Where traditional advertising bombards social media users, authenticity is the key to success.

With this idea in mind, more and more brands are taking advantage of Snapchat Stories and Facebook Live. The unedited and unfiltered quality of posts generated on these platforms is dominating the youth demographic, which in turn is transforming the world of marketing. Snapchat and Facebook both offer their own ways of sharing those kinds of stories. These days it feels like Snapchat may seem down and out; Facebook already has a massive audience and is directly threatening Snapchat by having recently unveiling their own version of Stories and photo filters. However, Snapchat’s short and often meme-like content format continues to endear its loyal users.

Marketers know they want to generate fun and engaging content. This direct competition between Snapchat and Facebook begs the question: where should marketers be investing their time and money?

Audience and reach by the numbers

In terms of numbers of active users, Facebook has a clear advantage with its much wider reach with 2 billion monthly users, compared to Snapchat’s estimated 255 million monthly users. Snapchat can’t be discounted, however, as the demographics and usage between the two are very different.

The average user of Snapchat spends at least 30 minutes inside the app daily, totaling some 8 billion video views for the app a day. According to a study done by marketing firm Sumpto, 77% of college students use Snapchat at least once daily. This same study found that “close to 70% of [college-age] students said they’d even add a brand as a friend if they also followed them on a separate social network.”

Despite this, Snapchat’s user growth is dwindling. Their quarter-over-quarter user growth, which was as high as 17% in Q216, was only 2.3% and 5% in the Q416 and Q117 respectively.

Facebook is the master of social media video with its tremendous reach and existing relationship with hundred of brands. Although the typical Facebook user only spends 20 minutes inside the app per average daily, their video views are through the roof. The last released statistic by Facebook back in 2015 already estimated they had 8 billion daily views, with one recent estimate suggesting there are potentially 64 billion daily views currently. What’s more, 1 in 5 Facebook videos is now a live video. However, many young people avoid Facebook, with some studies suggesting they do so to actively avoid their parents prying into their lives through social.

Strengths of Snapchat and Facebook

Snapchat’s core strength lies in its sense of the impermanence of moments. Snapchat Stories, which are series of up to 10-second videos, can be shared to followers and only last 24 hours from when they are posted. This entices users to check in daily on their favorite influencers and brands. The improvised feel of Snapchat content with its meme-like comedic posts successfully sets it apart from Facebook’s content. It’s likely because of this that despite its trouble reaching a larger audience, Snapchat has remained so appealing to younger users, particularly teenagers. Notably, Snapchat does not have a live video platform.

Facebook Live is currently the undisputed king for promoted live video. When a video goes live, it feels special to be watching it at the time of broadcast, and all live videos can be watched or rewatched after they end. The simple reason for Facebook’s success is that a lot of businesses have already integrated Facebook into their digital marketing strategy. This makes it easy to deliver their live videos and Stories to their existing followers. Facebook has announced that its algorithms rank live videos higher than normal videos, meaning they are more likely to appear higher in a person’s News Feed and receive more impressions and engagement. In addition, these live videos can be boosted after broadcast which increases overall reach.

How Brands use Snapchat and Facebook

For Snapchat, brands need to embrace the short and the weird. Snapchat’s “less is more approach” works to set it apart from its competitors. Its ability to produce short video clips that disappear after 24 hours allows brands and influencers to create hype. Followers feel like they’re part of the action and might even experience a sense of loss if they miss a post.

Businesses are already using this teaser approach to post highlights from events, show videos of popular products, and give behind the scenes sneak-peeks. Since short and time-limited posts need to leave an impression, it forces creators to think of how to make a big impact in as little time as possible. This results in an often goofy quality to the posts, which resonate a lot with its primarily young audience. This essence of the quirky is also reflected in the photo and video filters, which can also be created and sponsored by brands as a part of their marketing strategy. At one point you could give yourself a Taco Bell facelift.

Like Snapchat stories, Facebook stories also last for 24 hours and are a string of photos and short videos strung together. This capability is also shared by its sister company, Instagram. Facebook Live is currently making a huge splash in the marketing world; a live video on Facebook can be up to 4 hours in length, and influencers, brands and organizations alike have been using this longer format for various purposes. From makeup tutorials, charity live streams, behind the scenes walkthroughs, to red carpet reveals, the possibilities are endless. There are even examples of outlets such as Mashable using Facebook Live to put out regular news-like segments. If a user is following a channel going live and haven’t turned off notifications, they will be alerted whenever a live video begins.

The Bottom Line

Snapchat has always struggled with how to attract advertisers and boost revenue without alienating its ad-weary audience. Most of Snapchat’s defining features were once innovative, but now major competitors have copied and integrated them. To stay competitive they need to focus on increasing engagement and monetize those engagements.

However, those same brands likely also exist on Facebook, and live video that can be captured on a smartphone is the pinnacle of authenticity. A celebrity could film themselves making breakfast and fans would watch in awe. According to statistics compiled by Livestream, 80% of audiences would prefer watching a live video to reading a blog and 82% of audiences prefer live video over other types of social media posts. Facebook Live Video is cheap and engaging, and Facebook has even added the option to add ad breaks to user-generated live streams.

The Verdict

Snapchat has always embraced the little moments that are gone as quickly as they arrived. To embrace live video themselves, at least in long form, would alienate their audience – and at this point Facebook has a huge head start anyway. The platforms need not be mutually exclusive, particularly when catering to the youth market. Snapchat’s unique format has already and continues to allow marketers to try new and innovative ways of engaging with users. Yet despite the fact that Snapchat pioneered the concept of Stories, many influencers have already migrated away from Snapchat in favor of the more approachable Facebook and Instagram.

If Snapchat succeeds, it will be because they developed a completely new paradigm for allowing brands to reach audiences that will turn traditional marketing on its head, like it did when it first released. Regardless, they better stay on their toes, as in this era of live video, Facebook is certainly out to each their lunch.

Where do you stand on the Snapchat vs. Facebook debate? Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Digital Agencies to learn more about the different social networks and how to incorporate them effectively into a marketing strategy.

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