Instagram Stories vs Snapchat Stories

By Simon Ensor
Social Media 10.08.2016

Last week saw the bold release of Instagram Stories. Users can now share a string of photos and videos edited with drawings and captions that last for 10 seconds and self-destruct after 24 hours. Sound familiar?
Familiar may not be a strong enough word. Rather, it seems more like blatant plagiarism of Snapchat’s most popular feature, reflected in their brazen choice to even use the same name. Nevertheless, the decision to introduce this new feature in such an unabashed manner seems to be a tactical move from Instagram. They want their users to know they have replicated Snapchat’s popular feature; they want to show their users that they can take the same idea but make it better. As Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom explained in an interview:

“[Snapchat] deserve all the credit… [but] this isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.”

Why has Instagram copied Snapchat?

The simple answer is that Snapchat were on to something and Instagram wanted in. Instagram owner, Facebook, even tried to buy Snapchat for £3bn back in 2013 but Snapchat refused. Facebook couldn’t acquire the popular social platform so the next best option was to copy them. In the process, they will be hoping to widen their user base and increase the advertising success of the platform.

Snapchat boasts a huge appeal to younger audiences, who favour the fast-paced and more personal approach to social sharing. In addition, millennials live in an increasingly pressurised digital world where value is, sadly, often measured by likes and comments. The stories feature relieves this pressure, providing a more fun and liberal way of communicating. Furthermore, the recent escalation of video output has meant that the social media platforms have had to adapt accordingly. Instagram stories will facilitate the increased production of videos, making them easier to create and easier to publish.

Instagram knows that although the stories function is a highly successful feature, Snapchat has a problem with older users. On the other hand, Instagram are in the ideal position to introduce stories to an older generation, with the advantage of a familiar platform and more user friendly interface. Yet the move is not just about widening the user base and satisfaction; Instagram also wants a slice of the marketing magic. According to a recent study, Snapchat has the ability to command more visual attention than Facebook and Instagram combined, at an impressive 78%:

social media view time comparison

Furthermore, Snapchat video ads generate a higher purchase intent, almost three times higher than that of Instagram. In other words, users are more likely to click-through and make a purchase via a Snapchat ad than they are on Instagram:

social purchasing graph

This is likely due to the format of Snapchat ads. Not only do they fill the entire screen and therefore minimise distractions, they are also exceptionally brief in nature and can captivate the user’s attention for the full duration of the ad. In adopting this format, Instagram can leverage the success of Snapchat’s ads – marketers, take note.

Are there any differences between Instagram Stories and Snapchat Stories?


Instagram Stories Snapchat Stories


Photos Camera roll photos from the last 24 hours Photos stored in memories


Display Order Algorithm to determine which stories each user would prefer to see Chronological order


Filters No filters currently available Various goofy filters available, including dog face and flower crown


User Interface More user friendly for digital novices and a nice, clean user interface Not quite as user friendly, geared more at a younger audience


Viewers Visibility Users can see a list of people who have viewed their story Users cannot see who has viewed their story


Engagement  Users can engage with stories by sending a direct message There is currently no way of engaging with stories


Privacy If your profile is not private then your stories will be public, although there is the option to hide stories from certain people Only your friends can see your stories


Although the idea and concept is the same, there are several key differences as noted in the above table. It is clear that Instagram is attempting to adapt the stories feature to suit the picture-sharing platform, notable in the use of an algorithm to determine the display order and the added level of engagement through direct message. Despite there not currently being an option for the same goofy filters much loved by Snapchat users, given that Instagram was the first champion of filters, it is only a matter of time. As for users being able to see who has viewed their stories – well, that will put an end to snooping on your ex!

How have people reacted?

As is to be expected, there has been a strong outcry from users of both Instagram and Snapchat users alike. Most complaints have focussed on the plagiarism issue but are usually followed up by a recognition that it is actually a great idea. Having said that, there have been a fair few comical digs at Instagram:

tweet jack brody
instagram story tweet
tweet about snapchat
snapchat instagram logo

Should Snapchat be worried?

There is no denying that Instagram offers a multitude of advantages over Snapchat. With 300 million daily active users, Instagram has almost twice the number as Snapchat. Plus, Instagram has the added benefit of an open network. In other words, users can search and discover new users and trends, whereas on Snapchat users are limited to adding people by exact username only. Although Snapchat offers a ‘Discover’ section, the content is curated by professional editors and is therefore more contrived and less liberal.

In terms of advertising revenue, it is likely that marketers will begin to favour Instagram. The new stories feature combines the highly successful formula of Snapchat ads with the wider user base and clean interface of Instagram. This winning combination has already been proved a success by Nike, whose first Instagram story generated 800,000 views. Whereas their best performing video on Snapchat only received 66,000 views, according to Ad Age. It’s a no-brainer for marketers, which could spell danger for Snapchat in the long-term.


It is inevitable that the brand reputation of Instagram will suffer a slight knock in the light of the overt idea-stealing conquest. Yet it will be only a matter of time before it is forgotten and the long-term effects of the move will pan out. It is clear that social media platforms are trying to do everything they can to innovate, grow and beat down the competition. However, do they risk losing their uniqueness in trying to do everything and cover all bases?

Snapchat used to be the platform to represent the behind-the-scenes, unedited version of life, whilst Instagram was for presenting the filtered, best version. Now the lines between them have been blurred, forcing users to choose between two platforms that they never used to have to choose between. Which will come out on top? We’re putting our money on Instagram but only time will tell.

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