Since launching in 2012, Snapchat has risen rapidly to become one of the most popular social media platforms around. It now has a reported 26 million users in the US, and notches up around 6 billon video views every day. The platform has successfully launched careers, given older publications a new lease of life, and helped ads become innovative again. But is Snapchat more than just a flash in the pan fad; can it evolve to become more than just an exciting and cool messaging app?
What is Snapchat?
If you’re not already familiar with Snapchat it’s a mobile photo-messaging app which allows users to take photos and short videos that remain viewable to recipients for approximately 10 seconds. After that, the ‘snap’ disappears and it’s never seen again. The concept was founded by three Stanford University students, Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown, who brought the idea to life after one of them had a thought: ‘I wish these photos I am sending this girl would disappear’. Initially the app was called ‘Picaboo’ but after some dispute over the equity spilt, Spiegal and Murphy renamed the app and launched it on the App Store and it became what we all know now as ‘Snapchat’.
Continuous improvements have been made since, with extended services such as added live text and chat. Most recently, Snapchat has also rolled out the ‘Birthday Party’ feature, allowing users to celebrate the day of their birth with decorative snaps. Most significantly for brands, back in January the company launched ‘Discover’, which was a fun new way to explore stories from different editorial perspectives. It’s comprised of a number of unique channels, one for each publisher, with channels publishing a daily edition filled with hand curated stories that refresh every 24 hours. BuzzFeed, CNN, ESPN and Mashable have all supported the feature so far, and found a measure of success with it.
Despite these extra features, Snapchat is still seen as a ‘one-to-one’ messaging service, rather than a ‘one-to-many’ social network, and there’s still a need for the platform to develop even further – something the company has been aiming to achieve. In recent months, it’s been revealed that Snapchat has teamed up with magazine publisher Hearst Corps to create a new channel called ‘Sweet’. Although there have been no official announcements made as yet, rumour suggests it’ll be adding ‘Sweet’ to the Discover collection of channels and that it’ll focus on food, fashion, lifestyle, music and art pieces. Bringing a publication to Snapchat before it even has a website is rare and Hearst is certainly the first to do so at this level.
The move in this direction won’t come as a surprise to some. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all started off as small players in advertising before opening up their platforms and it seems to be part of a wider trend across all the major social platforms who have gradually monetised their services. Facebook in particular has become one of the biggest and most successful players in the market to do this. Towards the end of last year, it released a whole new host of ad features that further explored e-commerce and revenue-driving solutions.
Meanwhile in September, Instagram opened up its global advertising platform and offered up a new targeting segment for advertisers. This allowed brands to reach people who were highly engaged with content related to Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas purchases. Twitter also launched ‘Twitter Moments’ back in December after hiring a new Head of Commerce. This was a bid to battle the platform’s stalling user growth and gives brands the opportunity to sponsor content curated by the social platform, thereby opening up the opportunity for Twitter to develop it into an e-commerce variant later on in the year.
What are the challenges?
One of the biggest challenges Snapchat faces is that it has quite a young demographic who expect certain things from it, and it will need to keep true to itself and not drive its core audience away, while still evolving, in order to succeed. The platform’s functionality might also make it more challenging for brands to show off their products and put audiences in a ‘buying’ mood. However recent figures reveal that 58% of college students would be likely to purchase a brand’s product or service if they received a voucher on Snapchat. As long as the interactions remain entertaining and it keeps its core appeal, Snapchat could very well be the one to watch out for this year.
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