Instagram or Snapchat: Which is Best for Marketing Your Public Library?

Social media marketing is one of the best ways for the public library to engage younger generations, but trying to be everywhere at once takes time and resources that many libraries don’t have. If capturing the attention of teens and young adults is one of your marketing goals, try focusing on just one social media channel. This approach can reduce the burden on resources and be highly effective – as long as you choose the right channel. 

But which one should you choose? Snapchat continues to grow in popularity, nipping at the heels of competitor Instagram. According to a semi-annual survey by Piper Jaffrey, 47% of teens say Snapchat is their preferred social media platform, up 12% from last year. One in four teens say they prefer Instagram.  

On the other hand, Instagram is still very popular with teens and Millennials, and it has a much larger footprint, with 400 million daily users compared to Snapchat’s 173 million, Recode reports.   

While both are visual platforms, with many of the same features, there are differences. Here’s what to know about each. 

  • Planned vs. Real-Time Posts: Instagram may appeal more to cautious public library marketers, who want to carefully curate their images. Tools such as Hootsuite will allow you to schedule Instagram posts in advance. By contrast, Snapchat emphasizes spur-of-the-moment, candid images, which may appeal more to marketers who have a greater level of comfort with social media. On the upside, content on Snapchat will disappear in 24 hours. 


  • Storytelling Feature: Both platforms have a “story” feature, which marketers can use to preview a library event, share “a day in the life,” or create a slideshow of library highlights. Snapchat pioneered this feature, but Instagram adopted it last August. Within five months of launch, the Story feature had reached 200 million Instagram users. Today, the feature has 250 million daily users compared to 166 million for Snapchat, according to marketing platform Domo. 


  • Geolocation: Each platform allows you to add your library’s location. On Instagram, geotags will store your latitude and longitude, and while most institutions will be named already, you can add your library if it doesn’t appear in the list. Geotags are searchable, which is valuable because it helps users discover your Instagram account. However, Snapchat approaches geolocation differently. It uses geofilters, which are fun, artistic overlays promoting your library. Geofilters for public spaces are created by artists and the community. You can submit your own here 


One good way to get a handle on which app is more popular in your community is to survey local teens and Millennials in your community. The results should help you narrow your choice and choose the one that will best help you reach your public library’s marketing goals.  

For more information about how teens and Millennials use both platforms, check out Domo’s infographic here. 

About Tiffany McClary

Tiffany McClary is the Director of Communications, Marketing & Outreach for the New Jersey State Library. She coordinates marketing and public relations initiatives in order to enhance the reputation of the State Library, and promote the value of NJ libraries and the services and programs that they provide to residents.