There are over 65 million people living in the UK, with 69 per cent aged 16-74 using social media. That leaves an approximate 33 million for companies to engage with via social platforms. Despite this unfounded potential, the social space is becoming more sophisticated and saturated and choosing the right platform on which to post content simply adds to that confusion.

Facebook is still a dominant platform when it comes to audience size — this is also where most brands are always present. However, Instagram is on average substantially more engaging for brands. Twitter is more important for celebrities, sports and politics rather than brands, and while YouTube doesn’t attract a significant number of subscribers compared to other platforms, over 1 million views per channel on average isn’t insignificant.

Until recently, each platform had its own specialist feature(s) considered fundamental differentiators. In particular, Snapchat, which proved to be an innovator on the social media scene with a strong lead in mindshare and a solid 150 million daily users. That was until its ‘Stories’ format was used against it as a key competing functionality.

Stories competition

In the last few months we have seen Snap challenged in a way it never has been before and it is all because Instagram stories up and decided they could do it better. Stories are the lifeblood of Snap, but Instagram’s offering is already more popular and growing at a rate Snap can only dream of. This is because Instagram know exactly what demographic it’s targeting, and just the right way to curate content to this audience.

According to Instagram’s blog, Instagram’s Stories have 200 million viewers a day, which makes up half of Instagram’s 400 million daily active users. Still, Instagram does not say how much time users spend viewing stories, which are curated by everyday users, brands and publishers. Young people on Snap spend 25-30 minutes on average on the platform.

However, we can see from brands like Primark and Jaguar that investing in Instagram has been beneficial to the bottom-line. According to Socialbakers’ data, the top 100 largest brands on Instagram have tripled their audience size over the past two years. The company examined the medium and other successful brands while asking themselves what would work.

As Snap and Instagram continue to go head to head, let us examine a few categories both platforms should keep top of mind.

* Ad prices and viewability metrics

An Instagram story ad can cost half the price of a Snap ad. The Instagram ads cost $4 (Dh14.7) CPMs (price per 1,000 impressions) versus $8.50 for Snap. Additionally, industry consensus says that Instagram is more transparent with their viewability metrics than Snap is.

* Users

Given that Snap’s target demographic is 15-24 year-olds, it seems like mid-twenties millennials are turning towards Instagram for more of their content to be curated. This means they don’t have to switch back and forth to view their friend’s stories alongside their favourite influencer or brand.

* Publishers

In this realm, Snap is the clear winner. In the past year and a half, we’ve seen almost every major content publisher step up their game and invest in the Discover portion of the app. Examples include, Vice and BuzzFeed. Even Condé Nast owned publications like Vogue and GQ have upped the ante by adding content to Snap’s discover section.

Facebook’s strategy of catching up with features such as Facebook Live over Periscope, for example, show that the company is aware of its dominant position. The fact is that the sheer scale of the company means that it need only keep up to date with upcoming innovations, through replication rather than mastery, in order to galvanise the market.

Instagram’s stories is a prime example of this approach. Snap went from being the most talked about platform in 2016 with over 9,000 photos and videos posted every second and over 100 million users that watch videos 8 billion times a day to struggling to compete with Instagram’s increasing Stories viewers.

The winner here is not yet clear. What is clear, is that the social media advertising spend is continuing on a steep incline with a 40 per cent increase in 2016. If Snap is to keep hold of its advertising revenues, it would do well to support the organic growth of the brands and people that influence its users — celebrities and high-profile brands.

Not adapting in this way, may force businesses to rethink their Snap strategy.

The writer is Chief Product Evangelist at Socialbakers.