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When Growth Hacking Becomes Unnatural: Comparing Instagram & Snapchat Strategies

Snapchat started out as the smartphone user’s best friend. And for many advertisers and everyday users, it’s a friendship that has yet to fade. However for others, shiny and new is too hard to resist. Instagram Stories, or what’s often referred to as the most recognized “Snapchat clone,” became part of a platform with 200 million daily users, making it an instantly popular feature.

Many months have passed since Instagram introduced Stories to the social media world. So as Snapchat’s Q1 earnings announcement approached, investors and advertisers were anxious to see if/how Snap has been affected, and what’s more – the response.

Let’s Talk Money

The announcement on May 10 revealed some dips in the paycheck, to put it lightly. Overall, Snap brought in $149.6 million in total revenue which not only falls nearly 8 million below the Wall Street predicted $159 million but doesn’t touch the $165.6 million revenue in Q4 of 2016. Following the announcement, investor’s shares fell more than 20 percent.

Snap isn’t giving up – claiming they are “still in investment mode.” They’re focusing more on engagement, boasting 8 million more daily users in Q1 as well as continuing in their efforts to help brands (small and large) better serve their ads.

Are Instagram and Facebook All Talk?

So, how effective have Facebook and Instagram proven to be in the world of “stories”? While audience size doesn’t seem to be a problem for the social network juggernauts, audience acquisition techniques give us something more to think about. “Growth hacking” strategies and tactics are those used to significantly boost sales and/or audience numbers. And while simple growth hacking tactics are no different from the principles we learned in our college Intro to Marketing courses, other processes have become increasingly more complex through the rise of data configuration and analytics.

Snap CEO, Evan Spiegel, mentions push notifications as a particular growth hacking tactic that he believes could get Snap’s competition into trouble.

“There’s a lot of this thing in our industry called ‘growth hacking’ where you send a lot of push notifications to users or you try to get them to do things that might be unnatural,” Spiegel said, referring to Instagram and Facebook. “I think that’s an easy way to grow daily actives quickly, we don’t think that those types of techniques are sustainable over the long term and I think that can ultimately impact our relationship with the customer.” Source: AdWeek

Many marketers view push notifications as a way to drive immediate traffic to products or content. While that traffic does boost awareness, there’s no guarantee that the awareness will be positive. Push notifications are one of those tactics that CloudKettle President, Greg Poirier describes as measured by “outputs and not outcomes,” in other words adding growth but not necessarily adding value.

When using your smartphone to frantically get directions or read an interesting article, the last thing you want to do is navigate around notifications telling you that “Joe Smith” from high school is going live, or “Susan Miller posted her first Instagram story in a while”!

What’s Next for Snapchat & Instagram?

Ultimately, there isn’t a great deal of evidence that push notifications will slow Instagram Stories’ roll. Instagram offers hashtag functionality and better drawing mechanisms and filtering options within their stories feature, as well as location and user tagging that allow you to further explore outside content. Snapchat, on the other hand, doesn’t take you anywhere else.

Marketers will be quick to point out the perks of each platform and how they align with business goals. When targeting a younger crowd, Snapchat has proven more effective, reigning more popular among teens and young adults in terms of quality of engagement. Data shows that the average user is spending nearly 30 minutes a day on Snapchat vs. just 15 minutes on Instagram, and 60% of Snapchat users are creating their own content.

Instagram, on the other hand, better appeals to those in their upper twenties and dominates the quantity engagement metric. Working with Facebook’s social data, Instagram’s reach is automatically amplified resulting in soaring engagement numbers.

Looking into the future, Instagram Stories is newer, bigger and continues to incorporate Snapchat “originals” into its platform – the newest addition, the beloved face filters.

But Snapchat isn’t giving up. You may be surprised to know that Snapchat possesses an “exclusive” audience that has stuck with them; 46% of Snapchat users can’t be found on Instagram, and while many swear by Instagram’s permanent feed, for some – the original “storyteller” will always come first.

For more on the Snapchat vs. Instagram debate:
Snapchat Stories v. Instagram Stories: Which Is Better For Your Content

Six Brands That Know How to Use Instagram Stories