2018 was one PR black mark for Facebook after another, but at the end of the day, Facebook always delivered financially. Snap was a different story. Ever since going public, Snap has yet to have its Wall Street turnaround moment—a moment that Twitter has only just started to have.
The challenge Snap has that Twitter didn’t have to deal with, directly at least, as much is Facebook. Snap is in Facebook’s crosshairs as it looks to duplicate every feature that makes Snapchat unique from filters to Stories. There is no stone left unturned in Facebook’s efforts to borrow and steal from Snapchat’s playbook. Maybe Snap should be flattered. Through it all, the one thing Snapchat’s done well is it’s played its own game. While Facebook copies them, they innovate and differentiate their platform from everyone else’s.
Still, if Snap wants to make 2019 a very different year from a performance perspective, it needs to focus on three things: 1.) quickly expanding its user base, 2.) deciding who it wants its audience to be and 3.) appealing to advertiser’s hearts as much as their heads.
Expand the User Base
The shortest route for Snap to expand its user base is to get its act together on Android. The current app does not perform well, and when most of the world is relying on Android devices, the biggest slice of potential users is left on the table.
Snap has addressed the issue of its current Android app and has stated its plans for fixing it. Yet, the current app remains. This year is a make or break year for Snap on Android. When most of Snapchat’s core features are available elsewhere, like Instagram, users are only going to become more entrenched. The longer Snapchat waits, the less novelty it will have when it’s finally available on Android.
Pick an Audience
Snapchat was originally a place for teens, and today, its most ardent users continue to be teens and Millennials, but Instagram has slowly picked away at this audience by duplicating Snapchat’s core features and catering to influencers. Snapchat alienated a good portion of its younger users with the launch of an app redesign early last year. Snapchat has since reversed many of those changes, but in many ways, the damage is done.
The reason for that update, however, wasn’t to appease existing users. It was meant to attract older ones who have become entrenched in longer established platforms. Snapchat took steps to make its core features easier to understand for an older audience.
There are cases to be made for Snapchat going after both audiences, but Snapchat has not been clear on who it really wants. Obviously, it wants everyone, but right now, what sets Snapchat apart is its younger users. That’s the audience that Snapchat has the most immediate potential with because it’s attractive to advertisers. That’s where I’d focus.
Get the Advertisers
Advertisers have been able to comfortably take a wait-and-see approach to Snapchat. First, measurement was a mess. Second, it was prohibitively expensive to advertise on the platform. Third, Snapchat really didn’t offer anything advertisers couldn’t find elsewhere. Snapchat gave no advertiser FOMO.
Snap’s making headway in all three. First, programmatic has gone from being non-existent to actually being something. This dramatically lowers the barriers for advertisers to jump onto the platform as they no longer need to work directly with Snapchat to place their ads, which in turn lowers the cost barriers. Paired with this effort, Snapchat’s improved its ad options and worked to help advertisers navigate its unique ad offerings. The lead effort here is the Lens Partners Program, which connects certified lens creators with advertisers.
The problem Snapchat has, however, is most advertisers just don’t understand it. They understand Facebook, Instagram and, to a lesser extent, Twitter because they actually use the platforms. When you use it, when you understand it, you’re bound to be more comfortable investing in it. Snap’s working to make sure it can at least offer some feature-for-feature advertising parity, and that may win the heads of marketers. I don’t think it will win their hearts.