How Snapchat is building the future of social media
Columnist Timothy Carter takes a look at the reasons behind Snapchat's meteoric rise and explores how it can guide your own marketing strategy.
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn still have a stranglehold on the social media world in terms of sheer numbers of users, but a handful of rising social stars are hoping to cement their place as the leading influencers in the industry.
Among these, Snapchat may have the strongest potential: Not only does it have the capacity to build a user base rivaling those of the main channels listed above, but it’s also building enough influence to start shaping the way other platforms develop.
Let’s take a look at the reasons why Snapchat has developed such a strong potential, and the key takeaways for marketers.
The young generation
Demographics for Snapchat lean heavily toward the younger generation; over 71 percent of Snapchat users are under the age of 35.
Young generations drive trends in social for three main reasons: First, they hold the most buying power and tend to attract the most companies and organizations; second, they tend to be the most adaptable and are most likely to adopt new platforms in the first place.
Finally, they tend to “usher in” the major platforms they aged with as they get older, bringing them into the mainstream.
One of SnapChat’s biggest reasons for success has been its unique treatment of user content — snaps are permanently deleted after a set period of time, greatly enhancing user privacy.
Thanks to major data breaches in major companies, users are sensitive about what they’re willing to post. Platforms that acknowledge and proactively address these fears will grow more popular over the next several years.
Snapchat has been a major contender because of its propensity for growth. The platform keeps adding new functions and features, and there’s no sign that its momentum will slow down any time soon.
Even more importantly, Snapchat’s new features aren’t drawn from competitors; they aren’t cheap imitations or mimicries. Instead, it’s turning inward for inspiration, developing new features that aren’t mainstream.
Reactions to these features are mixed, but Snapchat is avoiding the lonely road that Twitter has gone down, trying to stay alive by imitating its contemporaries.
Mobile devices have become enormously popular and are only going to grow in popularity. While most social platforms have a basis in both desktop and mobile applications, most mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter have developed their mobile apps as substitutions for a desktop-based website.
Snapchat, on the other hand, has developed itself specifically for mobile, even adding scrutinized functionality like vertical videos to heighten its mobile-specific nature. Snapchat is true to itself and is making the most of its “home” medium.
One of Snapchat’s more counterintuitive popular features is the learning curve it takes to use the app. It’s easy to pick up Snapchat and start posting, but it takes a while before you develop enough experience and understanding to use the platform to its top capacity.
This system encourages new user adoptions and simultaneously rewards long-term use; this gives it a perfect learning curve for user retention.
In-the-moment posts are becoming much more popular, on several different platforms. Snapchat (along with its contemporary, Instagram) is a major facilitator of immediate posts, so it’s riding this user-driven trend.
Even major players like Facebook are getting into the action, with functions like Facebook Live. Over the course of the next several months and years, organizations will benefit from making more in-the-moment “present” posts.
You might think this information is only useful if you’re developing your own social media platform, but if you’re involved in social media in any way as a user or a marketer, these insights can help you understand the shifts social media may be about to take:
- Younger generations will shape the future.
- Apps that favor mobile users will form the next generation of dominant platforms.
- Social media platforms that develop independently have the greatest likelihood of surviving.
- User privacy and in-the-moment posts are going to get more important.
Use this information to hedge your bets with platforms you believe have the highest likelihood of long-term survival, and refine your marketing strategies to get the highest possible return.