An investigation by The Drum found that while Snapchat’s recent hires and product investments have resurrected interest in its potential as an advertising platform, most marketers are looking carefully at it on a brand by brand basis. Advertising experts discuss the opportunities and challenges of the platform in its current state below.
Snapchat has clearly made a huge impact. From its notoriety at launch as a sexting tool for teens, to the the phenomenon it has now become, it has grown to offer a much more wholesome type of interaction based around content discovery and funny augmented reality animated selfies.
The challenge that Snapchat faces rises from the fact that it has grown its user base and the behaviour on its platform without a clear hypothesis on monetisation. As a result it is frantically trying to find an effective business model. Platforms need to be highly iterative to get to a model which sustains and drives growth, and I fear Snapchat has left it too late to focus on this. However invincible it might seem right now, Snapchat risks going the way Twitter seems to be heading, with slowing user growth, low revenues and getting categorised as a ’sell’ stock’.
One of the byproducts of consumers moving away from desktop access to the web to access via their smartphones, in that they augment their email (and oh, the occasional phone call) with mobile messaging apps. In fact, younger, highly desirable consumers like teens and young adults don't even use email any more. (Try it; email your teen right now and see how long it takes for a response, if you ever get one.) They communicate almost exclusively through apps. So, in recent years, we’ve seen the rise of messaging apps like Snapchat, WeChat, WhatsApp, Kik, and of course, Facebook Messenger.
Up until recently, their massive audiences have been largely untapped by advertisers. There are more monthly active users of messaging apps than social networking apps: about 3 versus 2.5 billion. The top four messaging apps—WhatsApp and Messenger (both owned by Facebook), WeChat, and Viber—have nearly 3 billion users alone. When you dig into just the Facebook properties, WhatsApp has about 990 million users and Facebook Messenger has 800 million monthly active users.
All these apps aim to control the conversations previously dominated by texting and elevate the user experience far beyond a simple text. We’re seeing messaging apps that integrate customer service, enable financial transactions, and even order transportation, directly within a conversation. What was once a single group chat is transforming into the new mobile web right before our eyes.
Last year, Snapchat partnered with Square for “Snapcash,” which enables users to exchange money directly on the platform. Facebook launched a payment system shortly after. In December, Facebook introduced Transportation, giving users the ability to order an Uber right inside Messenger. I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg of upcoming new chat functionality.
Marketers should note that messaging apps are building out their services and providing avenues for connecting brands, publishers, and advertisers with users
I don't believe any prolific Snapchat users (and there's many groups of them) get any inspiration from brands and brand activity on the platform. I think they're too busy shaping it into what they want it to be, whether that be as a broadcast network, primary messaging platform, promo tool or status amplifier.
Isn't that true of any technology over the last 20 years? There are many examples of tech being bent to the will of the people. The industry called it SMS, yet someone made the term text popular and it entered the modern lexicon. A Blackberry was a business tool that was wildly popular as a consumer device as we entered the smart phone age.
I see the same thing with Snapchat. The Testino x Burberry campaign was amazing...but there's way more compelling activity going on everyday! The model who is promoting her career by giving a daily BTS broadcast of her life. The celebrity athlete using Snapchat to share his trip to a city. I even follow a yoga teacher from NYC who loves grime and English tea.
The messaging means you can frivolous, Stories mean you can become a lo-fi ‘Behind-The-Scenes’ broadcaster and Discover can dripfeed either cool live events or branded content that may tickle your fancy. Now why doesn’t the industry “get it”? I’m not sure I have the time to care, I have a bunch of cool/interesting people to follow on Snapchat.
It would be very difficult for most brands to build up an organic Snapchat following of their own of any meaningful size. So inevitably we’ll be working with Snapchatters with an existing relevant follower-base to get product messaging out through their channels. So sending Snapchat influencers to a given brand’s music festival activations, for example. For most brands, this is probably the ‘quickest win’ available to them on Snapchat – taking advantage of the Snapchat audience but bypassing the big Snapchat ad prices.
With Live Stories, brands can create a sponsored Snapchat Live Story to amplify a large event. . Any user in the area of an event will be served the options of contributing their Snap to the public Live Story. This then becomes a crowdsourced stream of snaps coming from your event that all Snapchat users will have pinned to the top of their screen.
So it’s an ad format with the content creation outsourced to users. Which is pretty clever, and invaluable when it comes to brand credibility, authenticity etc.
The strength of Snapchat is that it appeals to a set of people who are increasingly telling their life stories in images – whether photographic, filmic or written (emoji). To that end it’s got a fantastic core offering. A further advantage is the transcient nature of the medium. The widely reported shift in attention spans dropping from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2012 suggests that there’s no problem in developing marketing channels that are working on 24 hour cycles, as stories do, so that shouldn’t inherently cause a problem for marketers.
The key thing to watch over the next 12 months is how effectiveness begins to get measured in order to justify large and sustained spends inside the platform. It’s happened to every digital based platform (whether you call it a social media platform or not is irrelevant) as they begin to grow to a point of serious monetization. Ultimately marketers spend money to engage with audiences in effective ways and Snapchat will come under increasing scrutiny to prove itself in this area.
Snapchat is arguably the most exciting platform on the planet right now. It is approaching a natural peak, still riding a wave of untouchable cool, kudos and mystique yet massive enough around the world to cause significant waves and impact.
It brought in new opportunity around teasing content, trailing, trialling and giving glimpses of what is to come. It has already influenced communications that will continue to echo for the coming months and years. We’ll see more and more erasable concepts, from entire disappearing stores to vanishing fashion lines. We’ll see more communications reflective too of the disruptive almost anarchic Snapchat colours and iconography. The Burberry campaign featuring Testino-shot clothing looked and felt fantastic and encouraged consumers to be there or be square. Yet the combination of classic black and white Burberry Testino with the Snapchat ghost and punkish colour schemes just felt more fresh than most other communications this year. This is hugely influential and will have big repercussions.
Now their huge recruitment plans will mean they add in the right layers to deal with brands at a big corporate level, to pioneer more fully with their revenue plays, their lifestyle play (Discover) and with new strands to their platform innovations too.