Thought Leadership

Snapchat: Impermanence is here to stay

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Can you remember what real life was like? Life without wondering how many ‘Likes’ and ‘Shares’ you’ll get on a daily basis? Many of us struggle to remember a world before social media - for the Gen Z-ers amongst us, it might as well not have existed.

Great thinkers can argue all they want, but we all know deep down if you experience something IRL and don’t share it for all to see in a triple filtered blaze of Insta-glory, it’s not real. If it’s not saved on a multinational corporation’s servers for future generations to see… frankly, who cares?

Roaming gangs of engagement feeders. Grey car – avg. 7.5 likes per minuteRoaming gangs of engagement feeders. Grey car – avg. 7.5 likes per minute

As the press reaction to Essena O’Neill gathered pace recently, I began to wonder if she was the modern oracle our times needed. “One of the truest and realest people ever”. In a world of creating a permanent, unrealistic picture of our lives for everyone we’ve ever met (and some we haven’t…) to take in, it looks like some of us have had enough.

Enter today’s saviour of social for the younger generation - Snapchat. Created in 2011 by three friends at Stanford University, Snapchat allows users to share photos and videos, which appear for a limited period on the recipient's phone and then disappear forever. Welcome to social media 2.0. Impermanence made permanent.

Most importantly, Snapchat’s founders seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet as the Essenas of this world.

Snapchat isn’t about capturing the traditional Kodak moment. It’s about communicating with the full range of human emotion - not just what appears to be pretty or perfect. […] We’re building a photo app that doesn’t conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection but rather creates a space to be funny, honest or whatever else you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap.

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It’s a formula that’s working. In just over four years, Snapchat has experienced a meteoric rise in a packed social media market. Earlier this month, it announced that the number of videos viewed each day on Snapchat has tripled since May - it now gets 6bn video views every day. Not to mention the 8,796 disappearing photossent by its 100 million users every second... not bad for a platform that started life as a controversial sexting app.

Currently valued at $10-20 billion depending on who’s buying (some guy called Mark Zuckerberg tried for $3bn and was rejected), it’s also one of social media’s more successful entities at monetising. One such route is the app’s long term publisher deals as part of the Discover tab, with the likes of Vice, Sky, Buzzfeed, MTV, and Mail Online signed up amid a growing roster. It’s barely an exaggeration to say that Snapchat controls the news consumption of a certain demographic of social media users.

If the heavyweight names on that list don’t impress you, consider this – Buzzfeed recently estimated that an incredible 21% of its site traffic now originates from Snapchat content views. And newcomer Mashable has seen astounding figures since joining Discover, with CEO Pete Cashmore reporting that Mashable’s total unique views grew by 24% in the month following its Snapchat launch. On a site that boasts 45 million uniques per month.

In the spirit of the creativity originally promised, Snapchat has opened a new lens store, offering free lenses and 99 cent lenses, as well as brand-Sponsored Lenses. 20th Century Fox has signed up to create animated branded selfie filters just weeks after the feature launched on app – worth a reported $750,000 daily for peak-usage. There’s also paid Geofilters (hungrily eaten up by pop-up restaurant newbies… well, McDonald’s).

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For the more traditionally minded marketers, Snapchat launched a full in-app ad spot last year with Universal Pictures to promote the movie Ouija. If you’re wondering why kids aren’t watching your TV spot or YouTube pre-rolls, you now know where to get their attention.

It’s not just brands paying – the app’s users are increasingly getting involved too, led by US only offers Snapcash and Replay. Snapcash allows users to register with Square and make in app payments to friends by ‘making it rain’.

Replay offers three replays of expired content for $0.99. Yep, expired content. But all within the framework of rapid server deletion as Snapchat’s updated support post rapidly fought to prove. The wider point is this: an app that has users hooked on the excitement of fleeting creative moments can now charge its audience nearly a dollar for replays that could be over in a matter of seconds. That’s not a decision made lightly. It’s proof Snapchat content excites people enough to want to pay for more.

So – I think it’s safe to say that Snapchat’s here to stay. It’s maturing as a business, it’s offering a wide range of paid and unpaid tools for brands to express themselves creatively and it’s proving success with publishers and brands alike. You’re not going to get a 72 page report on performance afterwards, but your message will reach a youth audience more receptive than anywhere else in social if you speak to them on their terms.

In a world of airbrushing, perfection and Essena O’Neills complaining about how ‘fake’ life in social media can be, Snapchat is a refreshing opportunity to be different. You might not reach Burberry’s heights of Mario Testino dropping his Leica for an iPhone, but before you jump in it’s worth thinking back to that heady world of Snapchat’s first blog post and working out what you can add.

We’re building a photo app that doesn’t conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection but rather creates a space to be funny, honest or whatever else you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap.

If you have a message that manages to live up to that, Gen Z might just listen.

For tickets to Gen Z 101, visit our event page here.