This has been a tough year for Snapchat. The company’s initial public offering was a disaster, Facebook’s Instagram has successfully mimicked many of Snapchat’s best features and the company’s growth has stalled.
Snapchat is still the place to reach young consumers. Although it has one-eighth the audience of Facebook, Snapchat has almost as many teens.
Anecdotally, I can also confirm that I don’t hear much negative feedback about Snapchat in the advertising industry. Buyers are generally happy that an alternative to Facebook exists, particularly one that has such a stronghold on the youth and millennial audience.
Here are four other reasons why Snapchat’s best days are still ahead:
- Snapchat is ahead of the curve on privacy. Next year, Europe will introduce GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), a sweeping overhaul of regulations dealing with consumer data privacy. Meanwhile, in the U.S., research has shown that Generation Z is more concerned about their data privacy than millennials are. Globally, there’s also a movement toward messaging applications instead of public networks like Facebook. While Facebook has insulated itself against this change with Messenger and WhatsApp, the focus on data privacy is good news for Snapchat, whose identity is all about privacy.
- Snapchat is the leader in augmented reality. One of Snapchat’s hallmarks is its ability to add an AR layer to photos and video. While Facebook has played catch-up, Snapchat has been working with Apple on hyper-realistic filters that capture face movements. Since Snapchat is more hyperfocused than Facebook, there’s a good chance that it can maintain this lead as AR breaks into the mainstream. Perhaps Snap Inc., the technology company that owns the app, can also develop its own AR games, à la Pokemon Go.
- It’s learning from its mistakes. One of Snapchat’s major liabilities has been self-inflicted: It missed a chance to cull demographic information from its users early on and, as a result, it has been behind the curve on advertiser-friendly metrics. But Snapchat is catching up and offering metrics on audience interest, purchase intent, viewability and the like. The company is also reportedly working to highlight influencers on the platform and give them verified accounts, which will help influencer marketing on the platform.
- Snapstreaks are addictive. Ask any young person on Snapchat and they’ll tell you about the platform’s killer feature, Snapstreaks. Snapchat gamified the app a bit by adding a fire icon when you and a buddy Snapchat for at least two days in a row. If you want to keep that streak going, along with a number keeping a count of the streak’s length in days, you both need to check in every day. There’s nothing to win but much to lose if you’re a teen with a competitive streak. Snapstreaks have become a very clever way to keep users locked in to the service.
I don’t think social media is a zero-sum game. Snapchat’s gain isn’t necessarily Facebook’s loss. Many people use both and at an average of 50 minutes per day. Facebook usage may seem high, but there are still 11 other hours of media consumption left.
That’s why writing Snapchat off at this point is premature. Demographics and attitudes about privacy are in Snapchat’s favor, and the company has carved out a nice niche for itself. Investors will figure this out soon enough.
Shanna Heaney is an account manager at social video distribution platform GlassView.