Snapchat vs. Instagram Stories: Which One Should Your Restaurant Use?

By Mae Velasco, Associate Editor

It's a social media smackdown between two titan tech apps: Snapchat and Instagram.

In terms of the number game, there is clearly no competition with Instagram being at 600 million users monthly and 300 million daily, and Snapchat about half that at 300 million users monthly and 161 million daily, but don't count Snapchat out just yet. The photo-sharing app Instagram has more years of experience, whereas Snapchat just recently turned five.

As Foodable examined in the latest Fast Casual Top 100 Social Brands report, in a difficult space to disrupt where giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram reign as kings, Snapchat has done the impossible, surpassing the 10-year-old Twitter's 136 million daily users. Snapchat's quick rise to the top — and knocking out Twitter off its throne — in social media was much like fast casual in foodservice conquering the long-established quick-service segment. The app caught so much attention that Facebook, which bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, extended a $3 billion acquisition offer to Snapchat, which the company rejected.

What made Snapchat unique was its simple, impermanent photo-sharing tool, where images and videos could be spread among friends, before the content disappears forever 10 seconds after opening it. Snapchat even became another vehicle for publishers to share their messaging. The app's redesign in their news center called “Discover” and the addition of a subscribe button on publisher channels attracted major brands like CNN, Cosmopolitan, People, National Geographic, MTV, and more. Users and brands alike could create "Stories," or chronological clumps of 10-second shares to capture life in the moment. It was a feature that could not be found anywhere else.

That is, until Instagram launched the same feature in the summer of 2016. Instagram was accused of blatant copying — even the name of the "Instagram Stories" feature itself — but it seems like the formula paid off. Earlier this year, Instagram Stories reached 150 million users in just four months, close to the same number Snapchat took four years to accumulate.

And restaurant owners know that to succeed in today's industry, you have to be social media-savvy. On Foodable, we've covered how Snapchat can be used as a marketing tool and how Instagram Live Streaming can be used to connect with guests, but when it comes to telling your story as a brand or chef, which "Stories" feature should you use? Let's break it down with this nifty infographic by One Productions on Social Media Today.

Similarities and Differences

INFOGRAPHIC: One Productions

INFOGRAPHIC: One Productions

The main functions for each app are near identical. On both Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories, media content can be 10 seconds long and vanish from the timeline in 24 hours. Both apps provide a playful user experience, allowing consumers and brands to add fun colors, stickers, text, and paint all over their media. And unless the user has a private account, those stories will be shared with the public.

In terms of navigating through those functions, Instagram's interface may be a tad bit more fluid and user-friendly. Whereas Instagram allows fast forwarding and rewinding in stories by tapping the screen or tapping the left part of the screen respectively, Snapchat does not allow for rewinding, forcing the user to exit the story and re-enter to replay. Your brand followers may have an easier time watching your restaurant's story on Instagram, especially because most foodies will be most likely already be on the app to like your Instagram photos. 

However, Snapchat is currently the only one between the two that allows for geo-targeted filters. Through Snapchat, your restaurant can used a customized geofilter to reflect an event you are hosting or your location. This is another opportunity to brand and theme your marketing. As another plus, Snapchat takes playful colors to the next level with 3-D face lens technology, which tracks your face and allows you to apply an animated filter for another fun feel to your content.

Tips and Tricks

With great power comes great responsibility. How can you use these story features to tell your own? Regardless of whichever app you choose, they both serve as more opportunities for you to engage with your customers and "humanize" your brand. By revealing the behind-the-scene moments of your company, you are letting your guests into more than just your restaurant doors — you are opening the door to a more intimate bond, which can lead to more genuine, authentic customer loyalty. Here are some ideas you can experiment with:

  • Show off your specials: Do you have an international food chain? Show off your menu from around the globe. Have a new item that will soon hit your tables? Give your customers a teaser shot of what's to come. Want to surprise loyal followers with a special? Give them a "secret password" for a discount or free dessert, one they would only know about if they watched your story!

  • Where everybody knows your name: The best way to describe yourself is to let others do it for you. Do you have long-time regulars? Record their brief "reviews" and shout-outs — their opinions on your restaurant will convince potential guests more than your promises.

  • Let them join your team: Highlight your employees and allow your customers to "meet" your team. Do they have any smile-inducing rituals before each shift? Or let your guests come face-to-face with one of your lead chefs. Perhaps a Q&A: How did your chef get to where he or she is today? What is their favorite dish they created? It's all about building rapport.

Are Snapchat and Instagram Stories successful methods of "story"-telling? We've seen popular brands such as Shake Shack showing off their free community fitness program, Shack Track & Field™, in Seoul, South Korea, and Taco Bell revealing their secret menu hacks with fun, on-the-spot consumer "game shows" in their stories. If these restaurants see the importance in investing in social media, you should consider it, too.

So, which app is better? The debates will go on and on. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but one thing is for sure: These apps are lively and light-hearted. These are not apps to "sell" who you are but to "share" who you are. If you keep it laid-back while still retaining your brand voice, either one of Snapchat Stories or Instagram Stories will lead you to a happy ending.