Before I get into this, I want to make something super clear. I’m talking about why I scrapped Snapchat, not why you should. This is totally about my preferences and how I use social media. It’s not going to be the same for everyone and I’m not for a moment suggesting that no-one should be using Snapchat, that everyone should be embracing Instagram Stories or that you must all choose between the two.
A couple of months ago, I decided to give Snapchat a go. There was no deep and meaningful reason for this beyond the fact that I like playing with different social media platforms and I hadn’t played with Snapchat yet. Prior to my Snapchat experimentation, I’d been aware of Instagram Stories, a feature built into the Instagram app (Stories FAQ | Stories launch article on Instagram’s blog). It’s a blatant copy of Snapchat, right down to the recently introduced filters, but since I adore pretty much everything Instagram does (apart from removing the chronological feed and the fact that it’s owned by Facebook…grr!) I figured I’d spend a bit of time getting to know it.
What ended up happening was that IG Stories really highlighted all the things about Snapchat that didn’t work for me. Because of the ephemeral nature of IG Stories, I share pictures that I don’t consider artistic enough to post in other places. I also share content that might be interesting to look at for a few seconds as part of my day but that I wouldn’t share elsewhere (I’m not a “check out my breakfast” Instagrammer or Tweeter, but I totally Story this stuff). Something else that appeals to me about IG Stories is being able to share the less polished and glamourous aspects of my existence that I still want to put ‘out there’, like raw moments in a life with chronic illness, without these posts lasting forever.
While I was using Snapchat, I shared those things there too – the nature of my content was not specific to IG Stories – but Snapchat just wasn’t doing it for me, and that’s what I want to talk about here. It’s confusing that Snapchat also has a feature called ‘your story’, where you add posts to a stream of your day rather than sending them to specific people. To differentiate for the purpose of this blog, ‘story/stories’ with a lowercase ‘s’ refers to that feature within Snapchat and IG Stories, and ‘Story/Stories’ with a capital ‘S’ refers specifically to IG Stories.
First, let’s look at some things IG Stories and Snapchat have in common…
- Posts can be photos or videos
- Posts to your story disappear after 24 hours
- You can choose to save your own posts to your device (or not)
- Posts can be customised with text, graphics and lenses/face filters (this is a shiny new feature on IG Stories, being rolled out today)
- There are no comments or likes on posts in stories, so responses are sent as private messages
- Posts can be sent to specific people as well as being shared as part of your story (see why the story/Story thing is hard to write about?)
And here are the differences…
- Providing your Instagram account isn’t set to Private, your Story can be viewed by anyone who can access the rest of your content. Stories on Private accounts can only be viewed by friends. On Snapchat, you can ONLY see someone’s posts after adding them as a friend. This means you have no clue what someone’s content is like until AFTER you’ve added them, so you have no idea whether or not you’ll actually have any interest in what they’re posting without adding them first. I encountered some pretty vile shit on Snapchat because of this.
- It’s basically impossible to browse or search users on Snapchat itself. I used an app called Ghostcodes, which allows you to browse profiles based on categories and keywords, but you still have to add someone on Snapchat itself to see their posts or communicate with them. Because IG Stories is part of the Instagram app, all Instagram’s usual search and browse functions apply.
- IG Stories allows you to mention/tag other users in your posts. I haven’t been able to find that function in Snapchat, or any information about it, so I’m assuming it isn’t a thing. I could be wrong though.
- While Snapchat allows you to contribute to live stories, these are location-based and/or event-based, so you’re contributing your post to an over-all collaborative thing. IG Stories allows you to go live without these restrictions. Your live videos vanish immediately once you finish streaming. Obviously this has its positives and negatives, but it definitely makes me more inclined to use the live video function without giving as much of a shit about looking rough or doing daft stuff (both of which are constants in my life).
Why this stuff matters to me but might not matter to you…
- I reckon Snapchat is probably great if you know loads of people who also use Snapchat, which I don’t. The people I follow on Instagram are people who I either already have a connection with through a shared appreciation of each other’s photos, or whose posts interest me enough that I want to follow them and see more of their content. Snapchat doesn’t allow for this at all.
- Snapchat is also probably really useful for people who are focused on broadcasting rather than (just) making mutual connections. I assume it might be great for brands or individuals who are looking for another channel of distribution for primarily video-based content, and I know some YouTubers with thousands of followers who use Snapchat for things like Q&A sessions. Although teenagers and people in their early twenties make up the largest number of both Snapchat and Instagram’s users, Instagram has a much larger number of people in older age groups than Snapchat does. So if your intended audience leans towards a lower age range, or you’re a younger person with lots of friends of a similar age, Snapchat could totally work for you. I’m not pulling this information out of my ass. It’s available here, if you’re interested.
- Some people use the whole “add me to see my content” approach as a way to gain followers. Setting your Instagram account to private means that if you have a vaguely interesting profile and you Like other people’s stuff, they might follow you just to check out your posts. Since you need to add someone on Snapchat to see their posts, this could be a useful tool to entice followers from other platforms, or those who have found you via Ghostcodes, to follow you. This is a million miles from my approach to social media, so it doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.
I don’t see the point in using two platforms for exactly the same thing, especially when one has lots of features that I find useful and the other doesn’t. I’m all about the mutual connections and I’m already established on Instagram in that I’ve been using it for a while, so it made more sense for me to hang on to Instagram and make more use of Stories than to keep Snapchat as well when I wasn’t really enjoying it or getting much out of it.
As the song goes, you gotta know when you hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to choose one platform for sharing videos of your cat and selfies with animal ears over another…
If you’d like to see ephemeral life fragments in my Instagram Stories, as well as lots of photos, (my entire IG account is public) you can find me at instagram.com/tanyasimonesimpson