The Problem With Snapchat
I’m not a millennial. Given that disclosure, it’s entirely possible that I just don’t get Snapchat. However, being familiar with the platform, and having sent enough snaps myself, the problem with the Snapchat is simple—it’s too much work.
Of course, this is the antithesis of the millennial stereotype. But that fact that Snapchat requires so much work to get right is exactly why it is not a great fit for most brands.
Recently, Facebook, umm I mean Instagram, has been eating Snapchat’s lunch. Week after week, the two-headed hydra picks apart feature after feature from Snapchat’s platform without any remorse. Whether it’s Instagram Stories or Facebook Day, the core functionality that made Snapchat so popular—the ability to chronicle your day with some added whimsy—is being stripped away.
There is no doubt Snapchat is still better at what it does best. Its geofilters are great, its augmented reality lenses are fun, and the whole experience feels natural—once you figure it out.
The problem Snapchat is facing is one of laziness. It’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s not even their fault, but it’s real.
Users only have so much bandwidth in their day for social media.
Between checking each one, updating each one, and keeping current on how they all work, the cognitive load required can be exhausting.
This makes Snapchat vulnerable to alternatives that provide 80 per cent of the functionality with only 20 per cent of the effort. Enter Facebook and Instagram. Both platforms are already highly popular, can leverage your preexisting Facebook friends graph, and have access to the powerful Facebook advertising platform. As such, they provide a low barrier of entry to both users and brands.
Snapchat’s rise to fame was driven mainly by its mystique. The inaccessibly of its platform—what some might call playful discoverability—made it popular among millennials fleeing Facebook as their parents started liking their status updates.
However, as with most technology, Snapchat is now falling into the trap of the early adopters.
The platform is difficult to master, it’s tedious to build a large community, and it’s expensive for advertisers to participate. As a result, Snapchat now has a small hardcore audience that loves the platform, and the majority who can’t be bothered to make the effort.
Snapchat has taken steps to make its user experience more approachable. However, the fact is that to get the full experience users must master an unintuitive UI that only reveals itself through trial and error. This makes Snapchat highly addictive for power users, but inaccessible to broader audiences.
Of course, even if you master the secret Snapchat user guide, building an audience can be long and tedious. Without access to friends lists from Facebook or Twitter, Snapchat requires you to build your audience the old-fashioned way—one at a time. Many successful Snapchat accounts can leverage preexisting audiences on other platforms through promoting snapcodes, but the process is tedious.
For brands, the hard work comes when they realize that posting one or two snaps a day won’t cut it.
Snapchat is a platform that requires full-time resources make an impact. This means that your social media manager sitting at their desk isn’t going to cut it. Even worse, reposting content from other networks doesn’t really work on Snapchat. Although the service recently added the ability to export snaps, for the most part, Snapchat is a silo. This makes it difficult to repurpose content and make efficient use of resources.
Compounding the issue is the inaccessibly of Snapchat’s advertising platform. Snapchat won’t return a phone call without a six-figure budget for a sponsored story. Geofilters require a physical location, and a dedicated campaign, to maximize their effect. Compared to being able to boost a Facebook post for $100, this makes Snapchat a significant undertaking for all but the biggest brands.
The truth is that a Snapchat campaign can be very successful in certain circumstances. However, the time, effort, and resources required to do so are significant. It’s not easy admitting that communicators can be lazy, but let’s face it, Snapchat can be a lot of work.
The value of telling live, authentic, visual stories is undisputed. The issue for Snapchat is how far users, and advertisers, are willing to go outside the Facebook ecosystem to tell them.