The Truth Behind Instagram Stories vs Snapchat

So there’s been a lot of talk this last week about how Instagram Stories has just passed Snapchat for daily users. Part of what’s fueling the headlines is, of course, the fact that Stories are a pretty blatant rip of Snapchat’s core features. And when I say blatant rip, I mean blatant. As in there was no one at Facebook (who owns Instagram by the way) who even made any attempt to adjust, change, or hide the new features. Let me show you what I mean.

From the camera:

To once the photo is taken:

To typing:

To even how they are viewed (they’re even both circles?!):

PS don’t you just love all of my amazing photos I used for the example here in the café while I write this?? #NoFilter #ProbablyNeedOneThough

Some History between Snapchat and Facebook: Yay, Drama!

To add to the fun drama of the story, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, met with the founders of Snapchat in 2012 to try and scare them by telling them Facebook Poke was launching shortly and would essentially crush them.  After Poke failed, Zuckerberg returned the next fall to offer to buy Snapchat (for $3 billion according to Mashable) and at that point, the founders were too confident and turned it down.

Mark Zuckerberg

So, naturally, Zuck decided if you can’t buy ’em, copy ’em. And now, we couldn’t have more of the makings of a giant tech company rivalry than if we’d made it up.

Why The Numbers Don’t Say That Much

So back to the latest headlines of Instagram “beating” Snapchat, Facebook touted that Stories now has over 200 million people using it daily compared to 158 million Snapchat reported in Q4 of 2016. And while 200 is greater than 158, for sure, it doesn’t tell the entire story.

Stories for Instagram is essentially just an added feature and considering it’s one that is shoved into your face at the top of your feed whenever you open the app, 200 million of its already over 600 million daily users isn’t the best ratio when you think about it as adoption.

Now, that’s not to say that Facebook shouldn’t be excited and show their 200 million number, it is still an achievement for them as it’s a “new” feature for them that seems to be catching on at least for a change (see: Poke, Slingshot, Parse, Notify, Facebook Home, Facebook Deals, Facebook Gifts, Facebook Offers, Facebook Credits, Autofill with Facebook, Facebook Inbox, FBML, Facebook Lite, Facebook Questions, Facebook Places, Frictionless Sharing, Facebook Beacon, Sponsored Stories, to name a few things Facebook launched and then had to drop).

While I mock, I do actually like Facebook Stories and am trying to use it more often myself (along with my other social networks). I also happen to like and use Snapchat *gasp*. I, personally, think that even with clearly copied features, they each have different pros and cons, different audiences, etc. Let me explain!

Why You Might Want to Use Instagram or Snapchat Over the Other


If you use social networks for your business in some way, Instagram Stories wins hands down. First, it has analytics, like proper ones. You can easily turn your Instagram profile into a business account (it’s in Settings) and that gives you access to Insights. Tapping on that has a section for Stories where you can not only see the number of views each post in Stories got, but you can also change the date range and compare other interesting metrics like how many exits people did on that post as well as tapping back to re-watch something, etc.

Comparing that to Snapchat, you can only see the number of views per story and as soon as the 24 hours expires for the story post, so does the statistics.

Public Facing

Now this one is partly why they have different users (which I’ll get into in a sec) but Instagram Stories is still a part of Instagram, which is a hugely popular publicly accessible social network. That means that anyone that finds your photos through their normal means and decides to follow you, will also now see your stories (see again: good for business).

TheUnlockr on Instagram

Snapchat is more about private messaging and frankly is hard to even call a social network by some standards (not that it would want to be called that). It’s more about sharing with specific people not necessarily the public. The fact that there is no way to discover new Snapchat accounts without basically knowing that person’s Snapcode or username is a testament to this.


So this one might change, but for now, I’ve even been testing this and with much less Snapchat “followers” I get a lot more views, responses, etc. from my Snapchat stories than I do Instagram. I imagine a lot of this comes down to the less public more personal nature of Snapchat. The people on there have always felt as if Snapchat is a closer, more raw connection with me than say Instagram users, who up until now, are used to a more rose-tinted view of someone’s life through their Instagram feed (and even though Stories is supposed to be more raw, the users aren’t quite used to it for that).

Snapchat Responses


To that point of showcasing perfection vs raw, real-life, the Stories might be the same, but the people watching and using them aren’t.

Again, Instagram has always been used to showcase beauty in some form or another (and as a photographer’s social network originally, that would make sense). Snapchat on the other hand has always been for sexting for quick glimpses into your life with the added security of the photos disappearing (making them both less necessary to curate as well as well as making it harder to justify setting up that perfect shot).

Snapchat vs Instagram in a Nutshell

Did I write this article just as an excuse to put this photo in it? It’s possible.
Photo Credit:

Now, neither is better than the other, they’re just different. And because of that, the existing users of each might have access to the same tools, but they’re going to use them in the way they’re used to.

A good example of this, is when I look at some popular food Instagrammer constituents of mine. Their feeds:

If you now are drooling and want to follow these food photogs, here they are from left to right – @eatingnyc, @brunchboys, @feedyoursoull, @skinnypignyc

And now, look at some Instagrammers’ stories:

Check out @eatingnyc, @brunchboys, and @zefzefs on Instagram, by the way.

Neither of which were taken on a phone, neither of which were taken in the moment, etc. (some of them do inject some videos/photos of themselves from their phones in between these shots by the way, but mostly it’s this). Again, they are showcasing their best artwork regardless of where they put it on Instagram.

Another big difference: This is made possible by the fact that, unlike Snapchat, Instagram allows you to take any photo from your camera roll that’s been put there in the last 24 hours and use it for your story. Which means that via Bluetooth for example, you can easily send photos from a DSLR to the phone and post them. Snapchat on the other hand sort of chastises you by putting a white border around anything that comes from the camera roll and isn’t taken directly in Snapchat itself. Use it and prepare to be made fun of.


Finally, and probably most importantly for anyone deciding which to use, demographics.

Going back to the different types of content shared on Instagram and Snapchat, that more public/polished vs raw/private concepts (respectively), they’re simply different people on each.

Snapchat was made hugely popular by teenagers. Without getting too much into it, whenever something gets popular in society, the next generation tends to shun it. The generation growing up with Facebook and sharing their lives with everyone via it, is now being avoided by the next generation who would much rather share more privately (messaging apps over social networks in general and the demographics who use them show this trend).

Chart Photo Credit:

These younger users will most likely not abandon Snapchat in favor of Instagram Stories. Ever. It just isn’t where they ever wanted to be in the first place. And for the most part, vise versa with Instagram users who tend to rather want a more public presence.


In my mind, these numbers aren’t showing how Instagram is going to steal users/”beat” Snapchat, it’s more of kudos to Facebook for developing a feature that their current users want (and might stop them from going to explore Snapchat). It’s just funny that Facebook had to blatantly copy a feature in order to do that though, no?

Let me know what you guys think, and by the way, you can find me on Instagram posting stories and on Snapchat doing the same. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “The Truth Behind Instagram Stories vs Snapchat”

  1. As blatant as the Instagram’s “rip” of Stories is, it’d be terribly naive of Snapchat to expect this form of content to stay exclusive to their app. I’m personally glad that it’s not and that other services are implementing stories as it is a novel and fun way to communicate.
    They have differences indeed, and I’m using both, but I like Instagram more. Snapchat has Discover that you can’t turn off and it’s chock full of revolting millenial-ish content irrelevant to me, so the simple lack of that in Instagram is a huge plus for me. Marketing on Instagram looks tame in comparison. I think Snapchat’s Discover might become a cause of user base decline due to it’s narrow targeting and it’s content that isn’t personalized, and the way it’s forced on people, of course.

    1. Hi James,

      First, thanks for the constructive comment, always appreciated.
      I also use both and tend to have a bit more of a propensity to want to use Instagram myself, but wonder if that might just be because I (and sounds like you might be as well) are more that demographic than Snapchat. I wonder if a 14 year old is annoyed by Discover, or maybe their annoyed by the “fakeness” of Instagram, etc.
      It’s definitely interesting to me (hence the blog post lol) and I’m super curious to see where it goes as far a business is concerned. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out especially where advertisers are concerned.
      I did just hear Snapchat is launching their own self-serve ad platform that puts ads in between people’s Snap stories, so wonder how the teenager demo will feel about that…

      Thanks again!

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