Jeremy Carson is an Associate Creative Director, working in the advertising and design industries for over 15 years.
Everyone's looking at this new Snapchat update, saying it's about saving us from "fake news."
Patting Snap on the back for "separating the 'social' from the 'media.'"
That's a great PR story.
But it's fake.
Because the Discover content already used to be separate. And they're too small for fake news outlets to waste their time with the platform.
The truth is, they're hurting. And they need to do something drastic.
Something that can't be copied. Something to keep the users flowing in and their market value up.
They need to go back in time.
TL;DR - Snapchat's update isn't about saving us from fake news. It's so they can stay relevant and stay in business.
What's Happening With Snapchat?
In case you didn't hear, Snapchat updated their app. And their company.
Amongst a few algorithmic improvements, they changed a couple things:
- Removed ads from users' stories.
- Separated friends' content from content creators' and brands'.
They say that mixing content from creators and friends has been an "interesting experiment."
With a side-effect.
Oh, that's nice.
Everyone from South Park to Trump has commented on the topic.
Plus, these noble ghosts are saving us from competing with Kardashians and Jenners, letting us simply express ourselves.
Cool story, bro.
The Truth About What's Happening
It's pretty obvious. Snapchat is hurting.
For a couple possible reasons:
- Their user growth is slowing. (Users = Money)
- Their monetization strategy isn't working. (Money = Money)
With Facetagram (Facebook + Instagram, you like that?) cloning Snapchat's core features, more people are opting to the larger user base those platforms offer.
Users leave and you disappear from culture.
No users, no money.
And with a product nobody pays for, money comes from ads.
Now, Facebook's killing it. They and Google represent about 63% of the US digital ad share. What's Snap doing about that?
I don't think they've truly nailed monetization.
- Discover Channels are kept in no-man's land.
- Video ads are untargeted, skippable jokes that brands just can't crack.
- On-Demand Geofilters are more for users than revenue.
It's good that Snapchat's putting more thought into the filters and lenses, because they're its only hope. Sure, they're suuuuuper expensive (I'm talking over half-a-million-dollars-a-day).
But they're worth it.
Because users seek them out.
Yeah, they seek out ads.
Because they don't feel like ads. Nobody else does that.
That's how Snapchat got huge. They did things nobody else did.
And that's what they're going back to.
Snapchat is Pulling a Rocky
Think about every Rocky sequel.
He always went back to his roots. To beat Mister T. To beat the russian. The stupid kid. Apollo's son.
Snapchat's going back to its roots.
Put that branded content back in the Discover tab. Connect people in a unique way. Make it a place they want to come back to, because it's different from everyone else.
Make it better. Not the same.
They're Becoming a Brand
To most of the world, Snapchat is a feature, not a business. Disappearing messages. Ephemeral content.
Features can be copied.
And when it comes to Snapchat's, they have been.
But a brand can't be copied.
Snap's figured that out. And they've been trying a lot of things to grow into a brand. Lots of experiments, without much success:
- They changed their name. (Big deal.)
- They released Spectacles. (Google Glass anyone?)
- They called themselves a "camera company." (Uh huh…)
This is a massive shift. They found something Facebook can't easily copy.
They can own this.
The stance that they want to keep content creators, brands, and professional content separate from friends is huge. It's a brand position.
But the questions stands.
Will it be enough?