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Snapchat breaks its mold

Snapchat is moving from sharing moments to exchanging memories.  Via a new feature released yesterday, the ephemeral photo company now gives its users the possibility to save snaps for later exchange and enjoyment, breaking its own foundation.  With that move, it shoots back at its biggest threat, the Facebook/instagram/WhatsApp  conglomerate in what has become a worldwide battle of tech giants for where consumers share their photos and how. At stake, the perceived multi-billion dollar mobile advertising market.

Who we are

Just within weeks of Evan Spiegel declaring in front of an audience of marketers that Millennials  ( Snapchat’s core audience) disliked looking at memories “I’m not the first person to hate looking at myself seven years ago”, the company released what appears to be a feature aimed at an older set of users. Case in point : the video announcing the new feature includes an older ( baby boomers ?) couple devouring pics of a young women’s vacation. Far from your typical Snapchat user.

Snapchat has been aggressively releasing new features lately, some aimed at users ( longer caption, animated emojis for videos) and others for advertisers  (Advertising API, Discover redesign with subscription).  Fresh off a new influx of cash ( $1.8 Billion), the photo sharing app is plowing straight on to not only keep itself in the frontline of the tech news but to resist and combat any roadblock  Zuckerberg throws at them. This latest move, for example, is  a clear reaction to Facebook transferring its  photo syncing feature to the Moments app.

The images remain

Moments is Facebook’s latest and most successful attempt to counter Snapchat. Half messaging, half photo sharing, it seeks to create communities around events, similarly to Snapchat’s very popular Stories. Like Snapchat, Moments connects people around an experience. With a twist: In Moments, the images remain.  Thus Snapchat’s Memories release.

Now that Snapchat has surpassed Twitter in the amount of users ( 150 million and growing), convinced marketers that it was a credible platform ( although engagements number don’t seem to match ), it has only two routes to pursue : continue to grow its user base and deliver better analytics.

To grow users, the path is clear. Reach out to an older demographic that up to know has seen it more like Pokemon, a tween passion you outgrow. Get those who have used Instagram more as a messaging tool than an artistic display platform. Seek the Whatsapp users who feel limited by the app lack of fun, creative features. Ultimately get those 25-35 who are more willing to be influenced by advertising. If in the process the baby boomers get absorbed, no one will complain (  they will need a major user interface redesign for that to happen).

A multi-billion dollar market

While this might seem like a puerile exercise, think again. Besides maps (yes, Maps), anything photo related is the second biggest of our occupation on our mobiles. From taking to sharing or viewing,  we spend most of our time with photos ( and increasingly videos). And most are being consumed on a limited series of apps: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and Snapchat with Pinterest trailing not far behind. Time is attention and attention is what advertisers are willing to pay for. If any of these apps manages to capture all of the consumers “photo time”, they instantly become  the masters of mobile. Billions of recurring revenue dollars at stake.

For now, the clear winner is Facebook, obviously, along with Instagram and its 500 million users, far ahead of anyone else. However, everyone knows that this is an ongoing battle as consumer habits can change very rapidly. Snapchat has been extremely successful in growing in a very challenging space, thanks to what seems to be a “listening to your users” strategy coupled with very effective perception management. But as Facebook continues to build Moments, adjusting Instagram, and making WhatsApp more photo sharing friendly ( wait for it), and as Google has not said its last word on the topic, Snapchat will certainly have to continue to evolve aggressively if it wants to stay that cool young app.

Photo by -Delphine –

Author: Paul Melcher

Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, consultant with a strong background in licensing, copyright, sales, marketing and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo based companies with two successful exits. Named one of the “100 most influential people in photography” by American Photo magazine.

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