Social media is a rapidly-growing and ever-changing field, and it can be difficult to keep up with. Even if you’re savvy on (relatively) older platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, you might not have any idea how to promote your company on newer platforms, or how to choose between sites such as Instagram vs Snapchat.

These two social media sites are incredibly popular among young people today. They’re also easy to confuse, since both focus on sharing images and other visual content. However, with a little research you can learn the ins and outs of Instagram vs Snapchat, and find a new audience for your business.

In this article we’ll walk you through the features and demographics of Instagram vs. Snapchat, making it easy for you to choose the best new social media platform for your brand.

An introduction to Instagram

The Instagram homepage, Instagram Vs Snapchat

Instagram is a social networking site that’s very popular among younger people. It’s a smartphone app that enables users to share photos and videos. If you’re not familiar with the platform, it can help to think of it as a simplified version of Facebook, with an emphasis on visual media.

Users on Instagram have their own feeds and profiles, where they can share their latest content with their networks. You can follow other Instagram users to see what they post. To communicate with other Instagram users you can like, comment on, and tag individual pieces of media. Instagram also features a private messaging system for more personal communication.

Instagram’s key demographics

As an app, Instagram is intended for use on the go. It focuses on simplicity, speed, and ease of use. It’s also similar to Twitter, in that the content shared is brief and meant to be consumed and moved on from quickly. For this reason, it’s no surprise it’s most commonly used by younger generations.

Here are some of Instagram’s key demographics:

Instagram demographics
Age Used by 59% of 18 to 29-year-olds, and 33% of 30 to 49-year-olds.
Gender More popular with women: 38% use it (as opposed to 26% of men).
Income Accessed at a steady rate across all income levels.
Education Most users either attend college (37%) or have a college degree (33%), with 27% of users having only a high school degree.

As you can see, some factors have a much higher impact on the likelihood that a person will use Instagram than others. Age is a primary indicator, for example, while income plays almost no role. In the next section, we’ll discuss how these demographics will affect the way you target your audience on this platform.

The ways people use Instagram

From the demographics listed above, we can construct a fairly clear picture of the average Instagram user. She is female, between the ages of 18 and 29, and has at least some college education. Her income is difficult to guess, but it’s likely she makes enough to be an active consumer.

When targeting your audience on Instagram, you’ll need to aim your messaging at a younger, mostly and well educated female buyer – let’s call her Isabelle. You’ll also need to know whether or not Isabelle would actually be interested in your products or services.

It’s also essential to understand how Isabelle uses Instagram. She carries the platform around on her phone, making it part of her day-to-day life. She probably uses it to share what she does on a regular basis, since 63% of young ‘Instagrammers’ use the app to document their lives. 53% also say that Instagram helps them define who they are. This means Isabelle uses the platform to learn about her interests, and connect with similar users and communities.

There’s a good chance that Isabelle interacts with Instagram multiple times each day. 39% of 13 to 24-year-olds access the platform right before they go to bed. 33% open the app soon after waking. Around 50% use it while watching TV or on vacation as well. Last but certainly not least, 68% of young Instagram users interact regularly with brands through the platform. Therefore, Isabelle is likely to be interested in considering what you have to offer.

How to target Instagram users

To be successful on Instagram, you’ll need to share short, compelling content that grabs Isabelle’s attention and doesn’t disrupt her daily activities. Quick photos and videos that provide entertainment, useful tips, inspirational quotes, and other information connected to everyday life will be ideal ways to market your brand.

Isabelle uses Instagram frequently, so she probably understands its unique features. This means you should make use of them too, by:

  • Using hashtags – target particular groups, interests, and communities with a variety of strategically chosen hashtags.
  • Employing @mentions – bring popular Instagram accounts with lots of followers into the conversation.
  • Using location tagging – show people where you are and how you fit into the local community.

This may seem like a lot. However, the key benefit of Instagram is that it’s simple and quick to use once you get the hang of it. A little practice, and you can increase your brand awareness with people like Isabelle in only a few minutes each day.

An introduction to Snapchat

The Snapchat homepage, Instagram Vs Snapchat

Now, let’s turn our attention to Snapchat. In some ways, this platform is similar to Instagram. It has a primary focus on images and videos, enabling users to share both media types easily. In addition, it’s a mobile app, meant to be used on a smartphone or similar device.

However, the key distinction between Instagram vs Snapchat is that the latter platform’s content is not permanent. Pictures and videos are shared only temporarily. Friends can view the media you send them for ten seconds, after which it is deleted from the platform. Alternately, you can post content to a public feed that can be seen by all your followers. However, even these posts get deleted after 24 hours.

Snapchat’s key demographics

For the above reasons, Snapchat is a more informal platform. It focuses on sharing quick moments of your life with your social network, and communicating directly with friends and family. There’s also a whimsical nature to the app. Users commonly edit their photos with a wide variety of ‘filters’, drawings, emojis, and other alterations.

So who is on Snapchat? Here are a few characteristics of the typical user:

Snapchat demographics
Age 28% are between 18 and 24, while 53% are under 34 years old. 83% of U.S. teenagers between 12 and 17 use the platform.
Gender Largely female – this gender makes up 70% of users.
Education 77% of college students use the app, and it’s also very popular with high-school aged students.
Income Difficult to assess for Snapchat alone, but usage is consistent across income brackets for auto-delete apps as a category.

This is very similar to the demographics for Instagram users. In fact, many of the same young people are likely using both platforms. However, the way you target your audience on Instagram vs Snapchat will vary, because people use the apps differently.

The ways people use Snapchat

Let’s take a look at the typical person who uses Snapchat. She is almost certainly female, and between 12 and 24 years old. She is likely either in high school or college, or is a recent graduate. It’s difficult to guess her income, although given her age it is probably on the lower end.

Let’s call this Snapchat user Sarah. If you’re thinking about using Snapchat for your marketing, you’ll need to consider whether Sarah would be interested in, have the need for, and be capable of purchasing your products or services.

You should also understand how Sarah uses the app, in order to connect with her more easily. Chances are good that Sarah uses Snapchat pretty often, especially in her downtime. 77% of college students use the app at least once a day, mostly on evenings and weekends. About 37% are creative with the platform, making and sharing their own content, while about 50% use it largely as a means of communication.

This means that Sarah mostly turns to Snapchat for personal reasons. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the app to market your brand successfully. 45% of college students who use Snapchat would open a message from an unknown brand, and 73% would open one from a known brand. These users are also willing to add brands as ‘friends’ on the app, and are interested in receiving information about discounts, promotions, and coupons.

How to target Snapchat users

The impermanent nature of Instagram vs Snapchat means that if you want to get Sarah’s attention, you’ll need to provide her with something she can use right away. This makes sharing the latest sales and coupons an effective strategy. More so than with Instagram, your messaging will need to be casual, brief, and attention-grabbing.

You can also make some headway by using Snapchat-specific marketing techniques, such as:

  • Using the Stories feature – display messages that can be seen by all of your followers for up to 24 hours.
  • Being creative with images – use color options, drawing tools, and filters.
  • Creating a unique Snapchat QR code – make it easy for users to follow you.

By employing these strategies and keeping in mind who Sarah is and why she’s using the app, you can boost your odds of successfully making an impact on Snapchat.

How to choose: Instagram vs Snapchat

If you’re trying to choose between Instagram vs Snapchat to create a social media presence, your first step is to decide which platform’s demographics are a better match for your target audience. Both consist primarily of younger, educated female users, so that should be one of your product or service’s primary target demographics. However, Snapchat skews somewhat younger, while Instagram attracts more older and male users. Snapchat is perfect if you’re targeting mostly teenagers and young women in college. Instagram is a solid place to connect with twenty-somethings of either gender.

  • After that, consider how the typical user engages with Instagram vs Snapchat. Isabelle, our Instagram user, checks in with the app throughout the day to briefly connect with her interests and communities. This makes Instagram ideal if your brand can share short and entertaining or informative content that connects with your audience’s everyday lives. Instagram is best for raising awareness about and trust in your brand, not direct promotion.
  • Sarah, on the other hand, is on Snapchat to communicate with her network, share moments from her life, and consume content during her downtime. She uses the platform for personal reasons, but still wants to receive information from brands. If informal, impermanent, and creative content suits your brand, you should use Snapchat. It’s ideal for direct promotion of your latest sales, coupons, and other time-sensitive marketing.

In short, Instagram works best for brands that market through entertaining or informative permanent content. On the other hand, Snapchat works for brands that want to promote their latest sales and events directly.

Do you have any questions about how to target your audience on Instagram vs Snapchat? Ask away in the comments section below!

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By John Hughes

John is a self-taught WordPress designer and developer. He has been working with the CMS for over a decade, and has experience operating as a freelancer and as part of an agency. He’s dabbled in everything from accessible design to website security. Plus, he has extensive knowledge of online business topics like affiliate marketing.

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