It’s 10:40am on Friday 9th February 2018 and I am calling the death of Snapchat. That may seem a bit premature thanks to over 300 million active monthly users — it is exactly that — but, let us look back at this blog post in a few years time. I hope people will say: “Hey look, Tom was right, Snapchat was just a fad.”
In the early days, when Snapchat launched back in 2011, I thought that the app was both revolutionary and amazing. The core concept of sending pictures and videos that would self-destruct opened up avenues for extra creativity for users. You could doodle little drawings onto images, add text and after a few years, even do some incredible and pioneering AR filters that really took social media to a whole new place.
I loved Snapchat. Why send a text, when you could send a three-second image of what you are up to?
How is the weather where you are?
Just send a Snap of the rain.
Is your lunch tasty?
Just send a Snap of what it looks like.
Simple, unique and crucially, quick.
The platform stood out from a crowded area and proclaimed: “Yes, you can still be innovative within the social media market.”
One key feature that was added to Snapchat over the past few years was Stories. You could add multiple pictures and videos to your Snapchat Story and they would stay there for people to view for 24 hours. Think of it like a Facebook profile feed, but one that would disappear after a day. The removal of content not only made it feel magic — like a Penn and Teller disappearing elephant trick — but it forced users to constantly open the app and check if their friends had added new updates.
Or, at least, they used to.
I always find it easy to forget just how large (nearly two billion users) and rich ($40.65 billion revenue in 2017) Facebook is. Mark Zuckerberg purchased image-sharing network Instagram in 2012 and has not looked back. After failed attempts itself to copy the Snapchat recipe — with apps such as Poke and Slingshot — and a spurned purchase of the company, it simply integrated similar features within the existing Instagram service.
The addition of Stories to Instagram has been a game changer. Facebook already had a large install base to utilise, so adding the feature to the app already meant a lot of the hard work was done. They weren’t starting from scratch.
In the same way as Snapchat, you can add pictures and videos to a Story that disappears after 24 hours. The Stories sit at the top of the main Instagram feed within the app. The end user gets the benefits of both worlds, a feed of the best quality content, and then quick Stories for less-notable activities. This combined with live video and Boomerang capabilities and you have a recipe for Snapchat’s decline.
But the real issue for Snapchat is its relative lack on monetisation. You can get as many investors and shares sold as you want, but the buck will always stop with profitability. Instagram is integrated with the Facebook Business platform. Setting up an advert for a business is cheap and easy. You have multiple avenues (choose from in-between Stories, or in the main feed) and the ability to link to a campaign landing page. Plus, Facebook has so much information on their users which is used for precise targeting options. Snapchat basically has nothing other than current location in terms of targeting criteria.
When popular content creators, who previously used Snapchat, give in and switch across to Instagram Stories, the time has come to give it a rest. Instagram now has the internet influencers, the brands and your friends, all in one easy and advert-filled place.
It is a big shame. The sheer size and scale of Facebook, the unrelenting push to dominate every living second of our lives backed by the capital to make it happen, means a steeper uphill battle than that incline in Lincoln town centre for new social media upstarts. Competition does breed better user experiences, but only if you can somehow avoid Facebook’s copycat techniques. For Snapchat, I fear it is all over.
You blossomed into a fully-grown company called Snap Inc. You tried to sell us Spectacles that recorded Snapchats for £130. You disrupted the market, but the big fish took your best ideas and used them to force you out of the market. It was a fun ride, but now the journey has come to an end. For whom the bell tolls…
R.I.P. Snapchat, 2001 – 2018.