Like most people over the age of 30, I don’t get Snapchat. Sure, I write about Snapchat marketing. I have the app. I’ve made feeble attempts to share my seconds-long Snaps with the world. But why do people—especially people in their teens and twenties—love it so, so much?
To answer this question, I did what every self-respecting, college-educated and somewhat technology-savvy person does—I asked someone younger for help.
Enter 18-year-old Thomas. Thomas is my cousin, and Thomas loves Snapchat. Thomas is the reason why brands are clamoring to use Snapchat: He’s among that coveted youthful demographic, he has a Facebook account but thinks Facebook is lame, and he spends more time on his phone, often in messaging apps, than he does watching broadcast TV.
1. Young People Are Obsessed with Snapchat
My teenage cousin is on Snapchat a lot—like, really a lot. We calculated he sends an average of 14 Snaps per day. Per day! I asked him what exactly he was Snapping. “Pictures of my face,” he replied.
Fair enough, Thomas. (Side note: Do the youth of today not use the word “selfie?” Or did Thomas, after having to painstakingly show me how to add friends and use filters on this app, assume that I wouldn’t know the term? Either way, I feel old.)
Data on Snapchat usage bears out Thomas’ experience. Facebook’s cool factor among teenagers continues to fall—only 15 percent of US teens say it’s their most important app, down from 50 percent a few years ago, according to research by The Wall Street Journal. Snapchat, on the other hand, is on the move: About 20 percent of teens rank it as their most important app, up from 13 percent a year prior. Instagram and Twitter claim the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively.
According to Snapchat, more than 60 percent of 13- to 34-year-old smartphone users are Snapchatters. All told, the Snapchat community numbers over 100 million daily active users. That’s a lot of users in a sought-after age group, but it’s still relatively small—Facebook claims over a billion daily active users.
Still, Snapchat is growing fast, and that’s attractive to digital content creators looking for the next frontier for their message. For brands looking to reach a youthful audience, Snapchat marketing is where they need to be.
2. Discover Content May Not Actually Be All that Awesome
I asked Thomas and a few other younger Snapchat users whether they had ever used the Snapchat Discover or Live Stories features, which allows users to explore content from publishers as well as curated, user-generated content. None of them had.
My sample size was small, to be sure. But it got me thinking—is the Discover feature not all it’s cracked up to be?
It turns out younger Snapchat users have negative-to-mixed views on the utility of Discover. Teens were pissed when Discover content went front-and-center on the app. Millennials could see the utility, but still didn’t much care for it, an informal survey from Business Insider found. “I don’t really see the point,” one user said. “It would never occur to me to get all my news from Snapchat…It makes sense in the way that it’s all self-destructing so it gets replaced every 24 hours with new news, but I don’t see society gravitating to Snapchat to get their news. Especially not anyone who isn’t already using Snapchat.”
Still, plenty of Snapchat users are utilizing the feature. Views on Cosmopolitan’s Snapchat Discover channel rivals views on its traditional website, International Business Times reported. Buzzfeed reports that Snapchat views comprise 21 percent of the company’s total traffic. Overall data on Discover isn’t available, but the success of these two publishers seems to show that with the right content mix, teens and Millennials can get on board with getting news and other content via their favorite messaging app. That’s a good thing for Snapchat, which relies on Discover for ad sales, as well as curmudgeons like me. As long as young people are getting their news somewhere—anywhere—I feel better inside.
3. Video and Filters are Ingenious
Dear readers over 30, hear me now: This app is so cool.
Eighteen-year-old Thomas showed me cool Snapchat tricks, like using filters to throw video in reverse or lenses to make your face blow steam like an angry bull. While I knew Snapchat had these features—I’ve written about them before on this very blog—I admit I hadn’t tried them out personally. However, watching Thomas in action brought home just why digital video is booming across devices. Why take a photo when you can capture the same moment with video?
Snapchat makes video ridiculously accessible, personalized, and urgent. Like other content on the platform, videos, once viewed, are whisked away to the Internet netherworld never to be seen again. This combo of easy, fun, and urgent is perhaps why Snapchat’s users watch over 7 billion videos per day on the platform. If growth continues, video on Snapchat could rival Facebook’s 8 billion daily video views.
Even the rise of vertical video seems attributable to Snapchat’s emergence on the app scene. As video becomes a more important tool in the digital content marketer’s toolbox, video on Snapchat is likely to play an important part.
4. Messaging Apps Are the Future of Marketing
Digital marketers are honing their approaches on Facebook, Twitter, and more recently, Instagram, but messaging apps like Snapchat are still works in progress. Analytics are tricky, and marketers prefer more established platforms where they can tell exactly who they’ve reached and what they’ve learned from it.
But the increasing popularity of apps like Snapchat, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and others, could signal a seismic shift in how users engage with brands. Pretty soon, Thomas won’t just be teaching me how to send messages—he’ll be teaching me how to order a pizza, shop a flash sale, check my account balance, or even pay my bills, without ever leaving the app. “An average phone user spends 84 percent of his or her time in just five apps,” and many of them are messaging apps, said Julie Ask, principal analyst at Forrester, as told to USA Today. “Brands are realizing that people just aren’t spending time in their apps, so the companies are trying to engage you in places like Facebook because they know you spend a lot of time there.”
As always, the better the content, the more headway brands can make. Many publishers are already devoting significant resources to crafting original stories just for the Snapchat audience. One day, all brands may be on board—building out robust content and engagement strategies not just for young pups like Thomas, but also aging messaging wannabes like me.
To learn how to create the best video content possible for your brand, check out Skyword’s three-part series on video content creation.