Calling the past year difficult for social media photo platform Snapchat would be an understatement at best and naive at worst.
Snap CEO Evan Spiegel announced changes to the company’s platform following disappointing news of user and revenue growth that not only lags Snap’s competition but is quickly becoming eclipsed by it.
The quarter three earnings report from the company was filled with missteps and strategic miscalculations on the part of the company. Platform user growth had slowed to 2.9 percent after posting outstanding numbers prior and revenue was greatly impacted by the failure to unload its Spectacles hardware – a story that we reported on last month. In addition to losing $USD 443 million, Snap also lost its head of engineering.
In a range of changes to the company’s mainstay app, from design overhauls to a greater dependence on algorithmic functions, Snap’s updates could be just what the company needs to stay in the photo/video social media game.
On the outside, Snapchat Stories clones WhatsApp Status and Instagram Stories now have 300 million daily users each. Snap’s whole app has just 178 million. Instagram now has its own augmented reality face filters. Facebook is pushing its own Stories feature hard.
Facebook Messenger has become ubiquitous with 1.3 billion users. And Facebook is willing to buy any startup that gives it an edge with teens, like its new acquisition tbh.
The pressure on Snap, you can imagine, is enormous.
This is because its competition is already hot on its heels with regard to the app's most popular feature, Snapchat Stories.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp's Status and Instagram’s Stories boast 300 million active daily users while Snap’s platform has a little over half of that at 178 million.
Even more vexing for Snap, Instagram has its own special face and augmented reality features and Facebook is leveraging its various platforms to push its alternative to Snapchat Stories, including Facebook Messenger.
This is not to even mention Facebook’s aggressive push into any and every space that offers some form of disruptive competition, using a warchest of funds and a crack team of the world's best software developers that Snap will be hard pressed to match any time soon.
To spur growth and to attract advertiser revenue dollars, Snapchat is going to expand its user base to begin including adults as well as content creators, an overdue move according to some industry watchers.
The monetization of quality content has only sped up since the advent of YouTube stardom, with many content websites like Steemit and sponsorship sites like Patreon offering creators opportunities to make money from their work, and this push is only expected to continue into the future.
Because of the importance such content creators and influencers can have on a platform’s activity numbers and revenue figures, Snapchat is going to move away from its “Personal, one-to-one Snaps” ethos of today towards a more widespread net like that of Instagram.
Addressing the issue of Snapchat’s lack of content creators, CEO Evan Spiegel said “We have historically neglected the creator community on Snapchat . . . In 2018, we are going to build more distribution and monetization opportunities for these creators . . . Developing this ecosystem will allow artists to transition more easily from communicating with friends to creating Stories for a broader audience, monetizing their Stories, and potentially using our professional tools to create premium content.”
Another big push for the photo sharing app will be into the third-world market and in expanding its Android user base according to TechCrunch.
Before, Snapchat’s growth in the developing world was hindered by the intensive bandwidth needs of transmitting video, a problem the company will now address in future iterations of Snapchat.
Another thing that Snap has discovered as it has grown older is that the older demographic is not entirely without merit and towards that end the once-trendy app is going to push to expand its user base beyond its currently younger-skewing distribution model.
With a more varied base of users comes more varied opportunities for advertising revenue, a key component in Snap’s future growth. Part of this push will be a streamlining and redesign of the interface. Snapchat’s interface is notoriously esoteric and this is something that the company will change as it seeks to bring in a broader audience.
Further, Evan Spiegel has always prided himself on not trusting data over his instincts but as the company has grown the dependence on analyzing and appropriately interpreting that data has become more paramount.
Spiegel has said that the company will focus more heavily on optimization and feature roll-outs that are the products of rigorous testing and data analysis, particularly with regard to boosting user engagement.
Time will tell if Snap's strategy pays off but the changes should be intriguing to watch and the increased competition can only mean better apps all around.