instagram cell phone tablet device 163184Watch out Evan Spiegel, the last few months have seen Snapchat challenged in a way it never has 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.

According to Instagram’s blog, Instagram's Stories have 200 million viewers a day, which makes up half of Instagram's 400 million daily active users. However, Instagram does not say how much time its user base spends viewing stories, which are curated by everyday users, brands and publishers. Snapchat, meanwhile, sees an enviable audience of 15 – 24 year olds engaging on a daily basis – spending an average of 25-30 minutes on the platform.

While Snapchat’s audience is relevant to marketers, we can see from brands such as UNIQLO and Garuda Indonesia 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 geo-filters 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 is right for your brand? Well, your audience will dictate that. If you’re targeting the doers and the creators, get on over to Snapchat. If you’re targeting the sit back and scroll while watching Game of Thrones sofa dwellers, then Instagram’s the place to be.

By Charles Tidswell, Vice President JAPAC, Socialbakers