- Snapchat still has a key advantage over Instagram: Person-to-person messaging.
- A new study from investment bank Cowen shows a far greater proportion of users utilize Snapchat for direct communications than they do on its Facebook-owned rival.
- But as Facebook emphasises a “pivot to privacy” and leans into messaging, Snapchat could lose one of its few key differentiators.
- Instagram’s aggressive expansion has kneecapped Snapchat’s growth over the past few years, but the ephemeral photo-sharing app still holds one indisputable advantage over its Facebook-owned competitor: Messaging.
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New data released by financial services firm Cowen ahead of Snapchat parent company Snap’s Q2 earnings report on Tuesday highlights how users continue to flock to Snapchat for direct, person-to-person messaging in a way that Instagram has thus far failed to replicate.
But, as Facebook leans hard into private messaging as part of a purported “pivot to privacy,” that could soon change.
Cowen conducts a regular survey of American consumer internet users to track trends on app and web usage, and one question asked the roughly 2,500 respondents about their main “use-cases” for various major apps — including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.
Snapchat’s highest use-case was viewing photos, with 64% of respondents — but that’s dwarfed by Instagram, where a full 78% of respondents selected that option. Where Snapchat has the edge over Instagram, however, is “sharing content one to one”: 46% of users selected that as a primary use case, versus just 33% on Instagram.
The data point is significant because it illustrates that despite Instagram’s runaway success in cloning Snapchat’s Stories feature (and drastically slowing Snapchat’s growth in the process), there remain core parts of Snapchat’s product that Instagram has failed to successfully replicate.
This may yet change, however. Facebook has been battered by two years of scandals, and is now promising a “pivot to privacy,” that notably will involve making its various messaging apps interoperable (allowing users on Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram be able to message one another without leaving their respective apps) while adding end-to-end encryption to protect communications.
This renewed focus on messaging may well boost adoption of Instagram DMs as a primary use-case for the photo-sharing app — and erode one of Snapchat’s key defining features in the process. Cowen’s data also illustrates how Instagrams adoption of the Stories feature actively eroded usage of it on Snapchat in the process; a similar trend could occur in messaging in the months ahead.
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