Hackernoon logoDespite Stories, Instagram is still for consuming, Snapchat is still for creating by@jeanettesuh

Despite Stories, Instagram is still for consuming, Snapchat is still for creating

Jeanette Suh Hacker Noon profile picture

Jeanette Suh

Head of Product

Finally, FINALLY, I updated Instagram. Goodbye classic hipstercam icon; hello millenial EDM icon and Stories.

Sentimental :(

Many bemoaned that Instagram was unimaginatively copying Snapchat with Stories.

But Instagram Stories is not the same as Snapchat Stories. In true product fashion, Instagram and Snapchat deliberately define very different user behavior for each of their respective apps.

Case 1: Creating vs Consuming

Snapchat has already done an incredible job reducing the barrier to content creation. The priority is to create Stories (snaps) on Snapchat over consuming Stories.

Just look at the first screen experience. Snapchat wants you to take a snap meow 😺! On Instagram, you either scroll right through Stories or scroll down the feed and view other people’s posts.

[Snapchat] vs [Instagram] 1st screen comparison

Instagram makes you hunt for that itty bitty + icon to start your Story, making you think first about whether or not you want to take a picture for a Story. Snapchat doesn’t make you think — take the snap first before deciding where you distribute that picture.

Case 2: Personal vs Volume

Embedded in Snapchat from its origin days is the intimate, personal, micro-interactions (remember, it started as the sext app 🙈). To send a snap, I scroll through a contact list that highlights my Snapchat besties. The only way to “share en masse” is to create a Story, and still only people who view my Stories on Snapchat are people I personally know*.

On the other hand, I get more views on my Instagram Story. This is definitely due to a combination of having a public account, connected Facebook account, and capturing my friends who never adopted Snapchat. What Instagram does do is secure the Snapchat stragglers by implementing Snapchat-esque Stories. These folks never “got” Snapchat, but now they don’t have to.

*My Snapchat is private, but even if it was public, there is no robust discover feature on Snapchat as there is on Instagram, so there’s no way a stranger would stumble upon my Snapchat unless I shared my Snapcode.

Case 3: Inward Expression vs Outward Perception

I take way more selfies with Snapchat than Instagram, and most of them are not that print-photo worthy 😅. Snapchat is about taking an instant snapshot of the moment, rule of thirds be damned.

Instagram has insane brand and influencer penetration, even in Stories. Instagram’s Stories may lower the production level down a little bit, but here’s a kicker: you can add any photo taken within the last 24 hours to your Story, even screenshots. Instagram users, and more importantly brands, can maintain their production quality in Stories. Snapchat, on the other hand, makes a point to highlight old photos added to Stories.

Left: Instagram Stories with a photo of Hawaii, where I was not. Center: Snapchat Stories clearly calling out an old photo. Right: Brand Instagram Story preserving production quality.

Snapchat also has many self-expression tools with paint, text, stickers, emojis, AR sticker tags, lenses, geo-filters, and bitmoji. Instagram only has paint and text.

Regardless of how much of the sticker-emoji-paint-text combo you use, every snap is Story-eligible. Every insta is not.

So which is better?


If you’re a brand, Instagram has a more mature platform for advertising, reach, and discoverability. With over 500 million monthly active users, of which 300 million are daily active users, you will get more volume on Instagram. It’s a more familiar app, and there isn’t a steep learning curve to use it.

If you’re an average user like me, I find that my right thumb finds Snapchat much quicker to use than Instagram. I don’t carefully curate my Snapchat Story, so there’s less pressure to “perform” compared to Instagram. There is also less “noise” since I don’t follow as many folks on Snapchat compared to Instagram.

Instagram is a great consumption app, and I wonder if by introducing Stories on their platform, there is a trickle down effect on not only more consumption but also more post creation. It’s important to promote more content creation on Instagram because Snapchat, or Snap Inc, aims to be the de facto camera. Their mission is loud and clear in the first screen experience and now, the new Spectacles.


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