There was a while, not too long ago, when Snapchat was the new, hot ticket on the social media block. Everyone working at digital agencies wanted to know how they could use it in a client proposal. But, suddenly, it’s appeared to have lost that appeal. There are many reasons why this could be the case. But perhaps it’s more likely a combination of a few.
In case you aren’t familiar with it, Snapchat is a photo and video sharing app. The visuals shared last for just 24 hours before disappearing into the digital ether.
Launched in 2011, Snapchat dominated this space for many years, particularly among teens, making it an essential social media platform for those working at marketing companies in Cape Town and, indeed, throughout South Africa. That was the case, at least, until two years ago when Instagram launched its own Stories feature. Already everyone’s favourite photo-sharing platform, the launch of Instagram Stories only served to further cement its reputation as the place to share visuals with the world. Now one app could house both your saved photos and videos as well as your ephemeral content.
It was recently reported that Instagram Stories is now twice as popular as Snapchat. Instagram announced last week that more than 400 million people use the Stories feature each day, bypassing last year's 250 million. This makes Stories twice as popular as Snapchat, which recently reported 191 million active users.
Earlier this year, famous-for-being-famous celeb Kylie Jenner tweeted to her 24 million followers: “Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me... ugh this is so sad [sic].”
Minutes later, Jenner, who Forbes recently named as the soon-to-be "youngest self-made billionaire ever", followed this with: “Still love you tho snap ... my first love [sic]”.
But the second tweet didn’t do enough to repair the damage. That single tweet caused the app's parent company Snap’s shares to fall 6 percent – causing a $1.3 billion drop in market value.
Of course, it can’t be forgotten that Jenner’s tweet had followed on the heels of a redesign which had not been well received by users. The whole debacle had been dubbed "an absolute mess" and "watching a company explode into bits". The change saw content split between friends and publishers, allowing users to distinguish between snaps from friends and paid content.
A petition calling for the new update to be removed was signed by more than 1.2 million people.
“With the release of the new Snapchat update, many users have found that it has not made the app easier to use, but has in fact made many features more difficult,” read the petition.
The message was heard and changes were made to the app. Users appeared to be satisfied with the new iteration. But for how long? Only time will tell.
Snapchat in South Africa
It’s difficult to tell where we stand with Snapchat in South Africa. The number of users is unclear and social media and digital agency experts appear to be divided on its usage and impact. The SA Social Media Landscape 2018 study, released late last year, indicated that declines in Snapchat usage were reported in the past year. But as always, high data costs for many in South Africa limit the use of visual platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.
I posted a poll on Twitter recently, asking users about their Snapchat usage. Not one person said they currently use the app. A massive 54% said they had never used Snapchat, 23% said they had used it in the past but had quit, and a further 23% said they used it only for the filters. Sure, my study wasn’t scientific. But I do believe it provides a small snapshot into the way people are using Snapchat: they’re using its filters to create images for their Instagram stories.
Anecdotal evidence suggests Snapchat is even losing its appeal among its teen target market. Either these two social media giants need to merge (doubtful) or Instagram needs to extend its own range of Snap-esque filters (highly likely). Because unless you’re vomiting rainbows and wearing flower crowns, why post a photo or video?