Brand managers may need to rethink how they use Snapchat.
On Wednesday, the social media app announced a redesign of its platform, calling it the “new Snapchat”:
Introducing the new Snapchat!!https://t.co/2gwVskpY1M
— Snapchat (@Snapchat) November 29, 2017
The biggest change is that the platform separated branded and influencer content from friends’ snaps. In a blog post, Snapchat wrote:
Until now, social media has always mixed photos and videos from your friends with content from publishers and creators. While blurring the lines between professional content creators and your friends has been an interesting Internet experiment, it has also produced some strange side-effects (like fake news) and made us feel like we have to perform for our friends rather than just express ourselves.
The new Snapchat separates the social from the media. This means that the Chats and Stories from your friends are on the left side of Snapchat, and the Stories from publishers, creators, and the community are on the right.
“It’s not a drastic overhaul in the design of the app, but more a structural change on how Snap views the content its users and publishing partners produce,” Quartz reported.
“Your friends aren’t content—they’re relationships,” said Evan Spiegel, Snap’s co-founder and chief executive:
Though Snapchat now separates promotional content from conversations with your contacts, that doesn’t mean that users won’t be served promotional material. The redesign includes both users’ subscriptions as well as curated stories selected for each user.
The new Discover page to the right of the camera includes Stories from publishers, creators, and the community. Your subscriptions live at the top, followed by other Stories you might be interested in watching. Over time, Discover will become uniquely personalized for you. While the Stories on Discover are personalized algorithmically, our curators review and approve everything that gets promoted on the page. We believe that this balance of human review and machine personalization provides the best content experience on mobile.
Snapchat’s redesign is another attempt to distance itself from the way other platforms (such as Facebook) offer up content to users.
The new structure seems like a positive move. It’s sort of solidifying the app, which turned down $3 billion from Facebook in 2013, as the “anti-Facebook.” Facebook has muddled the line between content, news about friends, and pure internet garbage to the point where it’s become nearly impossible for the average user to know what’s important, or even true— on purpose.
The move is meant to strengthen the platform’s sinking revenues and slow growth.
The past year has been rocky for the company, which seems to be gunning for a comeback with this redesign. Apart from lagging user growth—daily users grew just 2.9 percent in the third quarter, the slowest rate since the company began reporting it—Snapchat also faces looming competition from Facebook and Instagram, both of which recently introduced their own versions of stories. Current trading prices for shares for the company have also dropped 20 percent below their initial offering.
Bloomberg’s Shira Ovide wrote that having both chats and video diaries organized by users’ closest connections instead of chronologically could make the app more useful for regular users.
However, Ovide argues that the new design doesn’t address the platform’s growth issue:
Here’s the rub, though. The changes Snapchat described potentially make the app more appealing to people who already use Snapchat regularly. I’m not sure it does much to make Snapchat alluring to people who don’t use it or find it intimidating to try. And that was exactly what Snapchat said it wanted to do. Snapchat said a big goal for 2018 was increasing the number of users. It’s not clear the company has tackled the biggest barriers for Snapchat newcomers.
Worse, Snapchat doesn’t try to explain how this app redesign will make Snapchat easier to use for more people. Or rather, it explains its strategy in a rather disingenuous way.
What this means for brands
Ovide wrote that it’s a slap in the face to Snapchat’s advertising partners, as well:
Many of those companies have devoted millions of dollars to making TV-like shows or articles tailored to Snapchat. Some of their efforts have been inventive ways to deliver information or entertainment in fresh forms, and Snapchat has created an inviting place for those professional purveyors to thrive.
But those Snapchat partners are likely drawing the short stick now.
Separating branded content doesn’t just hurt the organizations that partner with the platform.
A big chunk of Snapchat’s revenue also comes from advertisements that appear in this professional media programming. That means the redesign could dent Snapchat’s finances, too.
The new design doesn’t signal the end of PR and marketing efforts on Snapchat, though.
Instead, brand managers will have to adjust to the app’s changes and find new ways to connect with their target audiences—including experimenting with new paid ads and features, as well as creating content that entices younger viewers.
… Separating out content and messaging, especially with Snapchat planning to open up Discover to more creators, could mean more places to show more ads to users. Snap recently introduced a new “Sponsored” advertising slot in the Discover section, which essentially acts like Snapchat story from an advertiser, and it’s entirely possible that the company will use the redesign to push more ads between stories and messages between friends.
Mashable’s Kerry Flynn wrote that Snapchat’s new “smart filters,” which use image recognition technology to offer filter options whenever users take or upload a photo, could signal where the platform is leading advertisers:
Filters not only provide Snapchat users with an easy way to decorate snaps sent to their friends and to their Stories, but they also generate revenue for the company. Brands can pay to sponsor filters, which can be activated based on a user’s location or available to a subset of users based on interests.
These contextual filters could serve as ads in the future. Snap filed a patent for an advertising system that used object recognition to serve relevant filters back in 2015. That patent was published by the U.S. patent office last July.
Snapchat certainly wants brand managers to look at the redesign as a new beginning. In an op-ed on Axios that accompanied the company’s announcement, Spiegel wrote:
We are separating the social from the media, and taking an important step forward towards strengthening our relationships with our friends and our relationships with the media.
What do you think of the redesign, PR Daily readers? How might this affect your Snapchat strategy?