(Photo Source: Buzzfeed)
I first heard about Snapchat my sophomore year at Pitt (2012), though it launched over a year earlier in late 2011. At first, I resisted Snapchat, much like I resisted other social media platforms when they first came out (i.e. Twitter and Instagram). However, as more and more of my friends began to communicate with “snaps”, I decided I would give it a try and have been using it ever since.
Snapchat defies some of the norms of social media. It is impermanent. You cannot “like” or “favorite”, “share” or “retweet”. It is more private. So why is it so popular? What gives Snapchat its stickiness factor? I researched Snapchat’s success and found that the following strategies have made Snapchat stick.
Snapchat utilizes trends. First, it is based on the growing popularity of anonymity. (Other examples include the Yik Yak or Whisper apps.) More and more people want a discreet way to communicate and do not want to be tracked. Perhaps, this relates to the increasing lack of privacy from older, more established companies, such as Facebook and Google, that take users information and share it with/sell it to advertisers. Nevertheless, Snapchat offers an outlet for people to communicate more discreetly and privately with friends. (If you are thinking, “How does Snapchat make money then?”, here is an article from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-snapchat-will-make-money-2013-11.)
Second, Snapchat has jumped on the trend of ephemerality, meaning lasting a very short time. Snaps disappear in a maximum of ten seconds. This relates back to a sense of anonymity and the inability of third parties to read/see your content. This also makes communication between users more concise and creative because the sender has to make sure the receiver can interpret his or her snap in ten seconds or less.
Another trend that Snapchat uses is sharing live content. (An alternate example is the Meerkat app.) If you swipe left on one of your contacts and both of you hold down the yellow button, you can see each other in real time. Furthermore, you can Snapchat each other back at forth at the same time, essentially sharing a live feed of what you are doing.
Besides utilizing trends, increasingly, Snapchat has added features to make the app more versatile while still maintaining its main purpose of sharing quick, easy, ephemeral content. For example, the app now allows users to chat through permanent text and images (you can do this by swiping left on one your contacts). Also, Snapchat added filters. Some of these include black and white, sepia, an icon of the outside temperature, and a small graphic representing your location (for example, the Pittsburgh skyline pictured below).
(Photo Source: Becca Garges)
These added features allow users to connect on more levels and be more creative with their content.
More recently, snapchat added its Discover feature, which connects users to content from twelve different organizations including ESPN, Cosmopolitan, CNN, and the Food Network. Here, viewers can look at several stories from each organization. These disappear after one day and are then replaced by new stories. This feature gives users access to Twitter-like news stories and contact with third parties while maintaining the app’s ephemeral and creative qualities.
(Photo Source: Google images)
Snapchat reflects real life conversations. CEO Evan Spiegel said in a speech about the secrets to Snapchat’s success, “That’s what Snapchat is all about. Talking through content not around it. With friends, not strangers. Identity tied to now, today. Room for growth, emotional risk, expression, mistakes, room for you.” By utilizing current trends and multiple communication features, Snapchat integrates what users want and makes the app more private and personal.
For fun, snaps from your dog: http://www.buzzfeed.com/chelseamarshall/27-snapchats-from-your-dog#.xi34WdaBY.