Instagram has many similarities to Snapchat, some of which are intentional — Meta (Instagram’s parent company) added Snapchat-like features to Instagram after Snapchat turned down Meta’s offer to buy the platform.

Both Instagram and Snapchat were created for visual content, both platforms are popular among teenagers and young adults, and Instagram Stories like Snapchat’s Snaps have limited shelf life. They disappear after 24 hours.

Snapchat was created by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown, former students at Stanford University, as an app for clicking and sharing pictures (and videos, subsequently) on the go. As of October 2022, the network has 363 million daily active users and, on average, over 5 billion Snapchats are created daily.

Snapchat is popular among the younger generations, and it leans towards female. 39% of its users are between the ages of 18 and 24, and 52% are female. It is also very popular among children below the age of 16, leading to privacy concerns for parents.

The default on Snapchat is the camera mode. Users can start clicking as soon as they open the app. This makes it convenient, quick and easy to use.

The key distinguishing characteristic is that content on Snapchat is transient. Snapchat deletes messages immediately or after 24 hours of viewing them, depending on the user’s settings.

Delete is the default. This means most messages sent over Snapchat will be automatically deleted once they have been viewed or have expired. Unopened one-on-one Snaps expire after 31 days, and unopened Snaps sent to a group chat expire after 7 days.

Note, however, if a message is saved, it can stay until the user ‘unsaves’ it. And if the user selects the ‘24 hours after viewing’ option in settings, then Snaps remain for 24 hours after viewing.

Because chats are automatically erased on Snapchat, users do not worry about messages staying forever. This reduces the fear of embarrassment, or the fear of what others might think. It allows for uninhibited, carefree conversation. The limited shelf life is also appealing as it keeps users’ feeds refreshed and updated.

So, whereas Instagram is better suited for showcasing visuals such as artworks or wedding photos, Snapchat is ideal for sharing the carefree moments in life.

Reciprocity is Snapchat’s secret to success. It refers to the need to respond to a positive action with another positive action. So, when a user gets a Snap, they are somewhat obligated to respond. And because Snaps disappear, they feel the need to reply quickly.

Snapchat hooks users via trigger cues, ease of action and reward (Gupta, 2018). When they see something interesting (cue) they Snap it with ease (just one tap). The reward is the satisfaction of capturing the moment and sharing it. And they get a return on their investment when friends respond.

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