Snapchat: Is It Dying?

Snapchat has been all over social media recently, and not in a good way. After the hugely unpopular, forced update in January, the app’s popularity sank as their users jumped ship to Instagram. The Facebook-owned platform offers many of the same features as Snapchat, like the stories feature, though they don’t offer the lenses and other special effects.

Still, users made their fury clear. Angry tweets abounded and a petition to reverse the update was launched on Change. org; Feb. 18, it had over 1 million signatures. When Kylie Jenner tweeted that she was no longer using the app, she wiped out a whopping $1.3 billion of Snapchat’s stock value.

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As if that controversy, which doesn’t seem to have settled down despite Speigel’s claims, the app again made headlines for all the wrong reasons. The issue: an ad for a game called, “Would You Rather?”. The ad asked viewers whether they would rather “Slap Rihanna or Punch Chris Brown”. For those of you who may have forgotten, back in 2009, Chris Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting Rihanna while they were dating. The singer took to Instagram to express her frustration with an ad that mocked not only her, but all domestic violence victims.

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So, where does all this controversy leave Snapchat? In an interview with CNN, Daniel Ives, the Chief Strategy Officer and head of technology research at GBH Insights, said that the sudden drop in Snapchat’s stock was merely an overreaction by Wall Street. He added that the app was moving in the right direction, as the previous format “was confusing . . . and shunned older users and advertisers.”

That’s the key word: “advertisers.” In terms of being marketer-friendly, Snapchat has lagged behind Instagram and Facebook. But with the new update, Snapchat has made itself more attractive to advertisers. In a quarterly call, the company stated that Publisher Stories on Discover nearly doubled, while the other target group, older users, were also engaging with the app more.

Yes, it’s all well and good that advertisers are able to see more of an effect from their Snapchat campaigns; a former Google exec even remains optimistic about the app’s potential, despite their recent fumbles. But there are three things that really bug me about Snapchat’s new update and their advertising fail.

  1. After the update, millions of users switched to Instagram, almost without hesitation. As a marketer, why should I bother allocating any significant portion of my budget to two platforms that do essentially the same thing? It would be like going to Wendy’s (which I like) and McDonald’s (which I mostly hate) in the same trip. Sure, I might pop by the latter to grab a McFlurry–if their ice cream machine isn’t broken–but the majority of my money is going to Wendy’s, where I can expect a greater return. It’s the same idea: I’m going to put my money where I think it will be most effective.
  2. Since when has Snapchat tried to appeal to the 35+ age group? This platform is uniquely positioned to capture the coveted teen/Gen Z market. They should be focusing on keeping the teen market that they have and expanding into a slightly different age group. College students are fine. But when was the last time you saw a teenager who liked the same app as their parents? If Snapchat tries to compete with Facebook and Instagram in the older demographic, they’ll lose their “cool” factor and any advantage they have with teens.
  3. As an advertising team, how can you let something so offensive as an ad mocking domestic violence slip through? Look, I get that mistakes happen. But did no one take a look at that ad and think, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t be making light of abuse?” Snapchat is hardly the first brand to make this kind of mistake (Victoria’s Secret, Dove, Pepsi, and H&M have all been there, among others), but if you’re trying to tempt advertisers to use your platform more, I’d be pretty concerned with making sure there aren’t any major errors that might make brands think twice before partnering with you. Just saying.

My personal feelings about Snapchat aside, I don’t know if they’ll reach the same, enduring status as Facebook and Instagram. I certainly wouldn’t be putting any significant money behind a Snapchat campaign.

What do you think? Is Snapchat dying, or is this ghost going to rise from the grave?

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