Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories: How to Decide Which Is Best for Your Brand

As brands adapt to the rapidly changing social media landscape, it’s important they remain flexible and remember they need not be everywhere, but should be represented well wherever they have a strong presence. For some, this means taking inventory of social channels and identifying where the brand performs best, and adjusting as trends fluctuate.

Like social media itself, Snapchat and Instagram have evolved. Snapchat was a messaging tool for young people to send photos that would disappear in 10 seconds or fewer. Instagram was a vehicle to post visually appetizing photos with captions. But times change.

Now both boast Stories, which gives users the ability to post (and view) ephemeral photos or videos that can be viewed for up to 24 hours. This is a fairly recent for Instagram – it took hold in fall 2016. Fast forward a few months, and users and brands have had time to play with both apps, gauging which (if either) is a useful tool to reach fans and customers. With two strikingly similar options, which is best for your brand?

Identify your audience

Snapchat and Instagram have young audiences primarily, but Snapchat reaches an especially youthful group – 25% of users are younger than 18, many of whom use it as their primary social media and messaging tool. Instagram boasts 22% of users younger than 18. Understandably, consumer-focused brands do best on these channels – products and services related to food, fashion, athletics and lifestyle. Even if your brand falls outside of these categories, there is plenty of opportunity for engagement. Almost 50% of brands across all industries are on Instagram, and brand engagement on the app is 10 times higher than Facebook. On both apps, more than half of users follow brands.

How are they alike?

Besides a similar demographic, 10-second video is a trend that Instagram and Snapchat Stories share, as well as messaging capabilities and in-app editing. For brands the best use for Stories is to provide a behind-the-scenes look at products or services. The informal nature of Instagram and Snapchat Stories means that posts can be significantly less polished.

How do they differ?

Though they seem similar, Instagram and Snapchat Stories have their differences. Instagram Stories allows you to tag users directly, meaning you can reach other brands, members of the media or individuals. It also allows you to continue a dialogue you’ve already started in your feed, which creates stronger brand continuity. On Snapchat, fans must add a brand intentionally, whereas Instagram allows users access to an account’s story just by clicking on the account. Due to the nature of Instagram, a user is more likely to find your page through the Explore function or other connections; Snapchat has a distinctly more concentrated scope. For example, if you already follow a brand on Instagram, you’ll see its Instagram story on your home feed – it automatically populates your page.

To help you decide the best platform for your brand, look at the pros and cons of each:

Snapchat Stories


  • Geotags give brands an opportunity to insert themselves into private conversations
  • The audience is more engaged because users must act – i.e., visit your site, manually follow you and take screenshots.
  • There’s more person-to-person contact since individuals view brands on their Snapchat feed as friends


  • No marketing metrics for ads
  • No way to measure views, peak hours for engagement or demographic info
  • Advertisers tend to drop off with newer updates to the app
  • Advertisers or brands know users exist, but it can be difficult to start a conversation with them, and is time-consuming to figure out 

Instagram Stories


  • Inherent use of visually appealing images
  • Stories give users a reprieve from choosing only one photo to post daily
  • Brands can harness the power of Instagram parent Facebook’s advertising power – soon there may be ads in Stories, sponsored Stories in the Explore tab and corresponding ads on Instagram and Facebook
  • Brands can link out in ads and bio


  • Metrics on organic posts are not robust
  • May lead to advertising fatigue
  • Many brands already are on Instagram, so it might begin to feel like Facebook; if this happens, the younger demographic may depart

Whatever you choose, commit to it

Whether you decide on Instagram or Snapchat, the best course of action is to choose one and commit to it. Post colorful, fun videos and photos daily, keeping the stories to a respectful length – no one wants to watch a story that’s more than one minute long. Reference your story in your posts on other channels to encourage fans from other places to tune in for a behind-the-scenes look at your brand. If you’re pursuing Snapchat stories, consider changing your profile picture on your other social media channels to a photo of your Snapchat ID, which users can scan in their apps to automatically follow you. If you’re posting on Instagram Stories, reference your story in your regular photo posts to encourage people to watch.

Social media changes constantly. Staying current with different channels and keeping a flexible social media strategy will allow you to reach more engaged and diverse audiences.