In November 2013, Snapchat declined a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook and it left critics scratching their heads as to why. But with an estimated 26 million U.S. users joining in the two years since its release, Snapchat could be worth well over $3 billion down the road. Rated above Instagram on Apple’s top apps of 2013, Snapchat has expanded past its initial intentions by giving users and brands yet another compelling way to engage within its community.
Created by two former Stanford University students, 23-year-old Evan Spiegel and 25-year-old Bobby Murphy, the app was conceived in a college course while Spiegel studied product design. Also joining the company as chief operating officer in January 2014 is former Instagram director of business operations, Emily White.
Unlike Instagram, Snapchat’s photo sharing allows users to view photos sent for a limited number of seconds before it vanishes from the receiver’s device and is deleted from Snapchat servers. Of course, screenshots can be saved from these “snaps” with a quick draw of the hand. Additionally, users can add text and draw over the photo or video, creating a humorous caption with added effect.
A new feature that was launched in October 2013 called Snapchat Stories is similar to snaps, but offers a longer shelf-life for the photo or video, allowing a 24-hour window of unlimited views.
According to a Pew Research Center study released in late October 2013, nine percent of U.S. cell phone owners use Snapchat and 18 percent use Instagram. With 92 percent of the U.S. population owning a cell phone, that translates to an estimated 26 million users for Snapchat and 52 million for Instagram.
Brands have started to gain traction among Snapchat’s users – early-adapter millennials – via free or discounted promotions on the platform. As brands create a network on the app by following users, they can be followed back by fans if accepted.
Brands finding success on Snapchat are those not using the app for advertisements, but rather for amusing, inventive and humorous engagement that piques interest for users within a mere few seconds. Taco Bell, Acura, 16 Handles, Karmaloop, Seventeen magazine and even the New Orleans Saints are a few companies that have garnered successful publicity from content on Snapchat and Snapchat Stories.
Melody Kramer, digital strategist at NPR, has also seen a positive response with using Snapchat for the radio network. Under the account @nprnews, Kramer uses Snapchat to send their fans one fact a day that they shouldn’t forget.
“We’re really excited about thinking about how to convey news on different platforms,” she said. “I like platforms with restraints. It means we have to be more creative with how we convey the news.”
Since Snapchat is ephemeral, it is not created for long form journalism; however, Kramer appreciates it as a useful way to connect with fans, generate conversation and create memorable moments.
“We’re having a lot of fun with it. If it’s not fun, we can stop. That’s the beauty of these different platforms – we’re trying stuff out, seeing if our audience likes it, changing things and having a good time in the process,” she said. “Can’t go wrong with that.”
Melody Kramer, digital strategist
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