At first look, they seem similar. Both allow to take and share pictures and both have seen an impressive adoption growth. But it doesn’t it take too much of a deeper dive to realize that both platforms are also vastly different. L2, a business intelligence firm tracking digital performances of brands, just released  a new in-depth study, showcasing usages of both platforms by more than 280 luxury brands across nine categories. From organic reach to advertising opportunities, the study reveals key points crucial for anyone looking to better master the two Millenium-powered platforms.

While both Instagram and Snapchat reach a similar audience, Instagram is stronger in the over 25 years old  segment and Snapchat leads in  the under 24 age group. While this is no surprise, it is important to note that both have their core users in the 18-34 age group, the golden audience to most brands.  As a result, both are expected to triple their 2015 ad revenues this coming year (over $1 Billion for Instagram and $100 million for Snapchat) .  Yet, strangely enough, “while tweets comprise 77 percent of social posts generated by brands in Q4 2015, Instagram and Facebook register 10 percent and Snapchat weighs in at 2 percent of posts”. In other words, brands are still Instagram and Snapchat shy.

 Instagram and Snapchat : age of users
Age breakdown between Instagram and Snapchat

While  similarities are obvious, both platforms have very different and almost opposite cultures. Instagram is for publishing while Snapchat is for messaging. Instagram  favors creativity and craftsmanship while Snapchat calls for more authenticity and is more casual. The  audience on Instagram is more passive ( only 20% of the 400 million members actually post pictures daily) while Snapchatters are aggressively active with 65 percent of Snapchat’s daily users contributing content to the app on a daily basis.

Instagram vs Snapchat: Different cultures
Instagram vs Snapchat: Different cultures

In fact, while they might reach a very similar demographic, they fulfill different needs. The result is no only a wide difference in content, but a wide gap into how users interact with it. And this is key knowledge for marketers seeking to maximize each platform. To reach maximum engagement, brands need to fit in the different cultures.

As much as a well-crafted photograph would have minimum impact on Snapchat, as much as a burst of casual raw images would disturb the Instagram crowd.

Thus, brands publish less often on Instagram  but more consistently ( it takes time to create a strong visual), while they hit Snapchat by highly concentrated bursts, very often around  an event. Furthermore, while Instagram is more photos (video is just a recent option), Snapchat is perfect for video ( over 50% of its content or 10 Billion views a day).

Instagram vs. Snapchat: Post Frequency, by Category
More posts, less frequently for Snapchat, less post, more consistently for Instagram

Clearly, there is an opportunity for cross-platform promotion. And while the study is generous with  detailed examples of campaigns by top brands on both platforms, it is unclear what the best approach would be. Factoring in that Youtube is a third highly popular platform with the same demographics and marketers strategies become rocket science.

However, the L2 Intelligence study cuts through the hype by using  real life usage from hundreds of brands, some with proven successes. It is a perfect starting point to a  much better understanding of  the landscape, how complicated it might be. 38 fascinating pages worth reading. You can download a non-member excerpt of the report here :

Photo by Schlesinger Library, RIAS, Harvard University

Author: Paul Melcher

Paul Melcher is a highly influential and visionary leader in visual tech, with 20+ years of experience in licensing, tech innovation, and entrepreneurship. He is the Managing Director of MelcherSystem and has held executive roles at Corbis, Stipple, and more. Melcher received a Digital Media Licensing Association Award and is a board member of Plus Coalition, Clippn, and Anthology, and has been named among the “100 most influential individuals in American photography”

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