Snapchat + Instagram for hospitality & travel brands

Travel and hospitality focused agencies have been reluctant to offer advertising on these two platforms, and there’s not a ton of useful information out there that would help you gauge whether they’re suited to your brand. In this post I’ll provide a quick summary of the advertising products on each platform along with a few thoughts on how they can be used most effectively

Users

Surely you’ve noticed the growth and popularity of Instagram and Snapchat over the last couple of years. Instagram has roared past 500 million users, while Snapchat doesn’t disclose its user base – because they would run the risk of looking puny next to their rivals and investors. In terms of daily users, Snapchat claims 100 million compared to 300 million for Instagram. For the sake of comparison, Facebook boasts an eye popping 1.7 billion users as of this writing.

Generally speaking the majority social media users fall in the coveted 18-34 range. The exception to this is Facebook, who has seen its user base skew towards an older demographic. Today roughly half of users on Facebook are over 30, and many of those are over 40. Among teens, Instagram is the most popular social platform, while Twitter comes in second. Snapchat comes in third, though it’s been growing among this age group and should pass Twitter in a year or two.

Instagram

Instagram has been flourishing since being acquired for a cool billion in 2012 – which I thought was extremely reckless at the time. It is now worth many times that, as it has grown userbase significantly by leveraging Facebook’s infrastructure and reach. Its advertising platform and revenue model seems to have benefited and matured from the partnership.

Among social media platforms, Instagram is the one that most naturally fits travel brands the best because of the platform’s focus on photography, and more recently, short form video. This has been true for the brands that we work with here at Wallop, given that we are selling experiences rather than products. It certainly creates more demand for content, but its format aligns better with the task of selling an experience.

The biggest gripe with Instagram is the inability to include URLs with posts with free accounts. You can only do this in paid ads, which makes it hard to generate traffic to your website. Users will consider following a brand if they see an ad that interests them, but this is very top-of-the-funnel activity with value that’s very long term and nebulous.

Here are some useful things to know about Instagram:

  • It has 300 million users compared to 100 million for Snapchat
  • It’s well diversified – its largest share of users in the 25-34 range, more than half above 35
  • Ad formats include static photos, a carousel of photos, or video under 60 seconds
  • It offers the power editor from Facebook that allows for more granular targeting
  • Ads allow you to send users to outside URLs – something you can’t do on Snapchat
Snapchat

Snapchat has followed a slower growth trajectory, and they’ve only recently started focusing on monetization of the product. They dropped the “chat” from their name prior to their IPO, and have dabbled in hardware with the debut of “Spectacles” – basically a more friendly, less creepy version of Google Glass. Time will tell whether this was a smart move, but we shouldn’t be surprised that a company with disappearing messages as its core product would diversify its offering.

Travel and hospitality brands have been especially slow to adopt Snapchat in their marketing program, but it’s not surprising given the high cost of entry and concentration of users are in a narrow income and age bracket. In the more coveted 35+ demographic (for travel and hospitality brands), only 14% of Snapchat’s users are there, compared to over 50% for Instagram. Additionally Snapchat tends to provide less utility because brands are harder to find there, and its content disappears in 24 hours.

Revenue from advertising has been slow to develop because Snapchat’s advertising product is still pretty new, and because they are focused only on large advertisers and partnerships with with bigger budgets. They are many years behind Instagram, who have the luxury of borrowing from the advertising infrastructure of Facebook. And because it’s so expensive advertise, brands who want a presence on the network are just using regular profiles instead. That approach doesn’t provide much in the way of analytics, but if you’re targeting this demographic, it’s a cost effective way to have a presence there.

Surely they’ve made some unconventional decisions around advertising, and it could have something to do with its founders being in their early twenties. But then again I thought they were making a really awful decision, possible the worst decision ever, when they turned down Mark Zuckerberg’s 3 billion dollar offer. I accept now that it was without a doubt the right call. Risky, but it worked out.

Here are some useful things to know about Snapchat:

  • Has 100 million daily users, mostly 18-24
  • Offers only basic targeting, location
  • Offer Snap Ads, Sponsored Geofilters, Sponsored Lenses
  • One day ads cost $750,000
  • You’d need to spend around $50,000 to advertise on the platform
Final thoughts

While Snapchat certainly had an impressive IPO, it behooves me how a company that makes no money – as is never expected to do so – is worth $33 billion. I understand the value lies in its users, but this would make the company worth more than Marriot. And its long term prospects seem murky, given that Instagram has been adopting (and improving) Snapchat’s core features. There isn’t anything tangible that would allow us to judge the success of its recent foray into hardware either. Growth has slowed at Snapchat, while Instagram has been increasing its user base exponentially. It sure feels Instagram is going through the kind of growth we saw with Facebook, when it was transitioning from something obscure, to something ubiquitous.

Considering all of this, it appears Instragram has a brighter future ahead and should be higher on the list of consideration for travel and hospitality brands to advertise on.