Slaying Snapchat

Tuesday, 30 August 2016, by Rosie

Slaying Snapchat

Facebook seems to keep trying.  Most of the time, not attempting to hide its efforts.  Kevin System the Instagram (Facebook is the parent company of Instagram) CEO has publicly said that all the credit goes to Snapchat for the the most recent Snapchat copy cat.  The adoption of Instagram stories is perhaps the closest the Facebook giant has come to worming its way into the hearts of die hard Snapchat users, that is – the younger spectrum of the young’uns, the digitally savvy who don’t realise that they are savvy; suffering frustration when their parents hold their phones at arm’s length to scroll up and down with one finger, admiring their friends’ antics on Facebook.  Who even uses Facebook now? (N.B. 1.71 billion monthly active Facebook users…)

The image of Facebook as a platform for mums is possibly what makes it the less ‘cool’ platform of choice, causing youngsters to be constantly snapping up the new, cooler one which their aunty doesn’t use and so is unable to comment on images saying, “oooh, who’s this?” Or something equally ‘mortifying’.

People are always talking about Snapchat; its advertising potential, how to make best use of it in the marketing land and so on and so forth.  Which ever way you may or may not choose to use it; how long will it be the chosen portal for the brave new world of digital cool kids?  The powers that move Facebook have great technological and financial capabilities to invest in overthrowing any power that is seen to grab their target audience. 

Attempt to overthrow is what they do – the success of such attempts is debatable.  There have been multiple schemes and dreams thrown into the digital market place.  Facebook tried to buy Snapchat for $3bn in 2012 – rejected.  It shoos away Timehop by showing Facebook users randomly selected pictures from certain lengths of time ago, “Rosie, here’s you 6 years ago,” – ah, there’s the reason I didn’t download Timehop.  

Facebook implements its messaging service, Messenger, as a standalone messaging platform – directing us to the app and encouraging us to download it every time we want to send or receive messages via Facebook, before taking the choice away altogether.  Now, 11% of the world’s population uses Messenger each month, with around one billion monthly active users.  Successfully forcing the masses to take up their messaging service; victory?  The people of Facebook clearly see value in messaging platforms and acquired WhatsApp, the biggest messaging service in the world, for a cool $19 billion in 2014.  

There were a few others that were developed, notable ones include:

Poke

- Launched 2012

- Snapchat competitor; iOS app for sending expiring text, photos and videos

Slingshot

- 2014

- Snapchat clone

Riff

- 2015

- Collaborative video sharing platform

These projects were, relatively speaking, not overwhelmingly popular.  However, grabbing the attention of every digitally active individual isn’t necessarily the destination Facebook is aiming at – crucially, they can learn for the future; the preferences and behavioural habits of their audience.  

Now we have an interesting case with Instagram stories.  Instagram has 300 million daily active Instagrammers and they have enjoyed the chance to build up their followings and establish their place on the platform.  Meanwhile, Snapchat has the structure in place to accommodate its happy Snappers - happily using the platform for what they know and love – with some additional features popping up now and then.  Instagram stories have the exact same UX design as Snapchat – no one has bothered to disguise this copycat.  If Instagram stories gain popularity and momentum, will it enjoy its own forced implementation – build up usage and loyalty to the feature and then separate it off à la Messenger? 

Significant Snapchat stars have been quick to try out Instagram stories but there is an argument to say that the audience for this is still slightly different (older) to the Snapchat audience.  So does that mean Instagram stories won’t be snatching Snapchatters?

In keeping with the apparent, and understandable, desire to stay connected with younger audiences and develop apps that appeal to them, Facebook has just launched Lifestage.  Lifestage is very Snapchat-esque; it has friendly UI, bright gradients and cartoon graphics. Most importantly, it’s aimed specifically at under 21 year olds – you have to unlock your school to use it (a minimum number of users needed it seems) - very reminiscent of Facebook’s initial launch which relied on colleges and universities to create a network.  It will be interesting to see how this app is received by its audience, how it develops and what Facebook learns. 

Whether these latest developments ‘work’ or not, it won’t be the last attempt at total domination and knowledge gathering we see from Facebook.  Watching Facebook creep around stalking the best of the digital landscape is entertaining and impressive, the people over in those cramped offices are mighty clever.   

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