Snapchat has been the darling of the social media world for the last couple of years. It was mysterious, that hard to get young adult market loved it and it played hardball with advertisers, meaning we only wanted it more.

The last few months have seen Snapchat challenged in a way it has never been before and it’s all because Instagram looked at what Snapchat was doing and decided they could do it better. Stories are the lifeblood of Snapchat, but Instagram’s offering is already more popular and growing at a rate Snapchat can only dream of. Why is this happening? Because Instagram knows that for most of us stories are something to consume, not something we create ourselves.

Snapchat has built its success on getting people to create stuff. But creation is hard, it’s much easier when you’re bored to look at someone else’s post than it is to think of a post of your own. That’s not to say Snapchat’s audience isn’t relevant to marketers – they still have an enviable audience of young people who engage on a daily basis – spending an average of 25-30 minutes on the platform.

But we can see from brands such as Aston Martin and Missguided that Instagram is the place to go to reach the masses. By creating content their millions of followers love, they’ve built audiences who welcome daily reminders of the brand’s existence.

Neither of these brands, nor the Top 100 largest brands on Instagram who have tripled their audience size over the past two years, according to Socialbakers’ data, got to where they are by shooting off posts into the dark. They examined the medium, examined other successful brands and asked themselves what would work.

Before embarking on an Instagram Story, ask yourself:

· Is my current Instagram game on point?

How are your engagement levels looking? Good? Great, then it’s time for you to move onto Stories. If not, get your basics right. Look at what the key influencers in your community are creating and leverage trending topics to connect with your audience. Once people are viewing and liking your existing posts, they’ll view your story. In short – don’t run before you can walk

· Is it worth a Story?

Stories are great as a glimpse at what’s really happening. They’re not for staged moments you want to live forever. Instead, they’re to create that feeling of wish you were here

· Will anyone see it?

Stories disappear after 24 hours. So if you know your audience visits Instagram multiple times a day, they’re perfect for you. If not, you probably want to make that last clip a permanent post.

Snapchat meanwhile is focused on two main goals - revive its flagging user growth and prove to investors it can generate significant, sustained revenue through advertising. That means brands considering the platform need to realise they are Snapchat’s golden eggs and so the best formats are going to be pay-to-play.

· How can you engage your audience?

Snapchat users are creators by default. Smart brand campaigns will look to take advantage of this and ask their audience to do things. This could be as simple as drawing their favourite cartoon or playing a virtual game of Guess Who, what matters is you’re recognising why they’re using the platform

· Which format suits your needs?

Sponsored geofilters and lenses offer brands fun opportunities to engage with and entertain users on terms they’re comfortable with. But, they need a common motif or visual image to ensure they stay in your audience’s brain long after the image is gone. (And no, your logo doesn’t count!)

So which platform should your brand be on? That’s easy – what is your audience like? If they’re out there snapping their day out from every angle, sporting a pair of Spectacles, than Snapchat is your answer. If they’re at home in front of the TV, that’s a decent signal you should probably be looking to publish on Instagram during the ad breaks.


By Moses Velasco, chief product evangelist at Socialbakers

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