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Snapchat vs. Instagram Stories: Which Works Better?

Published: November 1, 2017

Author: Will Moomaw

Digital Marketing Specialist Jonathan Manthey contributed to this post.
We recently launched a test for a client in the education vertical pitting Instagram’s Stories against Snapchat’s “Snap Ads”. Given the two ad formats’ similarities, we wanted to test the channels against each other to see which would be better at direct response. Each campaign contained the same 10-second video ads (two videos in each campaign). The KPI for these campaigns was class enrollments.
Instagram Stories was the clear winner in the test. The campaign drove several class enrollments at our CPA goal while also providing 400% more upper-funnel conversions. On the other side, Snapchat was only able to drive the lower-value, upper-funnel conversions at a much lower rate than Stories. Snapchat did not lead to any class enrollments.
Instagram Stories have the built-in advantage of Facebook’s audience capabilities – primarily an advertiser’s existing custom audiences, lookalikes, and a considerable network of “interest” targeting. Snapchat also allows you to create lookalikes, but the functionality is not nearly at the level of Facebook/Instagram. Similarly, Snapchat’s interest targeting is very generic, making it difficult to accurately target segments that are most likely to turn into customers. We felt this lack of tailored audience targeting impacted the Snapchat campaign’s success as 80% of our conversions on Stories came from lookalike audiences.

Throughout the three weeks of this campaign, nearly all of our Snapchat sessions appeared to be accidental given the channel’s high bounce rate (97%) and small session duration (~1 second) – both outliers among channels we use for this client. Although these metrics were significantly below our expectations, Snapchat required a minimum of $50 in spend, making any “real” sessions prove less cost-effective.
Although neither channel had an extremely high amount of volume, Instagram Stories are the better choice for advertisers looking to expand their direct response efforts. One issue with Snapchat is that its users are much more engaged with the Snapchat app than any potential ad they will see – as evidenced by the high bounce rate and low session duration that we encountered on this channel. Similarly, Instagram’s ability to construct more tailored audiences allows that channel to be more successful.
It is important to note that Snapchat is still a new channel and the functionality is constantly improving. If you do choose to run ads on Snapchat, remember to refresh your ads every two weeks, and set the expectation that it will not effectively drive lower-funnel actions.

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