When Snapchat premiered six years ago, users flocked to it, enthralled by its disappearing photos and fun editing options. It provided an outlet that didn’t require the same kind of polished curation in shared content users find on Instagram and Facebook.
If you do a quick Google search of Snapchat now, you’re greeted by a multitude of articles claiming that the app is dead, or dying.
It is true that among top rated apps, it has the smallest population of users and the release of similar features from competing apps are challenging its growth.
But is the app really dead (or dying?) And why does it matter to communicators?
Since its release, the appeal of Snapchat has been its engaging, unique features, especially their augmented reality filters and stories, which disappear after 24 hours.
In August 2016, however, Instagram released its own stories with nearly identical features to Snapchat, including almost exact copies of Snapchat’s most popular filters. Since its introduction, Instagram stories have exploded in popularity, with 250 million people using it daily. Comparatively, 166 million people are using Snapchat stories daily.
One in five businesses who share an Instagram story also receive a direct message from a user, which lets Instagram entice businesses with opportunities to communicate directly with consumers through using their stories.
Additionally, Snapchat struggles to find the same popularity among influencers and celebrities as other platforms. This is due in part to how the average person uses Snapchat. Typically, users share photos and messages with their friends, rather than following celebrities’ accounts as they would on Twitter or Instagram.
For those users who are interested in following celebrities, there’s the additional challenge of finding their accounts. There have been complaints about the ability to search and discover accounts.
High profile users, particularly influencers, also complain about the challenge of getting verified on the platform. Snapchat introduced Official Stories in 2015, which is similar to verified accounts on other platforms, but it was reserved for celebrities until recently.
Comparative to other leading social platforms, Snapchat doesn’t have the robust following to compete with giants like Facebook, which had 1.8 billion active users as of January 2017. At that time, Snapchat had just 300 million.
User complaints about functionality and a smaller base of users contribute to perhaps Snapchat’s larger struggle, attracting companies to spend their marketing dollars on the app.
The app struggles to compete with Google and Facebook when it comes to enticing businesses to invest in advertising and marketing on the platform.
In the second quarter of this year, for example, Snap reported $182 million in revenue, while Facebook reported $9.3 billion.
Will Snapchat survive?
Although the introduction of Instagram stories was a significant setback for Snapchat, who had previously been the innovator and sole app offering this functionality, Snapchat continues to create new features and resonate with specific audiences.
Just a couple weeks ago, it introduced Context Cards. Users now can click on snaps that feature tags to businesses and gain information about those businesses, including addresses, reviews, and directions. A snap from a hotel, for example, can bring up information to make reservations.
Snapchat partnered with companies including TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Lyft, and Uber to bring the information to users.
Context Card’s partnership with well-known, established companies enhances the value of this feature. Snapchat’s main demographic of users are younger than 35, with three fourths of its audience between 12 and 34, the same group that commonly uses several of the partnered companies. Two thirds of Uber’s customer base, for example, is between 16 and 34.
In addition to innovating new features, Snapchat use is on the rise among teenagers. A recent survey conducted by Piper Jaffray studied 6,100 US teens with an average age of 16, finding that nearly half of them prefer Snapchat rather than other platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
These results are up eight percent points from a similar survey conducted in the spring 2017. The popularity of the app is growing among this group, as just 11 percent of surveyed teenagers said that Snapchat was their preferred app in spring of 2015.
Additionally, in August of this year, influencers began reporting that Snapchat had invited them to set up an Official Story, allowing influencers’ stories to appear in Live Stories, be discoverable from applicable search terms, and create personalized filters. Extending this offer is viewed by many as a strategy to win back influencers.
Why does it matter to communicators?
With the continued introduction of new features, popularity among teens, and improved loyalty to influencers, it would appear that Snapchat’s death isn’t imminent. Although not all communicators and companies use Snapchat to reach their audience, the app’s survival could be valuable.
The main point of social media is not necessarily finding the platform with the biggest following but instead finding the one your intended audience frequents and creating content that will resonate with them.
Finding the right social networks to invest time in can be very similar to media relations. Although getting a mention of your brand in the New York Times seems like the ultimate goal for any PR professional, getting information about your brand into a trade magazine could be more valuable because, although the audience is smaller, the readers are a better fit for your product and have stronger potential to become actual customers.
The same can be said about Snapchat. If you’re looking to reach a younger audience who enjoys topical, authentic content, Snapchat could be an ideal communication channel.
Specifically, Snapchat could be a good outlet for restaurants and retailers looking to attract a young audience. With the introduction of Context Cards, these businesses receive additional visibility that could lead to new audiences and more potential customers coming through the door.
Despite the reports of Snapchat’s death, its continued innovation, popularity among a specific demographic, and willingness to work more closely with influencers will likely sustain its relevance and allow it to be a useful addition to some professionals’ communications plans.