Biz Tips: The Curious Case Of Snapchat

Biz Tips: The Curious Case Of Snapchat


The Curious Case Of Snapchat

Lessons from the rise (and demise) of Snapchat. Take note, marketers!

It was late 2013.

Word broke out that Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s co-founder and CEO, turned down a $3 billion cash acquisition offer from Facebook. The news absolutely stunned the tech and business community. Many in the space believed that he should’ve just taken the money and sailed off to the sunset. Others thought it was the ballsiest move of the 21st century. I mean, how many people in the world can say that they turned down Mark Zuckerberg?

What happened next will be talked about in startup lore for generations to come — both as an inspiration and as a warning to those who say no to The Zuck.

Snapchat had acquired over 100 millions users on the platform by the end of 2015. Users all over the world were also watching 6 billion videos watched daily. There were plans of raising another round of funds before going public. With the introduction of disappearing messages and dog filters, Snapchat was changing the way we communicated forever.

The appeal of the platform was the honesty. Users didn’t have to glam up or show off. You could capture moments in its raw, unadulterated image — something you couldn’t exactly do in other platforms. In many ways, it was the anti-Instagram. It was perfectly acceptable to look like a fool on Snapchat and this was enough for millions of people to download the app.

It really looked like Snapchat was going to be the next big thing until Facebook dropped the hammer with the introduction of Instagram Stories. People were skeptical — and rightfully so. It was a blatant ripoff of the popular app. Even Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom was quick to admit Snapchat’s role in the decision to launch the platform.

Hate on it all you want but the play was genius. Instagram bet on practicality. Why send disappearing messages on Snapchat when you can do that on Instagram too? They didn’t have to wait too long to validate their assumptions. In just a year’s time, Instagram Stories users overtook Snapchat users. One by one, Instagram rolled out the features that made Snapchat so special. People bought in to the idea. Slowly, users ditched Snapchat in favor of Instagram.

Today, the numbers are not even close. Instagram Stories has over 400 million daily users. That’s twice the current number of Snapchat. And with the recent report of 3 millions users dropping out of the platform, one has to wonder how long Snapchat has left until they become completely irrelevant.

The case study highlights some fundamental lessons for today’s marketers:

1) Attention is a fragile commodity.

Marketers trade attention. It’s the lifeblood of our work. If we don’t earn our audience’s attention, we have no permission to pitch or sell anything. One minute, people were taking posting every waking moment on Snapchat. The next minute, they moved on and found their new high on Instagram. Attention is not loyal to any platform. That’s why it is imperative that you follow wherever this attention may be.

Snapchat will continue to find success in their major markets but Instagram will always have the advantage in terms of global reach and mass appeal.

2) The market has the final say.

You can create the most compelling digital marketing campaign ever but your customer is the judge, jury, and executioner. If the market no longer sees value in your brand, they will find alternatives. You can have a superior product or service but a perceived better option will always win the race. I stress this because many marketers are complacent. They think that loyalty is enough. It’s not. The business landscape is becomingly increasingly competitive. Not even brand love is enough to keep customers forever.

Everyday is a constant battle of proving your brand’s worth. Any misstep can prove to be fatal for a business.

3) Innovation happens with or without you.

In a span of just half a decade, Snapchat went from golden boy to second banana. Anyone in business will tell you that five years is a really short period of time. With the rapid pace of technology, there really is no telling what is coming next.

There are new platforms coming up every single day. People jump in and out of trends all the time. If you are not updated with what’s going on, you will fall behind. Innovation won’t wait for you to catch up. You either adapt or you die. Simple as that.

Today, businesses who are not social media miss out on a world of opportunity. Facebook is still the king of social. At least, for now. We never know what the next few years will come up with. Until then, it’s best to ride the wave and find new avenues to market your product or service.

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