Snapchat v. Instagram: Which Tells a Better “Story” for Higher Ed?

Snapchat v. Instagram: Which Tells a Better “Story” for Higher Ed Advertisers?

When Instagram first rolled out stories last year, there was a lot of conversation around the similarities to Snapchat’s functions. To keep a pulse on #highered trends, we follow different education marketing communications forums and have seen a lot of discussion around these two channels recently. Some schools are pro-Snap while others are sure Instagram is the new Snapchat when it comes to reaching the next generation of learners.

So which channel helps EDU marketers tell better stories? Is there even a simple answer to that question? I wanted to share some insights from our work with one of our partners, New Mexico State University (NMSU) to address this debate. Over the past few months, we have seen an increase in leads coming from Instagram so, naturally, we discussed testing out Stories ads. At the same time, Snapchat rolled out their self-serve platform and we thought the timing was perfect for a test to see how it compares to Instagram using the same 6-second video creative.

Here are some insights into our experience with Stories Ads on each channel:



Snapchat Snapshot

Daily active users spend an average of 30+ minutes on Snapchat. Content on Snapchat is ten seconds or less. Yet, active users are spending over 1,800 seconds engaging with friends, brands and celebrities. Plus, it boasts a 5x higher average click-through rate than other social media channels, making it a valuable network for the consideration phase of the enrollment funnel, reaching 41% of 18 – 34 year olds across the country.  

NMSU saw 316,000 impressions and 1,600 swipe ups in a week with their first campaign. Impressions are important for building brand awareness, but the campaign lacked in delivering leads. We revamped the strategy and created a dedicated landing page that auto-fills, making it easier to capture the leads via mobile. These “burst campaigns” ran over the course of three days, targeting teens on the weekend, when we anticipated high activity on Snapchat.

The ad was specifically designed for social (less than 10 seconds) and was intended to attract and engage potential students. Understanding how users interact on Snapchat and engage with ads resulted in more leads for NMSU. A win-win for everyone. Within the first two days of the new campaign, 60 leads come in. Due to the success, we ran the same campaign the following week. Snapchat also happens to be our lowest cost per lead compared to AdWords, Facebook and Instagram, even with its $50 daily minimum spend.

Instagram Insights

Instagram is a relevant platform for a lot of higher ed marketing campaigns because 90% of the users are under the age of 35. Specifically for NMSU, we had seen an increase of leads coming from Instagram and wanted to amp up the strategy beyond ads within the feed. We launched Instagram Story Ads using the same creative shown at the beginning of this post, a “Learn More” call to action driving people to their viewbook or admissions page.

After seeing the success of the Snapchat campaign driving people to a landing page with auto-fill, we decided to test an Instagram Story campaign using the same creative as Snapchat and drive traffic to the same landing page. We ran both campaigns over the course of the same weekend to compare results.

When looking at total number of leads, Snapchat outperformed Instagram with 83% of the leads. However, it’s important to note that when analyzing whether or not a platform is valuable, we look beyond the number of leads and focus on other metrics like cost per lead and conversion rate. In this case, we will continue to advertise on both social channels due to the overall engagement driven from the Instagram ad campaign.

Social Media Advertising for Colleges and Universities

It may seem like ages ago, but self-serve advertising on Instagram and Snapchat Stories launched within the past year. Crazy, right? There is still a ton to learn about the value and opportunities with each channel. One key takeaway we learned quickly from Stories is to tailor your content to the social media experiencethink 6-second ads and 10-second videos with strong calls to action and a mobile-optimized landing page.

NMSU has seen solid engagement on both channels with this type of strategy. However, success is based on your unique KPIs and what you’re looking to accomplish. If you’re looking for more information on which social media channels are best for brand awareness and which channels will help you nurture leads, we’ve got you covered.

Have thoughts on the Snapchat v. Instagram Stories debate? Tweet us @convergeorg. We would love to hear more about your experiences.

Stacey McGurk
Stacey McGurk
January 31, 2018