Spot the difference: Insta Stories vs Snapchat Stories

It’s common knowledge that nearly every platform is trying to match the growing popularity of Snapchat, the game-changing app which introduced us to the joys of ephemeral posting in 2011. Whatsapp has introduced disappearing posts in Status, complete with stickers and the ability to doodle on your posts. Facebook recently launched Camera Effects, arguably the feature that is most similar to Snapchat due to the presence of the ever-popular filters (though Facebook refers to them as ‘masks’). However, it is Instagram Stories, which launched in August 2016, that appears to be the biggest threat to Snap’s tried and tested methods. So what’s the same, what’s different, and which version of Stories should you use?


Ephemeral content: Both Snapchat and Instagram Stories have the same basic function – to share tidbits of content that will disappear 24 hours after posting. This content can be in the form of images or video in both apps. For Snapchat, the ability to share content which won’t be visible for long is the entire premise of the app. Snaps added to a story disappear after 24 hours, while direct messages disappear after they’ve been viewed.

In Instagram’s case, they have added their Stories platform as an additional feature within the traditional Instagram app. This is perfect for documenting parts of your day that may not be ‘worthy’ of a standalone post on your Instagram profile. It allows people to follow your activities without clogging up their Insta feed with multiple posts per day.


Filters: Once you take your photo/video, you have the option to add filters by swiping left or right on the screen. On Instagram Stories, there are 6 different filters to choose from, while on Snapchat there are 4 filters which alter the colour of the original image. However, Snapchat also have a range of geofilters and other filters, which we will explore in the Differences section.

Both platforms now have face filters, which use facial detection technology to overlay images on your face. This is a really fun feature which was initially created by Snapchat in 2015, which they dubbed ‘lenses’. Snapchat’s lenses change periodically, and some also have the ability to alter your voice, making it cartoonishly high or low.

Instagram have now also introduced ‘selfie filters’ to their stories, as Mark Zuckerberg showed in a promotional video (see below). These work in the same way as Snapchat lenses, and there are currently 8 to choose from at the time of writing, in comparison to Snapchat’s 21.

New face filters on Instagram today! This one's my favorite so far. These kinds of effects are how we'll experience augmented reality for the first time. This is just the beginning.

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, 16 May 2017


Stickers: Both Snapchat and Instagram have stickers which you can place in your images/videos. The two apps provide stickers of all the emojis you have on your phone’s emoji keyboard, and also release themed stickers to reflect national holidays like Christmas, Easter and St Patrick’s Day. When it comes to the other stickers available, Snapchat have a much wider variety. With Snapchat, you also have the option to link in your Bitmoji account, which gives you even more sticker options. Bitmoji is an app which lets you create a personalised emoji. You can customise the character’s features to match your own hair, eyes, clothes etc. and then place that emoji into a range of different messaging platforms, including Snapchat.

Snapchat have the added advantage of the scissors feature, which they introduced in December 2016. This tool allows you to cut sections out of photos you’ve taken using the app and turn them into stickers which you can reuse. This is a really fun feature which allows people to get creative and produce some funny content. 

Instagram stories have recently created a similar tool called Selfie Stickers. This feature enables you to take mini photos with your front camera, which you can then place within the original photo.


Messaging: Both Snapchat and Instagram Stories allow you to reply with comments to content that’s included in users’ stories. On Snapchat, you’ll see the ‘chat’ option on the bottom of the screen while your friends’ stories are playing. If you tap it, you’ll be able to send them a private message relating to that snap. On Insta Stories, there is a ‘send message’ option at the bottom of the screen, and the process for sending a message is the same as on Snapchat.

You can also send disappearing messages on both apps. On Snapchat, you can send pictures and videos with all the usual text, stickers, filters etc. to one or more users without having to post it to your story. Simply take a snap and choose who to send it to. The snap can then be viewed once by the recipient, with an option to replay the snap once. If the receiver replays or screenshots the snap, you will receive a notification.

Disappearing messages work in much the same way on Instagram Direct. Simply open up Direct, tap the blue camera at the bottom left hand corner of the screen and send your message. The message disappears if the recipient leaves the thread, but while they’re in the thread they can replay or screenshot it. In the same vein as Snapchat, the sender will be notified if their snap has been screenshotted/replayed.

Views: Wondering how popular your story is? Don’t worry, Snapchat and Insta Stories both provide you with the opportunity to see how many times your story has been viewed, and by whom. On Snapchat, the number of views on each snap is denoted by the figure that appears next to the eyeball icon in the Story menu. If you press on the eyeball icon, a list of the users that have viewed that particular snap will appear. The procedure is the exact same for Instagram Stories, with the only difference being that the eyeball icon is located within each snap in the bottom left hand corner.

Another interesting feature that both apps have is the ability to manage the privacy settings for your stories. For example, if you don’t want someone to be able to see your story, you can simply go into the settings on both apps and choose to hide your stories from chosen users.



Timing: You used to be limited to 10 seconds for both images and video on Snapchat, but they have just released a feature which allows time-limitless images and looped video snaps. With the new update, you can choose how long your still images play for, from 1-10 seconds, or choose the ‘infinity’ option on the timer. With videos, their length will depend on how long you record for (up to 10 seconds), or you can choose to loop the video so that it plays repeatedly until the story is moved on or closed.

In Instagram Stories, you cannot choose how long your image will be visible for. This can be annoying at times, as you may have included text which people don’t have the chance to read before the picture disappears. However, they can just hold a finger on a post in the story to ensure the image stays there indefinitely, or watch your story again if they missed anything. Videos can be up to a minute long, which is perfect if you want to record a busker belting out the chorus to your favourite song, or the celebrations in your local pub after your team scores a goal in the World Cup!

Filters: Although Instagram now have selfie filters like Snapchat, they do not have filters which can be used to digitally alter your physical environment. Snapchat introduced World Lenses in April this year, allowing users to transform their surroundings using filters. For example, if you point your camera at a cloud using a particular filter, a face spitting out rainbows appears in the cloud. Similarly, with another filter you can place a smiling cup of coffee in the space, which you can then alter the size of. The world filters are more than just stickers – they appear as 3-D type images as opposed to 2-D stickers, as shown in the video below.

Snapchat also has a number of filters which can be applied to videos, including slow-mo, super-speed, and rewind, which plays the video backwards. With Instagram, the filter options for video are limited to Boomerang and reverse (which, unsurprisingly, plays your video in reverse). Like Snapchat, the selfie filters can be applied in videos as well, and they react to your facial movements. For example, when you’re wearing the koala bear ear filter, the ears twitch when you change your expression. However, there aren’t any voice change features on Insta Stories yet.

You can also create your own geofilters for Snapchat. These custom-made geofilters can be created to mark a certain town, landmark, city, or business, and can also be created for personal events such as birthday parties, weddings etc. Designers can choose the area in which the geofilter will be accessible, as well as how long it will be available for. Instagram have not yet introduced the opportunity to create your own geofilters, though if recent developments are anything to go by, it’s only a matter of time!

The Verdict

So which app should you use? We would advise using both! Despite their similarities, Snapchat stories are normally used as a quick-share, rough-around-the-edges form of communication, whereas Insta stories are normally higher quality and a bit more polished. Snapchat’s daily active users hit 161m in Q4 of 2016, while Instagram Stories has had a meteoric rise, reaching 200m daily active users in April 2017, only 9 months after its launch. Their audiences also differ slightly, with Snapchat being most popular with users aged 18-24 by at least 10%. In contrast, the 18-24 year olds are Instagram’s second most popular users, only slightly ahead of the 35-44 category, and a few percent behind the main 25-34 age group.

In terms of business, Insta Stories is useful if you’re showcasing a product or service and want more of a high-end feel. Snapchat stories can be used to showcase behind the scenes action or to create a bit more of a fun, interactive feel. For personal use, Instagram is perfect for showcasing high-quality photos that aren’t quite deserving of a post of their own, while Snapchat is normally used more for sharing funny or less ‘perfect’ content. All in all, both platforms have their benefits and drawbacks, but are good tools for communicating with your target market or with your own circle of friends.