Instagram Stories vs. Snapchat Stories

A closer look at the ephemeral content-sharing trend

The Snapchat Stories feature is an iconic form of social sharing. Instagram introduced its own Snapchat-inspired Stories feature in 2016. Stories don't have the components of social media like heart buttons, comment sections, and posts that attach to your profile. Instead, users are encouraged to casually and frequently post photos and short videos that disappear after 24 hours. But who does it best? We reviewed the Stories features from both platforms to help you decide.

Instagram vs. Snapchat

Overall Findings

  • Stories are separate from your feed.

  • Can hide stories from anyone.

  • Seems like a copy of Snapchat.

  • Original story platform.

  • Post from Snap replies.

  • Visible to friends.

Do stories represent the next stage of how we share things online? And how do we decide which platform to publish them on now that there are two major options?

Your audiences on Instagram and Snapchat may differ. The platform is a consideration when you post a 10-second photo or video. The features of each platform present subtle differences, too. As one certainly beefs up its Stories feature, the other will most likely do the same to compete. Sharing through Stories is just getting started. For now, no one knows how the world will continue to embrace super casual, ephemeral content sharing.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the features that Instagram Stories offers vs. what Snapchat Stories offers.

Where Stories Live: The Feed

  • Stories are displayed at the top of a feed.

  • The stories shown are based on an algorithm.

  • Watch all or view specific stories.

  • Access stories from the Stories tab.

  • The feed displays all recent stories.

  • Promotional content is also displayed.

A horizontal feed for stories is located at the top of your main Instagram feed. It displays profile photos of people you follow as circled bubbles. The bubbles appear according to an algorithm that shows your favorite account stories first. Swipe left or right to scroll through them. Then, tap to view a specific user's story, which disappears 24 hours after it posts. Stories you haven't viewed are circled in color.

You can repost an Instagram story if you think it benefits your audience.

On Snapchat, swipe left from the camera tab to access your Stories tab. A vertical feed of recent updates and all stories featuring users you added (including their photo, name, and time they posted) displays between blocks of promotional content from Snapchat's partners.

Instagram Stories is like a secondary feed that's combined with the main one to compliment it as a quick and casual form of content sharing. Snapchat, on the other hand, is all about ephemeral content sharing. It has one form of content to share that's mixed with partner content.

Appearance: Viewing Stories

  • Auto-play all stories.

  • Stories play in the order posted.

  • Send messages via stories.

  • View stories in the order posted.

  • Tap to skip through stories.

  • Send messages or chat via stories.

On Instagram, you can tap the first story in your Stories feed to view it, and it plays others in the order they appear. If a user posts several stories, they play in the order posted. You can tap anyone's story to view it (rather than going through all the stories in the order they appear in your feed). Or, tap to skip through stories quickly if your friend posted several. There's also a Send Message option at the bottom of every story, which you can use to start a chat through Instagram Direct.

Viewing stories on Snapchat is almost identical to Instagram. Tap the first story in your feed to watch what's posted in the order they appear (including multiple stories from a user) and tap to skip through stories quicker. There's also a chat option you can access from every story that allows you to send a message or start a chat with that user.

When it comes to viewing stories on Instagram and Snapchat, the experience is virtually identical. One interesting difference is the ability to rewind through a story by tapping the left side of the screen as you view it on Instagram—a feature Snapchat doesn't have. Another subtle difference is that you swipe down to stop watching a story on Snapchat. On Instagram, tap the X in the upper-right corner to stop watching.

Sharing: Posting Stories

  • Photos and videos up to 10 seconds.

  • See a list of users who viewed your story.

  • Turn stories into regular posts.

  • Send a story as a private message simultaneously while posting.

  • Upload photos or videos to edit and post at a later time.

  • Save stories to Snapchat Memories.

On Instagram, you can either tap the plus sign that appears in the upper-left corner of your main feed or swipe right to display the Camera tab. Use this to capture and post your story. Other features include:

  • Three drawing tools with a choice of several colors.
  • A text tool to type messages on photos and videos.
  • Filters similar to what's available while editing regular posts.
  • The ability to save your story to your device before and after posting.

On Snapchat, you can either tap the purple camera icon in the upper-left corner of the screen on the Stories tab or swipe left or right until you see the camera tab to post a story. Photos and videos can be customized as viewable for one to ten seconds. Other features available when you post a story on Snapchat include:

  • Drawing tools with a color legend you can use to select a color.
  • A text tool to type messages on photos and videos.
  • An emoji tool to put standard emoji, app-supplied Bitmoji (if you link your account), and special Snapchat emoji on photos and videos.
  • Lenses that animate your face in amusing and creative ways.
  • Filters that include geotags, the current time, the current temperature, your traveling speed, and tints that change the colors.
  • The ability to see a list of users who viewed your story.

Snapchat offers more story features than Instagram—most notably lenses and fun filters. On Instagram's side of things, however, the different sets of drawing tools and easy-to-use color options are a nice touch.

Privacy: Public Profiles

  • Hide stories from specific users.

  • Allow message replies from only followers or from users you follow back.

  • Ability to turn off replies completely.

  • Allow everyone to view your stories.

  • Allow only friends or a custom group to view stories.

  • Allow everyone or only friends to contact you.

Your stories are public if your profile is public on Instagram. Even if you don't follow a user, if you can see their public profile, their profile photo is circled in color if they posted a story. Tap it to view it even if you don't follow them. Instagram has introduced Story settings, though, which you can customize by tapping the gear icon in the upper-right corner of your Profile tab.

You can make your Instagram stories semi-private by creating a Close Friends list and adding the people you want to share your story with.

On Snapchat, you have full control over who you do and don't want to see your stories. From the camera tab, tap the ghost icon at the top to pull down your Snapcode tab, and then tap the gear icon in the upper-right to access your settings.

Snapchat gives users better control of their privacy than Instagram does. Instagram stories must stay public with a public account. This approach could change in the future. However, if you don't have a problem leaving your main content public, then it makes sense for stories to be public.

Final Verdict

Instagram stories are nearly a clone of Snapchat stories built to be integrated with the successful Instagram app. The interesting thing about Snapchat is that its ephemeral content sharing has made it known for being an intimate social platform where users can connect closely with their friends.

On Instagram, though, users easily rack up thousands of followers and follow as many accounts—making it a less intimate way of using social media. One problem with the Stories feature is that people who follow hundreds or thousands of users have a hard time scrolling through the Stories feed to view only the ones from users they're interested in viewing.

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