Snap, then known as Picaboo, markets itself as a “camera company”.
Have you ever played peek-a-boo? It’s a game that is usually played with babies where you cover your face with hands or some material to appear briefly and then vanish again. That was the initial idea of ephemeral pictures and messaging pitched by Reggie Brown to Stanford University graduates Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy more than a decade ago, and a popular app called ‘Snapchat’ was born.
What is Snapchat?
Snap, then known as Picaboo, markets itself as a “camera company” (when clearly there is much more to it). Unlike other social media platform, the company lets its users send photos, videos, and messages that disappear after some seconds, a feature that was first introduced by the American company and aided in skyrocketing Snap’s popularity.
In its move to acquire popular social media platforms and maintain its monopoly, Meta, then known as Facebook, bought Instagram for one billion dollars in 2012. During the same time, and amid the instant ephemeral messaging app’s huge popularity mostly among the age group below 25 years, Facebook offered to acquire the company for three billion dollars but was turned down. We all know what happened thereafter. Instagram was repurposed to kill Snapchat and incorporated with almost all features of Snapchat like stories and camera filters.
Despite this, the company managed to acquire users at a fast pace. “Daily active users averaged 158 million by end of 2016,” according to an article by Startup Sapience. Hubspot, citing a survey by Edison Research in 2016, pointed, “The app (Snap) has been widely adopted, especially among teenagers and Millennials: 26% of people surveyed between the ages of 12 and 24 said they used Snapchat the most, second only to Facebook.”
This was even after its failed little detour in 2014, where it introduced Snapcash, a feature that would allow users to send and receive money via the app. (We saw WhatsApp imitating the same later.) Snapcash was dropped off in 2018 due to stiff competition with already established players like Venmo, PayPal etc.
Two years later and after Snapcash was launched, Snapchat was renamed to Snap. In this year of 2016, the company dived into the hardware space and launched another flop product called as Spectacles, a smart glass that only worked with the app and allowed users to record short videos.
Next year in 2017, the American company went public and launched its initial public offering, success of which was short lived. A sell-off in the capital markets following Facebook and Twitter’s scrutiny in the U.S. court over election matters and simultaneous stiff competition with rivals Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter, pushed Snap further in its downfall journey.
This was followed by controversial redesigning of the app which led celebrities like Kylie Jenner ditch the platform, plummeting the company’s stock by almost 6% and washing away over one billion dollars of the company’s market value. Millions of people signed a petition to remove the update. What felt like an eternity for the company, went for nearly two years and by the end of 2018, the company’s stock prices were 60% down since the launch of its IPO. Even advertisers were hard to be attracted.
However, the company did not fail to buckled up and made a comeback! It brought new monetizing updates and announced an ad-supported gaming platform along with a network of audience that would place Snap’s advertisements in third party apps. Further, to retain the younger audience in the U.S., they redesigned the app and launched Snap Originals, a scripted TV shows made exclusively for the platform.
One noteworthy point that till day makes the app different from other social media platforms, I believe, is the balance. The balance between the content shared with loved ones and the content consumed that is generated by strangers (or influencers). For example: it is the balance between the personal touch in the form of streaks and a wider connection with the world in the form of stories. This balance is important as users want to have it all: knowledge about the personal audience as well as about the world.
Snap’s rival Instagram, on the other hand, is now severely criticized as users have little control over consuming the recommended content posted by strangers on the platform along with limited interactions from users’ own family and friends.
Still, in this fast-moving world, where users get bored of the existing features in no time and where tech giants have to stay on their feet to keep the audience engaged with new updates every other day, it would be noteworthy to see if Snap could sustain its comeback and how.