How to Choose Between Instagram and Snapchat, or Whether You Even Need Them

Before latching onto the Next Big Thing, consider which platform fits your online marketing strategy.

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By Lesya Liu

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Instagram, Snapchat and other relatively new social media sites are all the hype these days. Numerous bloggers and industry leaders claim that these networks are the best thing to happen to the world of marketing since, like, ever.

It's easy to see that these platforms offer something that hasn't been offered ever before: an opportunity to get a glimpse into real, casual lives of celebrities, get sneak peaks into the inner workings of favorite brands, and share that fleeting moment, just like the life itself.

One of the biggest names in social media, Gary Vaynerchuk, bets it all on Snapchat. While he admits that he was hesitant of some of Snapchat's features at first, this network is arguably his hardest push right now. On his website, he claims that Snapchat is "where you can get the best access to me -- this is where my attention is."

Related: Instagram Is Too Large for Your Business to Ignore

So do you have to hop on these newer networks now and bet your all on them too? The short answer is "it depends." It depends on a number of factors.

Let's start with Instagram. When it was bought by Facebook for an astonishing amount of money, a lot of marketers decided that Mark Zuckenberg was out of his mind. A teenagers-oriented platform for simply sharing your images with wacky filters and the most popular hashtags including "selfie" and "followforfollow" was bought for a billion dollars. What value could it bring to businesses? Yet, over a matter of a couple years, marketers went from watching it on the fence to employing it to the fullest. If your target market is comprised of millennials, you simply cannot afford to be absent from this network.

A similar thing is happening to Snapchat right now. What first looked like a network for sexting is now gaining momentum as the place to be for marketers. It was no accident that Gary Vaynerchuk said "this is where my attention is." This is the core value Snapchat has to offer right now. In a media-saturated world, Snapchat has that ephemeral feeling to it.

People who follow you or your brand know that the content you put out there has an expiration date. Yes, you can save Snaps, those little clips you receive on Snapchat, but most people won't. So they really pay attention to a message you send them because it will disappear in just ten seconds. For ten seconds, you get their undivided attention; and in today's world, that's a lot of time spent on your content.

Related: 9 Tools to Improve Your Instagram Marketing

So, didn't you have to register on Snapchat yesterday? Not so fast.

First, you have to understand that a business' presence is valuable only when there is an audience to listen to them. Excuse the cliché (which still holds its truth), but you have to be where your audience is. If your target market consists of people under the age of 30, then Snapchat and Instagram are definitely something you need to take a look at.

This is not to say that older people are not having fun on these networks, but you have better ways to reach those demographics. We are talking about results for your efforts here.

You also have to be mindful of your resources. If you have a dedicated person in your company who handles social media, you might add Snapchat to their plate. However, if you're just starting out, or your company is small, you have to think about how to best employ the resources you've got.

It's generally not recommended to build your presence on more than three networks at a time. Instead of spreading yourself too thin across every new hot thing out there, focus on creating a truly meaningful experience on just a few networks. Once you feel like you've built a community, a group of faithful followers, then you might want to start adding other networks – one at a time – to your arsenal.

Finally, another consideration is your marketing style. Are you a first mover, or do you take a more conservative approach and watch what other companies are doing first? One approach is not necessarily better than the other.

Related: 10 Examples of Instagram Ads and the Lessons They Can Teach

With the first tactic, your risks and your potential gains are higher. You get the first mover advantage and while other companies are still on the fence, you're rocking this new strategy. Yet, if it proves itself ineffective, there are usually losses involved and other opportunities missed.

At the same time, if you like to closely follow other companies (not necessarily your competition) and examine their strategy, it's fine too. However, you might be the last one to adapt and only start growing your following, when other competitors already enjoy massive following. Yet, you'll know it works and will feel more confident committing to it.

It all comes down to the fact that no network is completely useless and no network is a magic bullet. You know your company and your marketing strategy better than anyone else; and the ultimate decision about where to employ your resources is yours. Be smart; always stay on the watch of what happens around you, but don't feel like you have to follow the masses and fall victim to every hype in the industry. As Vaynerchuk himself suggests, "if you know who you are, you'll bet on your strengths."

Lesya Liu

Social Media Strategist at The Social Media Current

Lesya Liu helps entrepreneurs create a meaningful and profitable Instagram presence that feels right for their creative businesses. Born and raised in Ukraine, she is a social media strategist and a photographer. Her passion lies in combining art and marketing to create compelling storytelling, both visually and textually. Most days she roams the Interwebs, looking for fresh, inspirational ideas or testing things out on her own social channels.

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