Turn On, Tune In, Swipe Up



In the beginning, there was Snapchat: a fresh take on social media usage, sending pictures (and later, videos) that expired after 24-hours; a paradigm shift of sorts that affected how we as a society had been trained to interact with our friends online. But Snapchat did not stop here, as they launched the “Stories” function only 2 years after the app’s conception. This allowed repeated viewings of compiled photos & videos in that same 24-hour period. By this point in 2013, Snapchat users were sharing 400 million snaps a day and things couldn’t have gone any better for a company originally funded with $480,000, now finding itself turning down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook.

Not to be outdone, Instagram launched their own “Stories” function in 2016 after a 5-year, largely un-opposed run of dominance in the ephemeral messaging space by Snapchat. For lack of a better word, Instagram straight up stole this idea from Snapchat; the two functions are virtually identical and their CEO even admits to this notion. But the idea here is to draw users away from Snapchat by offering the same functions of Snapchat within the already dominant social app that is Instagram. Aside from interface similarities, both apps also employ heavy use of native advertising, allowing brands to emulate the shared content that their users see every day. Despite this, there are nuanced differences between the two that speak to the strengths & weaknesses of each platform.


The year is 2018: we find ourselves in a new frontier of Story Ads.

It may come as a surprise to you that both Snapchat and Instagram have only recently opened up Story Ad placements to smaller advertisers even though both apps have utilized ads in one form or another for around 5 years now. The main difference here is that Instagram’s self-service ads manager has been in use for all advertisers both big & small for a significantly longer time than Snapchat. Prior to this, Snapchat had only allowed heavily vetted advertisers with deep pockets access to their ad placements with some caveats, such as having to work directly with a Snapchat rep in order to place ads.

You can see how this might cause some businesses to disregard Snapchat completely as an avenue to funnel ads dollars through. Instagram may have bit Snapchat’s style with stories, but once they added story placements to their already user-friendly ad interface, Snapchat couldn’t afford to sit idly by anymore. After all, this kind of full-screen, vertical video or static image ad was pretty much invented by Snapchat; Instagram merely adopted it. Since Snapchat opened up Snap Ads to all advertisers, it has steadily been adding more enticing features in order to stay on par with Instagram. From an advertiser’s standpoint, Instagram may have more users, but more users means more competition. Snap Ads are still relatively new in the marketing space, especially for small businesses, so they provide a fantastic opportunity to squeeze every possible impression out of your ad dollars due to the lower level of competition.

As mentioned earlier, Snapchat originated the full-screen, vertical video & image ads used in stories, but that doesn’t mean that there are no innovations going on over at Instagram. In late March of this year, Instagram rolled out a feature that allows advertisers to promote their ad within both the timeline and stories using the same non-vertical creative complete with ad copy. This eliminates any hurdles an advertiser may have encountered when formatting their creative to fit the stories’ full-screen aspect ratio.


Snapchat unfortunately finds themselves at a loss in this aspect due to the fact that the entire basis of their self-serve ad platform exists within the format of stories; Snapchat does not have a feed like that of Instagram’s. But don’t count Snapchat out just yet, because they also have recently added an additional placement option available to all advertisers – Story Ads. Located within the Discovery feed, advertisers can now purchase a Discover tile, previously available to bigger brands such as ESPN, Cosmopolitan, and BuzzFeed, and promote a free-standing story ad that the user must select in order to view, similar to selecting a friend’s story to watch.

It remains to be seen whether or not these recent innovations from both Snapchat & Instagram give either an edge over the other, but what can’t be ignored is the user-base of each platform. The aforementioned lead in user-base that Instagram has over Snapchat put them at 250 million daily users within a year of Instagram stories taking off versus just 191 million for Snapchat in the same timeframe. However, Snapchat leads in one age group that advertisers are still trying to figure out: young millennials. Even after Snapchat’s ill-received redesign a few months ago, users younger that 24 years old still use the app on a daily basis. With statistics like that, it’s tough to argue against Snapchat as a viable way to build brand awareness; get your message across on the app of choice of the youth and watch your brand grow along with them.

Interested in learning more about Snapchat & IG stories and how they can help your brand? Get a social media strategy tailor made for your brand by J Miller Marketing! Follow J Miller on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or contact us directly!


By Nick Shulda
Online Media Strategist