25 Nov 2016
social media innovation

Should We Be Writing A Eulogy For Snapchat?

Social media platforms have come and gone over the years. As each new one rises to glory, many of its established rivals ‘borrow’ features. But does this imitation always lead to an improved product?

Invention vs. Innovation

While Facebook largely invented the feed, it now relies more on imitation. It takes more than a few pages out of Snapchat’s playbook, with features such as scannable codes to add friends, face-altering filters and disappearing messages.  Earlier this year it launched ‘Live’, based on similar streaming apps like the Twitter-owned Periscope and Meerkat, which is shaping up to be a core pillar of the platform.

With little to lose and the ability to launch entirely new apps to a large audience, it still offers a distinct experience for users. This imitation rather than invention mentality has still delivered user growth and online buzz.

It’s a similar story at Facebook-owned Instagram. Its new ephemeral ‘Stories’ feature mimics many aspects of Snapchat. But for CEO Kevin Systrom, that’s the nature of the game. He gives all credit to Snapchat, telling TechCrunch:  “When you are an innovator, that’s awesome. Just like Instagram deserves all the credit for bringing filters to the forefront. This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.”

The copycat move could have some serious consequences for Snapchat.  Instagram now offers largely the same experience, and already provides an easier tool for brands to cultivate organic followings through search and discovery. It gives users the ability to discover content naturally through the app’s explore function and via posts that appear natively in their feeds. For brands, Snapchat offers sponsored filters and event check-ins.

Is There Anything Left For Snapchat?

What does this mean for Snapchat? There are obvious danger signs when comparing it with once popular Vine, which Twitter announced it would axe last month. I loved how a mere six seconds could convey volumes of emotion from humour to anger, making it an infinite loop of entertainment. While the platform generated a loyal following, it failed to offer any internal brand opportunities. All content was user generated, leaving no opportunity for paid streams of branded content that could be targeted to specific audiences.

Snapchat was also founded on the notion of brief, disposable content. Using a combination of sponsored geo-filters, featured events and Discover stories, Snapchat was able to generate some business interest and content that appealed to individual users.

Snapchat stories were beautiful in their simplicity and it’s something the platform seems to be forgetting. These authentic moments became filtered as soon as the platform released its ‘memories’ feature, allowing users to relive and re-post their snap archives. This update lacked the app’s hallmark of thrilling spontaneity.  It now wants to remind users that their snaps are not fleeting moments. Once the best place for seeing what people were up to right now, it lost some of that magic.

Check out this not so memorable promotion for the feature below.

Where Will This Copycat Mentality Take Us?

With its user base dwindling, Twitter is also jumping on the video bandwagon despite the death of Vine. It hopes live content, especially at major events, will play to its strengths and deliver a second chance.

“It’s really about recreating the best experience because that’s going to drive the users. For us, and in this market, we think that live is the focus to drive a new audience, audience engagement and then revenue opportunities,” Suzy Nicoletti, Managing Director at Twitter Australia told The Australian Financial Review. [Subscription required]

As social media platforms borrow liberally from each others’ best features, while still attempting to maintain a point of distinction, we’ll get a front row seat to the battle for user domination. Even if it is through a filtered lens.

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