t feel intrusive to the user. You can post eye-catching images of your product along with an inspiring caption and a call-to-action.
- Video: This is an excellent avenue to promote exciting games or creative software.
- Carousel: Carousel ads use multiple photos with a single caption. If you prefer to showcase your bestsellers in one post, this is an option.
- Slideshow: Similar to carousel ads, slideshow ads are multi-photo posts shown as a video loop, sometimes with music.
- Stories: Full-screen photo or short video ads shown between people’s stories.
Instagram advertising allows you to choose your campaign objectives, which are then used by Facebook Ads Manager in optimizing your ads.
Snapchat’s advertising, Snap Ads, is less direct but more fun and interactive. The company is inclined more toward person-to-person engagement than advertising, thus their ad formats:
- Snap Ads: This can be a still image, GIF, slideshow, or video. Attachments are also available, where users can swipe up to view your website, install your app, or watch a long-form video. Snap ads can appear in between snaps, or in the Discover content.
- Geofilters: Geofilters are graphic overlays that Snapchatters can use in their snaps. They are location-based, with the filter only being available within a specific area, from a few blocks to the entire country. You also choose how long it can be opened, from as short an hour or for the whole year (this feature is gratifying to use during special events).
- Lenses: Lenses are similar to filters, but are animated and provide more interaction with the user. These are filters that users can play with, using them as props or facial expressions. Lenses give people something creative and fun to share, virtually turning them into brand ambassadors.
Filters and lenses can be useful tools in boosting brand awareness, while Snap ads are paramount if you require a more traditional advertising product.
Like Instagram, Snapchat also offers data analytics so you can track and measure the success of your campaign.
Other Facts to Consider When Choosing a Platform
Aside from your target audience, you have to consider what you intend to achieve with your ads. If brand awareness among a younger audience is your goal, such as promoting new videos or online games, you can opt to sponsor Snapchat filters or lenses. These are excellent ways to promote businesses that already have some awareness, but would still like a boost or an edge over competitors.
A disadvantage of Snapchat, however, is that you won’t be able to describe your product with captions. And, since two out of three Snapchat users watch videos without sound, this poses a problem for advertisers. Instagram ads, on the other hand, have captions (except Stories), which is helpful if you are a new business or have a new product that needs a bit of introduction.
You can get around the barrier of not being able to describe your Snap ads by hiring an explainer video agency like Yans Media or Jumpanzee to create videos that don’t require captions if you have the extra capital to invest.
Seasonal ads, such as anniversary blowouts or a “buy one, get one” promo, also need a description, so either Snap ads or any of the Instagram ads might work.
If reaching as many people as you can is your objective, then you would perhaps be better off using Instagram ads, which also has the advantage of hosting hundreds of prominent social media influencers.
You’ll also need to determine how much and what kind of engagement with customers you want from your ads. Instagram offers several engagement options, from liking to commenting or messaging the business. If your goal is to build relationships with customers, then Snapchat’s personal and one-on-one engagement is better.
Your products will also determine your content. Videos might work with some games and creative software, but still, images might be better with some products like food or clothes. Snapchat is better for creative and original content, while Instagram is perfect for visually appealing products.
While there are plenty of guides to highlight social media content best practices, a central theme is to remember to always include a call-to-action at the end of your posts, whether you’re asking readers to visit your website, avail a promo, or install an app; this will ensure that you get meaningful feedback from the data analytics and will help convert your advertising into sales and profit. Tell me what experiences you’ve had with Instagram and Snapchat in the comments below.