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Snapchat, Part 1 - The Who, What, When

Lisa Bregman's picture

This is part 1 of a 3-part series on Snapchat. Part 2 will identify pros and cons of the app as they relate to brand or team use of the platform. Part 3 will share ideas and best practices for sports teams looking to add Snapchat to their social media repertoire.

When you work in social media every day is a learning opportunity. Some days that may mean learning about a change in the features or functionality of an existing platform, and others it’s figuring out an entirely new platform and deciding if your team or brand should be on it.

As one of the new kids on the social media block, Snapchat has grown considerably and made the news quite a bit in the past few months. Since launching in 2011, the young platform has grown to an estimated 30 million users, with penetration among smartphone users up to around 50% for users ages 18-34. That’s enough to make it the third most popular app among millennials (behind Instagram and Facebook). Users send more than 700 million total “snaps” with the average user checking his account 14 times each day. [Stats as of August 2014]

From a functionality standpoint, Snapchat began with the ability to simply share self-destructing photos or 10-second videos between individual users. Late last year they added Stories, a tool that allows a user to link together a combination of videos and photos that live for up to 24-hours and are shared with anyone following the user. Stories have since become the most popular feature, with users viewing over one billion per day. Once Stories were added, brands and teams started to experiment on the platform with some of the earliest adopters including Taco Bell and GrubHub on the brand side and the Saints on the team side.[Stats as of June 2014]

Live section featuring current Additional new features have continued to roll out this year with “doodles”, filters, and captions opening the door for users to show off their creative prowess, as well as text messages, video chats, geofilters and the newest feature, “Our Story”. The latter debuted in June 2014 during the Electric Daisy Carnival and allowed users at the festival to add their snaps to “Our EDC Story.” This served to create a collaborative, ongoing, live narrative of the event. After successfully testing the Our Story feature a few more times throughout the summer, Snapchat recently added a new “Live” section below users’ Recent Updates where they plan to add the Our Stories feature for various live events.

So, will Snapchat last or is it doomed to be another app in the growing social media graveyard? Last year the company famously turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook, as well as allegedly turning down a $4 billion offer from Google a month later. This left many wondering just what Snapchat was planning and ultimately how they might generate revenue. With the launch of “Our Story” as an indication that Snapchat is OK moving beyond its original messaging focus, it appears the company may be shifting toward delivering live content. The curated “Our Story” feature could be an easier and more entertaining way for users to see updates from major events than searching a hashtag on Twitter or Instagram. More importantly, it could easily generate revenue, with events and brands sponsoring live Stories. To further confirm a potential pivot toward content vs messaging, the Wall Street Journal reported last month that Snapchat, now valued at $10 billion, has been holding talks with advertisers and media companies about a new service called “Snapchat Discovery”. Set to launch in November, Discovery would let users read news or watch video content from TV networks, for example, and would become the first revenue stream for the 3-year-old company. [Wall Street Journal, Aug 2014]

While all signs point to Snapchat becoming a serious social media contender, there are a number of challenges the platform still poses to marketers looking to leverage the young, highly engaged user demo. Check back in two weeks when I’ll highlight pros and cons of Snapchat. Until then, make sure you open an account for yourself and start following a few brands and teams to get a better understand of the platform.

Have a favorite brand or team Snapchat account? Tell me why in the comments below or tweet me @LisaMBregman so I can include it in part 3 of this series.


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