Q1’s earnings reports are out: Facebook had a great quarter and Snap… did not. This, despite the scandals plaguing the former and the latter’s efforts to improve. Over the last few weeks, Snapchat has rolled out new augmented reality features for users, and better location data and unskippable video ads for marketers.
Does this mean it’s the beginning of the end of Snapchat? Or will the platform reinvent itself the way Foursquare has?
“Among the different social platforms, I’d say Snapchat has been the most innovative,” says Kamiu Lee, CEO of influencer marketing platform ACTIVATE. “The fact that Instagram copied so many features from them is, in a way, a compliment, though Snapchat probably doesn’t see it that way. It’s interesting to see how they push the needle because at the end of the day, their audience is very valuable.”
How we got here
Snapchat was once the hottest social platform. Its popularity among younger consumers made it popular among marketers, even if they didn’t know exactly what they were doing there. The lack of analytics made marketing there a challenge, but everyone knew this stat: In 2016, the average user spent 25 to 30 minutes a day using Snapchat.
As Facebook copied more of Snapchat’s signature features, such as Instagram Stories, many marketers—and influencers—migrated. Instagram offered an opportunity to use the same features to create content for more people, with more metrics, to boot. But as Instagram grows in popularity, Snapchat has become friendlier to marketers.
Last summer, the company announced partnerships with four data companies, including Nielsen. This was meant to entice big brands with more third-party measurement regarding sales lift, ROI, viewability, and awareness, among others.
Location, location, location
One kind of data that can set Snapchat apart is location. Last year, Snapchat acquired two location firms and also has its own proprietary tech, Snap to Store, that lets advertisers know how many people have been to a specific location within a week of watching an ad.
Another newer feature allows marketers to target ads at 150 different location categories. Geofencing technology serves Snapchat ads in a specific radius. If advertisers who use those features have brick-and-mortar locations, they can also benefit from Foot Traffic Insights, which is currently in beta.
Could location also help Snapchat stand apart in the social commerce space? In February, Nike became the first brand to sell a product directly on Snapchat, when attendees of an NBA All-Star game after party were given exclusive Snap codes. The sneakers sold out in less than half an hour.
“Given there’s more urgency in how Snapchat delivers content, it’s almost like you’re at a sample sale. It’s exclusive, but you need to take advantage of it now,” says Lee. “Think about how Gilt Groupe started, with flash sales only available at noon. The psychological nature of marketing means you need to create some urgency to make you buy.”
Innovating in AR
AR is hot right now and Snapchat was certainly an early adopter. Long before Macy’s was simulating living rooms or Sephora let you virtually try on makeup, Snapchat users were vomiting rainbows and turning themselves into freaky tacos.
“One cool thing Snapchat does beyond lenses is AR,” says Bilal Kaiser, who founded social media/PR agency Agency Guacamole, wondering if that’s where the platform’s future lies. “They bought Bitstrips and let you insert a cartoon version of yourself dancing or something, and insert that into a Snap. It’s a fun experience to be able to take that in the moment and send it to a friend.”
Mindless fun has always been a part of social media, and the company has always been at the forefront there. A new interactive lens called Snappables allows users to play games together and share AR experiences, controlling them via touch, motion and facial expressions.’
But of course, AR is more than mindless fun. As of last month, it’s also shoppable. The new Shoppable AR suite of features lets consumers open web pages, watch videos and install apps within its lenses. The four early-partnering brands are Adidas; Clairol; King, the company behind Candy Crush; and STX Entertainment.
Of course, the centerpiece of Snapchat is its messaging capabilities. That’s what the users are really doing there. The AR features are just bells and whistles to make it more fun.
Kaiser notes that Gen Z consumers often use the platform in lieu of text messaging. As recently as February, the platform still had 187 million daily active users.
“If nothing else, Snapchat might become a messaging app like a Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp,” says Kaiser. “Maybe it’s future is less of a social media platform and more of a one-to-one, or one-to-many, communication channel. That’s how I see its most engaged audience using it right now.”