If I had a dollar for every time social media changed and I lectured y’all about it – well, I should probably call myself a digital freelance consultant and start chatting to someone about paying GST and getting an ABN. But I digress.
We need to talk about Snapchat, y’all. Gather round please designers.
Despite it’s eye watering IPO and record breaking success thus far, Snapchat isn’t the safe bet that many in the industry tipped it to be. Yes, it went absolutely bananas when it exploded onto the market, and yes, it did manage to be somewhat agile to consumer demand in those sweet early days – (remember how horrified/relieved you were when the screen shot notification update was rolled out?), but it’s sparkle is falling off quicker than my childhood dance costume that time my mum glued the sequins on because she couldn’t be bothered hand sewing them.
Snapchat (I’ll refer to it as Snap from here on in, because we’re tight) is famous for just one thing. Disposable content. You can share your life, as it appears right now, with those around you – and just like the hangover from those tequila shooters you splashed across your Story with #LadiesNight! circa 3am – it disappears quietly and promptly into the archives of bad decisions past. Which, for anyone who still has seventeen albums from their early 20’s doing the rounds on their Facebook timeline, (feck me, why did the hairdresser let me demand those stripey, chunk highlights?!) is a bloody appealing thing. When it first launched, it was a breath of fresh air in an ecosystem dominated by data capture.
While we rushed in droves to adopt the anti-social media, we couldn’t help but notice the little itty bitty flaws. I mean – what if I actually really liked that picture? And how the heck do I find cool people to follow if I don’t know their handle? Note to Snap devs, replacing a QR code with an cumbersome URL that I have to physically send to people I want to follow me is literally only one step above messenger pigeon.
There is still no easy way to find people on the platform, despite several updates and more useless functionality ‘improvements’ that no-one asked for or needed which is why we don’t use them and I’m looking squarely at you Snap Maps. (‘Heck yes, I’m going to share my exact geo-location with anyone and everyone and also would really like it if you let people know when I viewed their location because who wants to stalk in private, amiright folks??!‘, said no-one in the history of the internet. I reserve the right to stalk like a normal person, and that is carefully and anonymously, thank you very much sir.)
And while Snap got busy building it’s empire, it stopped listening to the people. Like my dog swooping in on a dropped piece of bacon in the kitchen, the competition saw their window. It took Instagram approximately 3.4 seconds to roll out their own version of Stories – and while we initially scoffed, the fact that it didn’t even take Stories a full 12 months to steal the lion’s share of daily users should be worrying those Snap share holders. We won’t talk about it’s failed expansion to Facebook, because that’s basically the drunk uncle at the family bbq. We all agree to politely ignore it while we go about our business and we’ll avoid making eye contact, lest we get pulled into the conversation.
I see so many businesses currently advertising for Social Media Managers who understand Snap – most likely because their digi agency AM told them that it was where all the hip cool young kids are – not actually realising that they are potentially investing in yesterday’s news. (And don’t even get me started on if Snap is actually the right channel for your business and if your customers are even really there, and…ugh, this is going to a separate blog post in itself, isn’t it? Alright, hold tight.) There are elementary issues with Snapchat, the consumers are starting to get bored and the established players are running it down. Fast.
Fundamentally, social media participation is about curation. Those savvy ‘influencers’ are raining cash by building an aspirational version of their #blessed lives, creating unattainable lifestyles that brands are falling over themselves to associate their skinny tea/handbag/shoes/lipstick with. Regular folk can, quite literally with a little bit of grit and hard work, build virtual empires.
Yes, you can forge said empire with disposable content. But it’s bloody hard. The successful few on Snap seem to be those who are already Kinda Big Deals (yep, looking at you, Kylie Jenner…), and are leveraging that pre-existing fame. Find me a person who has built a sustainable empire via Snapchat. I’ll wait. (You know, with my glass of wine, because you’re going to take awhile, and I’ll probably order the cheese platter too, because hungry.)
Humans are predisposed to take the quickest and easiest route to their desired location (Please refer to Exhibit A: My diet and exercise routine), and with Snap steadfastly sticking to who it wants to be, rather than evolving into a powerful tool that is a reflection of what the bloody market actually wants, is a one way ticket to tumbleweeds-ville.
The annoying kicker for Snap is that users give zero proverbials about the originality in an app’s roadmap. Who did it first isn’t a valid argument here, and we’re probably all going to shrug if you start squealing that Insta copied your homework. Everyone wants to communicate in the same way, on the same apps, as their friends and heroes – and look, if I can get two-for-the-price-of-one in a place where the conversation is already flowing, I’m not gonna bother opening up that second app.
And finally, for those who are about to jump on the ‘but Em, LOOOKKKK. Snap rolled out that cool new AR functionality!’ bandwagon, please stop very right there. Throwing glitter in our eyes with some cute little cartoon version of myself dancing with a hotdog has my attention for exactly 5.2 seconds. Have a look at the way the current power players are using social media. If you think there is any danger of Zendaya abandoning her carefully styled latest look for a video of her Bitmoji mowing the lawn, then you need to go home because you, good sir, are drunk.
The fat lady ain’t singing juuuuuust yet, but let’s be real. She’s warming up in the wings. Evolve or die, dear Snap. We’re waiting. Just not very patiently. *checks her Insta stories*