You might have heard of a little app called Snapchat. Founded in 2011, the app created by Evan Spiegel now has over 300 million monthly users across the globe, spending an average of 30 minutes on the app, and collectively sharing over a million photos and videos with each other each day. These impressive stats led to the company recently being valued at $28.3 billion on the US stock market, so this top 10 app really isn’t doing badly at all. Snapchat, however, released an update in February 2018, and users from far and wide have expressed their distaste for the update, with many abandoning the app altogether, and millions have signed a petition for the update to be reversed. So why did the company make the change?
One thing that the company has always had an issue with is profitability. For an app that is so widely used, and valued at such a high value, the app doesn’t quite make as much money as you would expect. In 2017, the app’s revenue was under $700 million. It might sound like a lot, however, if you compare it to an app such as Tinder (part of the Match dating app group), with only 50 million users, the revenues reach over $400 million. If Snapchat really wanted to compete with the app giants like Facebook and Twitter, something needs to change.
The Snapchat format prior to the update was relatively straightforward, you open the app and it looks like you’re about to take a photo. Swipe to the left and you can see ‘Snaps’ received and sent to/from your personal friends. These were private ‘Snaps’. Swipe right from the main screen and you get to see ‘Stories’ – Snapchats from your friends or celebrities that you follow that are made public. Scroll further down and you can discover new brands, web articles etc. This meant that you could quite easily use the app without encountering any adverts and use it purely for socialising with friends.
The update, however, has almost completely changed the layout of the app. When you open it, you still see the camera feature, although when you swipe left, all of your friends' activity is now there, whether it’s their Stories, personal Snaps or messages. The issue people are having is that they can’t find people’s stories or Snapchats that they want straight away because it is lost somewhere further down. Also, the last person that you Snapchatted aren’t necessarily the top of the list; that bit doesn’t quite make sense, and regular users don’t know how that is worked out.
Now when you move to the right, all of the celebrity Stories are there, along with all the advertisements, brands and news, making it much easier to be subjected to adverts and sales pitches, along with discovering new content to follow. This is almost certainly why Snapchat has decided to proceed with the update, the easier it is for users to be shown to Ads, more ads will get watched which means more revenue for the company.
As mentioned previously, over a million people expressed their distaste for the new update in the form of signing a petition, whilst many more made their opinions vocal over Social Media, including celebrities. Kylie Jenner, member of the reality TV family the Kardashians with a huge influence on Social Media, voiced the tweet “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.” This tweet actually sparked a drop in the Snapchat stock value, essentially losing the company $1.3 Billion in value. Of course this one tweet did not cause this drop by itself, however it highlighted Snapchats massive loss in users after the update, which definitely frightened investors. What people don’t realise is 71% of Snapchat users are under 34 years old. With Social Media being the preferred format for sharing news, Social influencers have more power than ever before when voicing opinions about companies.
So what are Snapchat planning to do about it? With all of the people protesting the update, and the petition reaching millions of signatures, the company was obliged to give a response. It’s not good news for the fans of the old layout; the update is here to stay. Spiegel himself suggested there were flaws with the previous layout (none that regular consumers can see) and that the new way is smarter and more beneficial for the consumer, especially after several months of ‘learning’. They did however add that more updates and ‘tabs’ will be introduced over the coming weeks to make it easier to find the content that you want.
All in all, we really can see why Snapchat implemented these changes; the need for increased revenue was there. However, by not listening to consumers, and by changing the app so drastically and so suddenly, it may have caused severe long-term damage for the business and probably allowed companies such as Facebook and Instagram to gain more market share in the image-sharing Social Media area.
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