Social media agency analysis: Will Facebook bury Snapchat anytime soon?

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If you keep a regular eye on our blog you will probably have noticed a fair amount of attention being given to Snapchat in the last few months. Just in case, though, take a look at our overview of how brands can use the platform to their advantage, and, more recently, our comparison of Snapchat v Instagram v Facebook Stories.

The latter is particularly relevant, because Stories is the battleground on which the lines have been drawn between the three networks. Or rather two- Facebook and Instagram are not necessarily competitors seen as the former owns the latter. So in effect you could summarise the fight like this…

Instagram stole Snapchat’s story idea for its own gain; allowing users to combine posts into narrative threads which are viewable for 24 hours. Facebook then added this, knowing that its demographic is older than Instagram and Snapchat- basically cornering the market when it comes to over-30s that want a slice of the storytelling action.

We came up with our own conclusions as to which has the best overall offering (spoiler alert- were prefer Instagram as it’s generally more visually polished), and it seems that the public has also been voting with its feet, and it’s not looking too promising for Snapchat. At all.

As reported this week by The Independent, Snapchat has released some very disappointing numbers recently, with new account openings flatlining and profits only slightly increasing. The result being share values plummeted, which is never good news. But then scratch beneath the surface and there may be more to the overall tale.

 

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Snapchat and advertising

For one thing, Snapchat’s advertising, whilst dwarfed by that of Facebook, has seen some decent results. As included in this piece over on Marketing Week, ad sales on the network increased by 129% year on year, and by 25% in the first quarter of 2017.

There’s also the question of who is using the platform. Snapchat lays claim to one of the youngest demographics of any social network. In the US, for example, 30% of millennials have an account. 71% of total users worldwide are under 30. This age group is particularly hard to reach for advertisers and marketers, and certainly in terms of the old guard sites such as Facebook, which has an ageing population. Although Facebook’s biggest age group is 25-34, this still only accounts for 29% of its users.

Then you need to consider engagement levels…

Snapchat and engagement 

There are more than 300million active monthly users on Snapchat globally, and these spend an average of 30minutes on the network each day, logging in more than 18 times each per 24-hour period. More than 20,000 photos are shared every second, and 25% of the UK’s smartphone owners are on the network (in Norway, for example, this increases to a whopping 50%). Perhaps most importantly, though, 65% of these people will engage with the network by sharing content.

Comparatively, then, Snapchat actually beats Facebook in terms of average time spent on both sites each day (FB only claims 20minutes per user), and last year Fortune reported that there had been a 21% decline in ‘original sharing’ on the planet’s most used network- a trend that has continued, much to the concern of Mark Zuckerberg et al, as the back end of Facebook relies on knowing what people are interested in, knowledge that comes from what people share, which in turn dictates how adverts are placed and how effective they will be.

 

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So is this the beginning of the end of Snapchat? 

Over the years, Manchester’s finest social media agency- yours truly- has continually kept abreast with the changing world of online comms, and watched as new networks have emerged and then fallen by the wayside. There’s not much telling which will become a victim of its rivals’ success, or indeed the fickle public. But, what we can say with some degree of certainty is this…

*Snapchat isn’t going anywhere for the time being, even with the losses posted by parent company Snap.Inc, but it’s not looking very healthy at the moment

*Snapchat, unlike almost all other networks, never focussed its business model on exponential growth, and doesn’t even consider itself a social network- it says it’s a camera company

*Snapchat has only monetised itself for a brief amount of time, so it’s still early days really

Cutting to the chase 

We’d be surprised not to see more new functions being rolled out by Snapchat to try and plug the obvious holes that are beginning to appear. Snapstreak, for example, notifies people when two of their friends have been sending each other one or more snaps per day for three consecutive days, encouraging them to get involved too. It’s not been that successful, but nevertheless it shows a desire to experiment. And the network still offers incredible access to a highly sought after age group, which almost all others struggle to reach with the same level of success.

Just one more thing… 

A clear problem facing Snapchat is longevity- although we have seen from Twitter’s ailing fortunes that big guns can hold firm even when the headlines have been saying for ages that end days are approaching. However, Snapchat’s youthful audience are only going in one direction – and by that we mean they are getting older.

Facebook is proof in itself that 2008’s cool is 2017’s played out; the network doesn’t appeal to kids as much because they don’t really want to share information on the same platform as their parents. And grandparents. Having said all that, the set up of Snapchat is very different- all content posted is private and only visible to those you are sending it to, which may work out in its favour.