Ruling the Realm of Teendom: What Snapchat’s Doing Right

For brands and marketers, Snapchat may be the metaphorical yellow-brick road to the realm of teendom. Over the past year, the app has risen to the top as the reigning social network among teens. In spring of 2015, the first-place ranking was held by Instagram, which now comes in close-second and is followed by Twitter and Facebook, a recent study reports. Snapchat boasts more than 100 million daily users spending an average of 25-30 minutes on the app each day. User Stories (i.e. user-created broadcasts that expire after 24 hours and can be seen by any of their friends on the network) fuel 10 billion daily video views – and that’s not even including the amount of content directly exchanged between users of the app. The following are a few key concepts imbedded in Snapchat’s structure and culture that have built, and continue to strengthen, its popularity with the teen demographic:

  1. Visual storytelling – first and foremost. We’re all well aware of the weight visuals carry on social platforms and how greatly they impact user reach and engagement. While Facebook and Twitter began with an emphasis on text, later adopting the inclusion of photo and video, Snapchat starts the conversation with a primary focus on photo or video – the camera being the app’s unifying feature. Despite the app’s evolution over the last couple of years, Snapchat Cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel still thinks of the service as a camera company at its core.
  2. Simple modifications that follow a familiar formula. On an almost-daily basis, Snapchat keeps users interested and entertained by introducing new adaptations of its goofy selfie lenses – but sticks to the formula that users have become accustomed to. While the app has recently performed some larger updates, it has yet to undergo any major algorithm overhaul which, when performed on other social networks, has caused some upset among social users (cough, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, cough). Snapchat’s kept it steady.
  3. A content-disappearing act with behind-the-scenes appeal. The app has established a unique culture of informal, impromptu content sharing. But perhaps what makes Snapchat especially unique compared to other social networks is its content-disappearing act. With user Stories expiring after 24 hours, teenagers feel less of a need to post “quality” content compared to Instagram (where teenagers often feel pressured to post the perfect photo with the perfect caption). Celebrities also contribute informal content to Snapchat, sharing glimpses of their private lives with their network of followers. Brands share behind-the-scenes broadcasts from VIP events, or offer a peek at their company culture. Most recently, Snapchat scored a deal as NBC’s only U.S. partner allowed to distribute official Olympics content in an effort to reach the younger audience demographic. The app’s Live Stories will offer a fusion of Olympics highlights, behind-the-scenes video snippets, and user-provided content.

With digital advertising on social media having grown 55% to $10.9 billion for the 2015 calendar year, it’s a safe bet that this trend will continue, and that many more companies with the aim of reaching teens will be tapping Snapchat in the near future.


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