Ghost of the Past: Snapchat’s Struggle With Reinvention

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Boom Goes The Message

Snapchat at launch gave a refreshing take on communication with friends. The original concept was simple, send a photo based message to a friend that they can view for up to 10 seconds. After that 10 second period, the photo would disappear forever. In an era where concerns about Facebook starting to store data and the early days of super targeted advertisement delivery, Snapchat was a breath of fresh air. The idea of the app was so different from anything that was out at that time, as all social media apps that were popular used the endless feed model. Services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram employed a vertical list of content that was visible at all times. Snapchat instead felt much more deliberate and focused, where the app was only being opened when a message was received or a message being sent.

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Another Social Media App

I remember in the early days of Snapchat Stories thinking that the feature was a gimmick, that it violated the core nature of what Snapchat was supposed to be. Snapchat, after all, was supposed to be this different way of communication through photos and videos that focused on user privacy with the exploding message setup. Now with Stories this 10 seconds expanded to 24 hours and in a way felt rather disingenuous to the foundation of the company. At the same time, the company really had no choice as they needed a way to become profitable, and the easiest way to do this was through advertisements.

Photograph of a prism and a mirror.
Photograph of a prism and a mirror.
Image Credit: Michael Dziedzic via Unsplash

The Do It All Experiment

As Snapchat has rapidly lost users to Instagram Stories, it has experimented with a few new ideas in an effort to lure those users back to the platform. To solve the verified account problem that it faces, the company started to make curated and featured stories from influencers that it labeled as Discover. This allowed people to subscribe to these accounts to see their daily content. While popular, the reach of Snapchat pales to that of Instagram in both a numbers and mindshare perspective. This has created a somewhat convoluted app experience where there is a separation from the friends in a users contact list and the influencers that they choose to follow. Personally, I know a bunch of people that will not follow anyone of note on Snapchat and choose to follow them on Instagram instead. This is a problem of perception for Snapchat: they believed in their reinvention but their users did not follow this belief.

Freelance technology and lifestyle writer. Lover of all things with a screen. Newsletter: ozoneletter.substack.com

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