It seems like a long time ago now but at the end of 2014 Snapchat was recognised as the fastest growing social app on the market. Predictions were made that 2015 would be ‘the year of Snapchat’, as if it was written in the stars.
Well apparently the stars were right because now the video messaging application has more than 100 million daily active users sending 400 million ‘Snaps’ each and every day. The Financial Times recently reported that Snapchat has restated its dominance in video content by tripling its daily video views in the last six months to an almost unbelievable 6 billion.
It’s no wonder that when Snapchat started gaining ground soon after it launched in 2011 other platforms tried to get in on the action. The first signs of the value in self-destructive content were showing.
The overuse of filters, edits and drafts on other platforms has generated a sense of ennui
Facebook first experimented with video messaging in December 2012 when they released the wholly unpopular Facebook Poke. For one reason or another, the app failed and was defunct within two years. Many people noted that its only success was in providing Snapchat with even more publicity.
But, roll on four years and Zuckerberg’s at it again. Never one to shy away from an opportunity to ruthlessly consume a social media rival, the Facebook CEO is readying the release of a new ephemeral content application. In a statement to Buzzfeed this month, Facebook announced that they were “conducting a small test in France of a feature that allows people to send messages that disappear an hour after they’re sent”.
If we include Slingshot, another of Facebook’s Snapchat-like app efforts released in June 2014, that takes the tally up to three. For the world’s most popular social media platform to try so hard at muscling in on the disappearing-content space, it can only mean one thing: there’s long-term value in short-term content.
This begs the question: why aren’t more brands using it in their marketing and advertising efforts?
A somewhat unfiltered view of a brand
Last year Mashable reported that only 1% of marketing professionals incorporated the use of Snapchat into their work. Considering that figure hasn’t increased at all since 2012, is it about time things changed?
Snapchat’s demographic is young, with 13-24 year olds making up its core group of users. The app’s spontaneity and informality is a big draw, giving marketers the opportunity to connect with users in a more creative and casual fashion. If the aim of a brand is to display the ‘human’ side of a business, then this is a far more effective way to go about it than most.
In late 2013, the app began allowing users to create ‘stories’ via the Snapchat Stories feature. It enables users to string a collection of Snaps (photos and videos with added text and illustrations) together that appear in sequential order on their Stories Feed. Each Snap lasts for just 24 hours, encouraging people to return to the feed in order to continue following the story before it disappears. (Snapchat’s savvy owners no doubt anticipated that brands would one day see the marketing value in such a feature.)
Being able to add text and illustrations to the Snaps increases the app’s interactive component. But this interaction isn’t reserved solely for the sender as in order for receivers to view the Snap their finger needs to remain pressed on the screen. Now, although it doesn’t sound like much, a little subtlety such as this makes it more likely viewers will pay attention to what they’re seeing, at least compared to the content published on the likes of Instagram and Facebook.
Nowadays I only seem to open those two apps out of habit, scroll through them at thumb-shattering speed, then close them without any recollection of what I’ve just seen. But if I thought that a piece of content was going to vanish forever in a few seconds, I may be less inclined to zip past it so quickly.
An air of exclusivity
What short-term content works?
What makes a good story on Snapchat is, like any story, subjective. But the ones that tend to perform the best and engage most viewers are those that tell a narrative in a dynamic and personal style. Viewers appreciate authenticity, which is another area in which Snapchat is distinct from Facebook, Twitter and (especially) Instagram. The overuse of filters, edits and drafts on other platforms has generated a sense of ennui among users, who aren’t convinced by this forged reality as much as they once were.
The fact that Snapchat doesn’t allow users to create drafts or edit their posts means audiences are given a somewhat unfiltered view of a brand. For me, this is reason enough for marketers to get on board with real-time advertising. But when this authenticity is combined with the realisation that the content is only available for a short time, an air of exclusivity gets conjured up.
It would be a bit of a leap to suggest that ephemeral content is 100% ‘real’ content, but it’s certainly a step in that direction. So if we can agree that ‘real’ content is what the people want, then perhaps more brands need to strategically incorporate disappearing video messaging into their marketing output. Plus, if Zuckerberg’s at it, shouldn’t you be?