In 2011, Snapchat changed the scope of social media platforms entirely. Instantly, you could send a non-permanent photo or video to a friend, only for it to disappear moments after it was opened. Snapchat quickly grew to become one of the most popular Smartphone Apps in the USA, and later around the world. With updates and new features seeming to roll out frequently, the App successfully kept its users entertained and in anticipation for the next big feature. However, in 2016, Instagram launched “Stories”, an in-App feature comparable to Snapchat “My Stories”, amplifying the rivalry between the two Apps, and increasing the competition in digital advertising. Since the launch of Instagram Stories and its popularity amongst users, influencers, brands, and advertisers, eyes have been turned to Snapchat to see how the “original” disappearing photo-sharing App will respond.
To-date, Snapchat continues to rollout new features that extend the scope of the app. Most recently, and with much controversy, “Snap Map” was introduced, which allows users to see the exact geographic location of their followers at any given time. Instagram has gained the reputation for “knocking-off” Snapchat’s features, and reinventing them to better suit the platform. Instagram Stories now has more than 200 million users daily, surpassing Snapchat Stories daily users by 50 million, and counting. Since March 2017, Snapchat shares are down 39%, and new user growth has slowed as well. These statistics beg the question, has Snapchat past its prime?
A survey conducted this past Spring amongst US Teens reports that Snapchat is their favorite social network, with 81% of the polled teenagers saying they use the App monthly. Snapchat is successful at meeting the Teen demographic needs, by creating playful filters, some of which become viral memes, and keeping the platform’s news aspect culturally-relevant and geared towards the celebrity culture Teenagers are engaged with. Yet where Snapchat may still be the favored Social Networking App amongst Teenagers, Instagram maintains popularity amongst the slightly older, 18-24 years old and 30-49 years old demographics. Additionally, publishers are shifting their attention and monetary investments towards Instagram. This information may lead to the conclusion that Snapchat is slowly, but surely being overshadowed by Instagram.
Instagram favors brand identity building with attention being paid to stylized content creation. The platform’s adoption of the 24-hour storying feature is another outlet to further a brand’s voice and positioning. Branding on Snapchat is more difficult, as the 24-hour timed nature only allows for temporary content, whereas on Instagram, brands can post temporary stories to supplement permanent posts. This means brands must work harder to create Snapchat content that will be engaging and eye-catching, to entice users to read the content before it no longer exists. Snapchat “Channels” are the most effective way for brands and publishers to retain a presence and amass a larger following within the app, rather than trying to gain followers by promoting their Snapchat username or QR code.
Despite seemingly unfavorable quarterly numbers, Snapchat is far from extinction. As David Grant, president of PopSugar, notes, “You never want a world where there’s one place to go…Having two big distribution platforms is making them [individually] better.” The platforms arguably fulfill different needs for personal and branding purposes, and in order for one platform to completely monopolize Social Networking Applications, they will have to find a way to appeal to all audiences without losing their unique features which distinguish them amongst the rest.
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