As December approaches and the new year rolls around, we thought it would be an opportune time to cover the major changes in social media, search, and online advertising this past year. Today we’re starting with an app and social network that has both grown in popularity and controversy: Snapchat.
How many users does Snapchat have in 2018?
According to Statista, Snapchat is currently pulling 186 million daily active users worldwide. That’s down from 191 million from Q1 of 2018.
What changes has Snapchat implemented this year?
(Re-)redesigned App Interface
The first was a redesigned app interface, which separated stories from friends and third-party content. While Snapchat believed that separating social from media would result in a more personal experience, the reception was overwhelmingly negative. Users complained the new layout was disorganized, that stories were no longer enjoyable to binge-watch, and that favored content creators (celebrities such as Kylie Jenner) got lumped in with third-party ads. Snapchat eventually compromised and issued a fix, but not before losing many of its users and celebrities.
Explore in Snap Maps
Snapchat has a cool map with indicators of where your friends are (if they choose to share) and heatmaps of other snap stories based on geography. The feature has encouraged greater geo-tagging among businesses and users alike, highlighting popular events and locations. This year they also added Explore, curated stories from friends and the general public about relevant stories going on in the world. Maybe it’s the Packers vs. Seahawks football game, or the first snow of the season or your friend visits a national landmark. Explore is a great way to find out about what’s going on near you and around the country.
Snapchat also added Snap Camera in late October, a new way to experience Snapchat lenses on the desktop, allowing people to record and live stream using Snap’s popular lenses. Video game streamers on Twitch as well as YouTube influencers have used the feature to add a more personal and playful effect over their video streams.
Support for content creators and storytellers
Snap Inc. also started Yellow, a special type of incubator that includes professional mentorship, creative office space, financial investment, and more over the course of a three-month program. The idea is to help storytellers develop interactive stories, shows, augmented reality experiences, and even media companies for Snapchat’s platform. Applications are now closed for fall 2018, so expect to see some updates in spring of 2019.
Snap Kit — Integrating popular snap features into third-party apps
Snapchat became more developer friendly in 2018, with the introduction of a new API. Snap Kit allowed app developers to integrate many of Snapchat’s popular features, such as sharing Snaps, sharing Bitmoji stickers, linking a Snapchat account, and embedding stories into an app. Just completed a morning run on an exercise app? If you’re the developer, you can integrate a feature that allows users to share details of that run in a snap and then share it with friends. Developed a new game or app? Instead of having users sign up, you can now let them log in using their Snapchat account. Snap Kit is vital for developers who want to share their app with the whole Snapchat community.
Lens Explorer — Sponsored selfies have never been so creative
Snap Lenses have become one of the most favored features of the app, allowing users to overlay funny faces and filters in a selfie while affording third-parties with major sponsorship opportunities in a personalized format. Since 2017, “over 100,000 unique Lenses which have been viewed by Snapchatters over 2.5 billion times.” Lens Explorer has only made it easier for users to discover local and third-party lenses.
Visual Search — a new way to find products
Snapchat is taking a page right out of Pinterest’s book, implementing a new camera feature that allows users to look up products on Amazon, just by pointing the lens at a physical product or barcode, then tapping and holding the screen. Once complete, the product page snippet pops up on screen with the reviews, price, and link to finish the order. We’ll have to wait and see how popular this feature might become, but it will be interesting to see how e-commerce stores on Amazon will take advantage of it.
Snap Originals – Serialized Video Content On Demand
Most recently, Snapchat introduced Snap Originals, original shows with professional production quality produced and presented in Snapchat. Currently, Originals include comedies like Co-Ed (from the Duplass Brothers), mystery thrillers like Class of Lies (from the creators of Riverdale), and Endless Summer, a docuseries (from the creators of Keeping Up with the Kardashians). Original video content will play an increasingly important factor in driving user growth and retention.
Predictions for 2019
Snapchat continues to dominate video engagement for the teenage demographic but has undoubtedly lost much of its luster since the redesign and Instagram’s copycat stories feature. While Snapchat continues to explore new features, it risks being further imitated by other social networks.
Instead, Snapchat will look to develop exclusive content, whether it’s serialized stories like Snap Originals, or partnerships with existing publishers, like Sportscenter from ESPN. The Discover page, the section where users can read new articles and follow their favorite celebrities, still hasn’t changed and remains one of the app’s most unique features.
Maybe user growth isn’t Snapchat’s goal— after all, they’re the only social network to never display follower counts, comments or likes. Instead, they’re focused right now on monetizing the platform to ensure it can continue to survive and experiment with new ideas. Fortunately, their latest earnings report showed some promise.
This is just the first of many reviews we’ll be doing. In upcoming posts, we’ll feature popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, as well as the state of search, Google, and online advertising. Stay tuned to Arcalea’s blog for more information.