Okay Kids, It’s Story Time – The History of Snapchat

07.11.2017 - No Comments

A long time ago (September 2011), in a digital landscape far, far away, a little social media app called Snapchat stepped on the scene. Snapchat was the first of its kind. You could directly send a photo to your friends that would disappear.* You could draw on the photo, add text and do it in a private setting. In October 2013, Snapchat introduced the concept of a “Story” which was like a long string of public snaps (based on your privacy settings) that would disappear in 24 hours after posting.
*Nothing ever disappears on the internet.

Snapchat had Zuck shaking in his boots. He offered to buy Snapchat in November 2013 for $3 billion (Yes, billion with a “b”). By August 2014, 40% of 18-year-olds in the United States were using Snapchat on a daily basis.

By August 2014, 40% of 18-year-olds in the United States were using Snapchat on a daily basis.


Brands began scurrying to join Snapchat to reach the illusive ~millennial~ audience. Marketers were asking, “How do we use this shiny, new toy?” Most brands began using it as behind-the-scenes access: random snaps throughout the day of their social media team’s desks and occasional snaps of team meetings. Then people began diving into the Story (how we structure our Snapchat content on @itsahappymedium). The Story has a beginning, middle and end, which allows brands to push a product, show off creativity and more.

Let’s put on the fast-forward filter to August 2016. Instagram Stories are announced.

Cue Grace saying things like, “Stay in your lane Instagram. Snapchat owns Stories. I’ll never use this. So annoying. They’re trying too hard. I hate change.” You get the picture.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Instagram Stories, here’s how I think the two iterations have adapted and what I think is best for brands.

Instagram Stories Are Better for Brands


Here’s why

  1. You already have a built-in audience to use the Story feature if your brand has an Instagram account. No need to start/launch a new platform in Snapchat, which we all know is difficult and is a “long-game” concept.
  2. The introduction of location tags and adding hashtags to story elements to search stories is wildly beneficial. Pieces of your brand’s story can be picked up on location stories and views open up to a wider audience than just your followers.
  3. Snapchat introduced Paperclip just last week, which means that Facebook/Instagram will be rolling out a way to link back to websites (beyond just verified accounts) soon.
  4. For people who work in agencies and who prepare reports for clients (like Happy Medium), Instagram Stories are easier to report on because you can see how many followers you have, and Stories stay in your account’s analytics beyond the 24 hours so you can report an accurate “view” number.
  5. You don’t have to go “all-out” on Instagram Stories. If your social team is stretched thin, you can think of it as supplemental to the content you’re already creating for your brand’s Instagram account.

Instagram began as a “searchable” platform. People are used to searching hashtags or locations, which makes the implementation of searchable Stories much more navigable for brands.

Snapchat isn’t inherently searchable, unless you’re very up-to-date on the new features. Searching for and following brands on Snapchat is not as easy or user-friendly as it is on Instagram.

Here’s the thing. Snapchat is great for person-to-person interaction. Send a selfie to your pals, enjoy the Discover option for large publishers, publish geofilters for your brand’s events so that Snapchat users can see that you’re savvy. (You can do this without creating a branded Snapchat account.)

But if you’re responsible for a brand’s social media presence and already have an Instagram account, lean into those Stories. They’re searchable and measurable and accomplish the same thing as Snapchat Stories.

The End.*

*Until the next update at least.

As a social media strategist for Happy Medium, Grace Wenzel helps clients grow their engagement and reach their audience on a more personal level. Grace is responsible for driving engagement, creating strategies and campaigns, generating reports, and managing customer service to make sure Happy Medium’s clients get more out of social media than just fans and likes. Grace graduated from Drake University with degrees in radio/TV producing and English.


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