Picaboo - a platform no one knows about launched in 2011 by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown, Stanford University students with a taste for disappearing photos and stories, kind of like a ghost of photos past.
Never heard of Picaboo? You aren’t alone. Because in 2012, the now famous platform changed its name to - you guessed it - Snapchat. The social media platform allowed its users to share pictures and short videos, known as "snaps," which disappeared moments after viewing.
Evan Spiegel, one of the co-founders, formed Snapchat to solve the picture-perfect problem he saw evolving in the social media landscape, with people hyper-focused on curating a facade of a perfect life. He wanted people to share the messy and unfiltered moments that add character to our daily lives and make them relatable. Kind of like an art piece by Picasso, you know?
However, Evan's vision took a futuristic turn. As of 2015, Snapchat offered augmented reality with fun and artistic filters, not only dissolving the unfiltered premise but offering up the most filtered fiction of them all. While the quirky additions bolstered Snapchat's fame, it cost them Evan’s vision and a tinge of their authenticity.
So where is Snapchat now? Does it hold up against the Meta giant? With 363 million daily users, the platform hasn't disappeared off the face of the Earth but users are – unique. Let's dive into stats backed up with facts and see where the land of disappearing snaps landed this pioneering platform.
The loyal audience.
Snapchat has something of an “audience exclusivity”. The Snapchatter, as some call them, access Snapchat daily as their one and only go-to social media platform. According to App Annie, 35% of users that visit the platform daily do not visit Facebook, and 92% of Snapchatters do not access WhatsApp on any given day. Can’t relate.
What does this mean for marketers? With most users falling into the 13 to 34 age bracket, with the largest group ranging from 18 to 24 years old, we can access the tech-savvy goldmine of Gen Z. With this generation being empathetic, informed, and evolved, they return us to the realm of authenticity by using social media as a means of communication and self-expression. (Oh, Evan, we have come full circle, haven't we?)
Marketing and authenticity.
With AI becoming the new power tool of our generation, the masses question marketing ethics at every turn. Marketers must connect with prospects on a level that resonates with them, fostering authentic engagement while reaching the right target audience. Can Snapchat deliver?
Perhaps. Educational institutions can create quite the buzz with custom filters creating a fun way to engage with potential students. Like Instagram, the platform can facilitate Snapchat Takeovers, where an educational institution can invite students, professors, or alumni to navigate the account for a day or week, giving prospects an inside look into what it's like to be a part of the organization.
Snapchat has a unique way of storytelling and can utilize the ever-famous influencer marketing strategies of all the mega-platforms, using sponsored content for promotion.
Veering away from the ghost of Snapchat’s past.
Although the statistics look promising to the naked eye, we must remember what caused the initial hiatus. Instagram and Facebook have the power to clone, and clone they did. Instagram piloted their disappearing photos, and both platforms quietly added stories to their list of ongoing annoying inventions. Did we leave?
Of course not. We adjusted to the eyesores at the top of our feed, delved into the dopamine of watching people document their daily lives, and completely forgot about the app that started it all.
The meteoric rise of TikTok, combined with the dark power of a nasty economic downturn, shifted digital ad platforms and threw Snapchat for a loop, causing the platform to lay off 20 percent of its employees. Because of the immature nature of the app (sorry, someone had to say it), it is largely ignored by older adults with a disposable income, making it impossible to capitalize amid the real threat of other more successful avenues.
Loyal fans don’t seem to be solving the crucial issue – profits. We think that the disloyal followers could save the platform, but should we, and why would we?
Because we like everything in one place, don’t we?
So, should marketers visit the sentimental realm of Snapchat?
Well, it comes down to data, of course. Stats show that some of Gen Z have taken to the app to avoid parents seeing their online status - not the kind of platform to be marketing education ethically then, is it? Like every marketing avenue, research is essential in forging solid connections with your audience, but we aren’t sold on the idea of it happening on Snapchat.
Most brands advertising on Snapchat sell tangible items – perhaps because Snapchat is a whimsical augmented reality where visitors go to escape, and teens can hide from their Facebook traversing parents – it may not be the best place to lay educational foundations for the moment.
What we think.
Assumptions are easy, and nothing that comes easy is worth having. At first glance, Snapchat looks like a forgotten platform, like drive-ins and ice-cream trucks, but we forget the nostalgic appeal of visiting old relics. Because research and insights are essential for education marketers, we need to put real-world data to the test to challenge assumptions.
Use research and insight to reach your target audience where they are instead of where you want them to be. Snapchat isn’t going anywhere for the moment, and with some loyal subjects spending all their time on the platform, it isn’t time to say goodbye just yet. But we aren’t sure it’s time to say, “hello, old friend,” anytime soon either.
*Downloads Snapchat one last time*