The possibilities of social AR on Instagram and Snapchat

From AR Game filters to virtual try-on, Social AR has gone from being a niche technology to a mainstream feature over the last few years. Using Social AR, users can visualize themselves as ‘Thor’ and see their eyes’ color turn into lightning blue or become an astronaut and see themselves seated in a virtual cockpit.

In this article, we will discuss various possibilities of social AR on Instagram and Snapchat and what it means for users and brands.

What is Social AR?

Social AR is an Augmented Reality feature displayed through various social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat which allows users to add quirky, funny or gamified digital imagery to their real-life environment or portrait. 

To do this, users can simply go to social media apps, and select an AR filter that they want to try and see the effect popping out in the real world. 

Social AR alters our monotonous and dull interactions into interactive, engaging and immersive experiences, which can be shared with family and friends. Be it Snapchat’s dog filter or Instagram’s doughnut-eating filter, the craze for these fancy filters among users has opened up new opportunities for brands like Nike, Adidas, Mondelez and many more. 

As per Snapchat’s report, more than 200 million users engage with its AR lens daily. On the other hand, Meta’s Instagram Social AR feature reaches 700 million AR users.

Types of Social AR across Instagram and Snapchat


Facefilters are quite a popular category of social AR effect that superimposes on users’ faces. It allows users to alter their appearance, record their experience and share it with their friends. Be it a teeth-whitening AR filter or a simple beard filter or a hair colour filter, these filters are enabling a novel way for people to communicate with each other.


Randomizers are also called the ‘Who/What are you?’ filters. It allows users to see a list of cards flashing before them and randomly landing on one answer. For example, using a Pokemon AR filter, users can find out which of the Pokemon characters they most relate to.

World effects

As the name suggests, world effects add digital objects to the real environment. Unlike face filters, it uses a back camera to augment digital components in the physical location. World effects are created using the plane tracker and target tracker. 

The plane tracker allows a user to anchor a digital object on a horizontal plane such as a table or a floor, whereas in the target tracker the digital objects pop up when the camera directly points at an image or tangible objects around us. 


AR portal filters allow a user to pass through a portal in the shape of a window or a door into a unique, captivating and immersive world. The content inside the AR portal filters can be a 360-degree video or an image.

or example, using the filter, the users can teleport to Ancient Egypt and see the architecture, tradition and culture or step inside a beach-facing house and walk inside it.


AR games filters are the most immersive, engaging and interactive of all the Instagram and Snapchat filters. Be it an eyes-tracked laser beam that destroys an attacking UFO or juggling an AR football on your head, these filters keep the audience hooked and let brands create a strong recall and social presence. 

AR game filters are quite popular among the masses who share their gaming experiences in stories. Thus making it easier for others to discover the filters and try them out themselves. 

Virtual Try-On

Virtual try-on AR filters give the opportunity to users to try out virtual sunglasses or shoes or beauty products and make their shopping experiences convenient, seamless and informed. 

Virtual try-on completely revolutionizes the retailing experience and enhances brand awareness and image.

Possibilities of Social AR on Instagram and Snapchat

Social AR - Shopping

AR allows brands to digitize customer experiences. It brings objects to life and lets customers visualize the product the way it looks in the real world. Moreover, it allows brands to create unique immersive experiences which evoke customers’ emotions, resulting in higher conversions and brand recall. 

There are multiple ways in which brands can use AR in their existing marketing strategy. For example, to promote a new product, brands can create an AR filter to showcase a virtual model of it along with its feature. On the other hand, brands can let customers try a product before buying it. 

To illustrate, ​​JD Sports Australia and Nike partnered with Snap to launch the Nike Air Force 1 Pixel sneakers using Snapchat’s shoppable AR Lenses in an Australian first.

The campaign achieved 1 million earned reach, and 4 million impressions, was shared more than 108,000 times and had a brand recall of 33 points.

Social AR - Gamification

Social AR games allow users to play games for free without needing consoles or processors. All it requires is AR-core-supported smartphones which turn the dull and boring environment into a fun and gamified environment. One of the successful AR games was a copy of Flappy birds where users have to blink to make the bird fly. 

Social AR games keep the audience hooked for a really long time. Apart from that, they like competing with their friends for higher scores. Moreover, a lot of celebrities and brands have started using AR games to engage with their fans and gain free publicity. 

EDM artist Marshmallow created an AR game which allowed users to capture flying marshmallows through facial gestures and movements. Over 3.2 million people engaged with it within 48 hours of its launch. 

Social AR - Branded Experience

Brands have been relying on social media to enlighten consumers about their products and services. With Social AR, brands move beyond videos and pictures to a more experiential and immersive product experience. According to research, people who use AR filters, use them for an average of 75 seconds, which is more than 4 times longer than a video. 

Since people engage with AR content for a longer duration, it remains in consumers’ minds forever, resulting in enhancing brand loyalty, image and awareness. It allows brands to distinguish themselves from others and stand out in a highly competitive market. 

To promote the board game, VROwl created an Augmented Reality filter for Just Entertainment, an independent entertainment company headquartered in Amsterdam. The AR game requires users to defeat the monsters as fast as possible. In the game, the users will encounter 10 monsters.

Benefits of Social AR

Social AR is becoming a fundamental marketing tool for organizations. It provides a quick way for brands to reach their customers and target audience. Here are some of the benefits of developing social AR experiences.


Unlike outdoor advertisements or TV commercials, which tend to be expensive, a social AR experience is not only affordable but offers a more personalized experience. At a minimal cost, Social AR provides a greater engagement rate, increase in usage and higher revenue. 

Although big brands have jumped to take full advantage of AR filters, small and medium enterprises with tight budgets are also utilizing immersive AR filters to attract customers.

Higher chances of virality

Social AR evokes various human emotions such as happiness, curiosity, humour and surprise. According to Jonah Berger, a marketing professor and author of Contagious: why things catch on, people tend to share stuff that is emotionally arousing. 

Moreover, AR filters make people look good or rather cool. This makes the sharer feel special and gain attention, which further boosts confidence, likes and comments. According to a new report by Camera IQ, 78% of consumers say they are more likely to share a brand’s AR experience on social media than a brand post.

Sales enablement

Social AR is an effective tool for the sales team as it provides an immersive way to demonstrate the value of a product or a service to prospects. Since Social AR allows users to overlay digital objects onto the real environment, users can see how it will be better for them if they buy it. 

Social AR enables the sales team to quickly convert leads into customers. Instead of going through the website, browsing the catalogue, and filling up the form, a personalized social AR experience would prompt an immediate response and encourage on-spot sales.

How brands are leveraging Social AR on Instagram and Snapchat?


Doritos, owned by Frito Lay’s division of PepsiCo, is using an AR lens on Snapchat for a marketing campaign. 

As per the campaign, the AR lens, titled ‘Triangle Tracker’ lets consumers convert triangle-shaped objects in real life into Doritos’ iconic triangle-shaped chip. 

Moreover, the experience rewards consumers with merchandise from various brands and one lucky winner will get a chance to win an exclusive reward of $250000.


Xbox’s biggest IP, Halo, launched an AR filter on Instagram to create awareness amongst Halo fans about the new Halo TV series launch on Paramount plus. 

During a group chat on Instagram, users could select an AR filter known as ‘Halo Silver’, which enabled them to choose one of the spartans’ helmets on their faces out of four variations.

Tiffany & Co.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary in London, American luxury jeweler, Tiffany and Co. partnered with Snap to use AR filters at the launch of its exhibition, ‘Vision & Virtuosity’ at the Saatchi gallery. 

The exterior of the Saatchi gallery transforms into exquisite and elegant Tiffany jewelry using Snap’s lens technology. Moreover, a virtual try-on experience of Tiffany’s diamond gave visitors a chance to try it on themselves. 

For snap users worldwide, a global AR filter featuring Tiffany and Co.’s heritage Bird on a rock sends the Schlumberger bird flying around you. By extending the arm, the users can see where the bird lands.

How to make your own Social AR filter?

Both Snapchat and Instagram offer tools that allow developers to create immersive and interactive AR filters. With Snapchat’s Lens Studio and Meta’s Sparks AR, brands can develop personalized experiences for users around the world. 

Such experiences allow people to connect with the brand on an emotional level which further leads to higher brand recall and increase in sales. 

Be it games, face filters or virtual try-on, social AR heightens user experience and has become a primary method of social communication and entertainment. Undoubtedly, social AR has become an intrinsic part of customers’ buyer journey. 

Tim Nijland
Tim Nijland
Enthusiasm, knowledge and a lot of passion. My main focus is everything XR related but anything in the realm of new technology makes my heart beat faster. I love to share my thoughts and talk about the many use cases of XR. Feel free to contact me at


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