Does anyone remember the time that Snapchat declined Facebook’s offer to buy them for $3 billion? Yeah? Me, too. And so does Facebook, most likely, with the announcement today from Snapchat about its updates to the popular app.
Back when Facebook made the $3B offer to Snapchat, people wondered why. Since then there have been a few articles released that include interviews with the Snapchat CEO, but they were relatively inconclusive as to what Snapchat had up its sleeve. Now the secret is out, with Snapchat’s update including video chatting and in-app text messaging. Sorry Facebook, but Snapchat beat you to the punch on that one (referencing the WhatsApp announcement of rolling out voice calling later this year).
It’s definitely a smart move for Snapchat, in my opinion. The video chatting feature may seem useless to my age demographic and older, but it may very well be heavily used by the younger generation— those prized 13-17 year olds. It’s quick, it’s a novelty, and it’s part of an app that they already love to use. That demographic is increasingly visual. They grew up with laptops, tablets, smartphones— all very visual, all very in your face. So it’s natural that they’re migrating to apps like Instagram and Snapchat, because a) their parents aren’t on them and b) they’re much more aesthetically pleasing. So now that they can message and video chat, I think it’s going to make the app that much stronger.
I read an article by The Verge that had a really in depth perspective of the whole situation from Snapchat’s point of view. Evan Spiegel, the Snapchat CEO, discussed his desire for messaging to stop being so disruptive and to be more instantaneous. When a person’s online/offline status is visible, Spiegel theorizes that it’s a more negative experience because if someone is online but hasn’t started up a conversation, it means they don’t have the desire to interact with you. With the Snapchat updates, you don’t know when a person is active in the app. You don’t know when they’ve read your message until they exit the conversation and the message disappears (although they did include a screenshot option for saving texts, which is smart for when people send addresses, phone numbers, or other important information). Video chatting is very quick with Snapchat, and very “in the moment” in Spiegel’s eyes.
It seems that Spiegel is looking at communication very differently than Facebook, Twitter, and the other leading social media platforms. If he’s successful in whatever it is he’s trying to do, it could really change the direction of social media. Brands have already been joining Snapchat in efforts to cultivate brand loyalty and distribute marketing materials such as coupons and deals (which is great because you can track exactly who opens your snap, and then furthermore, who takes a screenshot), and I think many more will follow as younger teens use Snapchat more frequently with the new features. I think that there is a lot happening right now, and I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner for social media marketing.