It should be noted that Facebook actually owns Instagram, which currently holds a separate 7% share of the pie, so combined they have a 50% share. That not withstanding, this is an incredible success for Snapchat.
What does this mean for brands?
Our own David Moth reported a couple of months ago on seven brands that have jumped on the Snapchat bandwagon. In this article he remains fairly skeptical about the platform:
Personally I think it’s a social network too far and that brands should leave it well alone, but marketers will always want to follow their consumers and jump on-board with trendy new apps.
The best of these forays into Snapchat seem to be either competition or incentive based: Co-operative’s campaign that gave users eight seconds to write down a discount code, Acura giving 100 users an exclusive first-look at it latest supercar, 16 Handles running a competition that encouraged users to send in their own pictures of frozen yogurt to then receive a discount code in a Snapchat photo that expired after eight seconds. It’s all a fascinating experiment.
It’s interesting to think there’s a sole employee on a smartphone at the other end, imbedded in the brand’s social team, who receives these Snapchats and only has eight seconds to decide if they’re worthy of winning.
It’s also depressing to think, being as the user can also reply to brand-sent Snapchats, of the same employee receiving goodness knows what images from a user long after the campaign has ended.
Because of the transient nature of Snapchat, where the photo disappears from existence after eight seconds, it’s far more open to abuse than Instagram or Facebook, as the Snapchat theoretically doesn’t leave a digital footprint and offending photos are harder to trace.
Sure. Tonnes of it…
As discussed above, the fact that Snapchats disappear into the ether once they’ve been opened is exponentially more open to abuse than other platforms.
Claims by many that the app is a perfect vehicle for unsolicited sexting are possibly over-inflated, and every technology ever invented is soon exploited for its pornographic potential, however the more serious accusations that abusive Snapchats make cyber-bullying harder to prove are very real and understandable.
For business concerns, Snapchat has yet to reveal how many people actually use its app, instead they choose to reveal how many photos are uploaded a day. This can be a difficult metric for brands to judge, and subsequently invest in, as you can’t tell if it’s just a relatively small pool of early and passionate adopters who they’ll be marketing to.
There are some independent estimates though. The most recent being Onavo’s claim that Snapchat was being used by 20.8% of iPhones in the US in August, making it the eighth most popular app on iOS.
Snapchat remains resolutely independent. It has turned down two offers from Facebook. The last offer was $3 billion, for cash! Snapchat also hasn’t made any money yet. There are no ads, it doesn’t cost anything to download the app nor does it offer in-app purchases. Snapchat is funded by an increasingly enthusiastic and generous group of venture capital firms.
This surely won’t be true for long though, Snapchat is toying with the idea of native advertising and in-app purchases, although how much this will turn-off existing users who are used to a free experience remains to be seen. Plus there is increasing competition out there in the ephemeral messaging market: WhatsApp, Kik, Facebook Messenger, so Snapchat may find it has painted itself into a corner here.
Finally (probably not finally, but for now it is) Snapchat is being sued by one of its founders, and the cloud of litigation is showing little sign of dispersion yet. However similar controversy hasn’t really done Facebook any harm, has it now?
Is Snapchat useful for your brand? My gut instinct would say no.
It’s not because of the above controversies either, matters like this rarely impact on the financial success of a truly innovative idea, it’s more that there’s so many, better platforms out there that have yet to be tapped for their true potential: Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Vine, Pinterest… even Facebook has life left in the old dog yet.
Many companies still have so much to learn about using the already established social media networks, and something so flippant and fleeting as Snapchat seems like a waste of time and investment.
Leave Snapchat for the kids who want to message each other one-to-one away from a digital platform that places their interactions on permanent record, and instead concentrate on marketing strategies for social platforms that offer longer-lasting, meaningful interaction.