Instagram Stories & Snapchat: How brands can leverage live social

Should your brand be using live content as a social media strategy? Things are changing fast and continuously there are new ways to interact on social. We will walk you through key platform differences, how to execute with live content, and whether Instagram Stories or Snapchat are right for your brand.

What are Instagram Stories? Similar to Snapchat, Instagram Stories allows users to record short bits of content that are viewable to up to 24 hours after the initial posting. There are some key differences between Snapchat and Instagram, but we are still unsure how the update will change the social game.

Is Snapchat brand friendly? Snapchat has developed from a private messaging app to a fun and interactive personal story and news platform. This app offers much more customization within the videos and images than Instagram Stories and is constantly cycling through new filters, lenses and stickers to keep users engaged. Two key differentiators between Instagram and Snapchat are Discover and Geofilters.

Discover is where users can scroll through news headlines and check out updates from popular businesses and publications. Brands can partner directly with these publishers if they want to sponsor an article or promote product.

Snapchat also has unique Geofilters that are only available if a user is within a specified geographic area within a specified duration of time.

Just prior to the release of movie “X-Men Apocalypse”, branded face filters were available nationwide on Snapchat in promotion of the new film. This was a major partnership between 20th Century Fox and Snapchat, but was not the first time a major brand used Snapchat as paid media. Taco Bell’s Cinco de Mayo filter was viewed over 224 Million times within 24 hours, a major win for Snapchat and the popular fast food chain.

After seeing Snapchat’s success and knowing that Instagram has a large audience for photo and video, adding a feature like Instagram stories poses a low-risk addition to the platform. This puts Instagram at an advantage to try new things and share content in a story format without forcing the user to install or switch to a new application. This makes it easier for brands that are interested in experimenting with live storytelling but may not have the bandwidth to manage an entirely separate social platform, as they would need to with Snapchat.

Here are some ways that brands can effectively use time sensitive platforms such as Instagram Stories and Snapchat:

  • Offer exclusive deals to viewers: This can be done through unique deal codes, direct messages, or screenshots that appear during your story/stream.
  • Influencer takeovers: Partner with an influencer in your industry to “hijack” your story for a period of time. This is mutually beneficial to the influencer and the brand, offering increased reach and positive connection between the audiences.
  • Sneak peeks: Let your most loyal customers know about upcoming products, events, and entertainment.


  • Filters: Apply for a paid Geofilter to promote your brand or event (this is currently exclusive to Snapchat).


  • Research: Experiment with live content to determine what is resonating with your audience; keep track of view counts and conversions of exclusive deals. You can also introduce new products or ask for customer opinions on the spot.


  • Timing: Make sure your content gets seen! It is critical for brands that post content on Instagram Stories and Snapchat to be conscious of timing, know when their target audience is likely to be viewing content on each platform.

Okay, so which platform should I be using? This is heavily dependent on the nature of your audience and where your target customer spends their time on social. Start by doing research and reviewing what platforms have been most effective for your brand. If your audience is too small for research or you are unsure how your customers behave socially, review competitor’s social media to see what is working. These competitors can be in a similar or different industry, as long as they serve the same target customer.

Snapchat has a very engaged user base and has been treated as a priority platform for many brands, especially when their target demographic is on the more youthful side. If you currently have a following on Instagram and do not use Snapchat, this is a golden opportunity to see how your followers respond to time sensitive content. Consider running experiments with Instagram Stories to gauge how your existing audience will react to the new form of content.

If Snapchat and Instagram Stories both resonate with your target audience, we encourage you to use both platforms to share content and interact with your customers. It is far too early for Instagram Stories to be considered a Snapchat replacement; this is something that the market will decide over time.

Written by Steven Howsley

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