What is Snapchat and why is it so successful among young people?

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Laia Cardona

If you work in digital marketing, you are sure to have heard of Snapchat by now. This app has been on the market for about 5 years now, and it has been gaining more and more popularity in recent times, especially among the younger generations. Part instant messenger, part social network and part something totally new, more and more brands are using it everyday to launch their new and innovative campaigns. For you to get aboard this track, today I would like to tell you exactly what Snapchat is, and why it is so popular among young people.

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What is Snapchat and how does it work?

First let's take a look at what Snapchat is… Snapchat is an app that has become a social phenomenon with worldwide repercussions, especially among young people. It became so successful that Facebook even tried to buy it for 3 billion dollars… and were turned down. These numbers will help give you a bit of idea of it’s success:

  • Snapchat has over 100 million daily active users and this is still growing
  • Over 60% of smartphone users between the ages of 13 and 34 have Snapchat.
  • An average of 796 photos per second are shared via Snapchat.
  • 5% of the entire world’s selfies are sent through Snapchat.
  • It has been estimated that Snapchat will be worth 16 billion dollars in 2016.

Behind this entire whirlwind of users and photos, lies an app that in truth works quite similarly to other instant messaging services, like Whatsapp. After downloading Snapchat, the user should provide their phone number and a username to create their account. They can later add their contacts and send them photos or videos in vertical format, both individually or in groups. There is also a real time video feature.

Looking at this, we see nothing out of the ordinary… but Snapchat has one other characteristic that makes it unique: the message autodestruct a few seconds after being viewed (from 1 to 10 seconds, decided by the sender). To view the photo or video, the receiver must hold their finger to the screen, and when they let go, the image disappears.

Another one of Snapchat’s extremely popular features is the ease in editing photos by adding all kinds of “extras”. From within the app you can color on images, add simple lines of text and/or emojis, use filters, add data such as the time, speed or temperature and more recently and most popular, Lenses, which uses facial recognition to create all kinds of crazy “special effects”. If you have seen pictures online lately of people vomiting rainbows or with dog ears and noses, odds are that they were created on Snapchat.

 

Why is Snapchat so popular among young people?

Now that you know exactly what Snapchat is, you may be asking how it became so incredibly loved. In my opinion, these are the main reasons this app just doesn’t stop growing:

1) Your parents aren’t using it (yet!)

It is well known enough that the relationships between teenagers and their parents is not always the closest or the simplest. Young people need their space and freedom and a placed where they can feel at ease and Facebook is no longer that place. On Snapchat, on the other hand, they can share what they like without feeling watched or controlled.

2) Respect for privacy

No matter their age, internet users are increasingly more worried for their privacy, and Snapchat is understood to be one of the most discreet possible networks. Messages disappear from the receiver’s phone seconds later, and he or she has to keep pressing the screen, making it more difficult to take screenshots. Snapchat also deletes all their content every 24 hours and the only way to search for a user is by knowing their username.

3) Its fleeting nature

We are used to knowing that whatever we post on the internet will be there forever, and this incite a kind of obsession over perfection. Who hasn’t taken 20 different selfies looking for the perfect one? In a time when all we want to do is pretend, knowing your posts are going to disappear takes the pressure off and comes as a great relief to many users, letting them be much more natural.

4) It's a new format

Although it shares some similarities with other messaging apps and social networks, Snapchat is a unique application that lets you communicate and interact differently from other tools. It is not easily substituted and that is where part of its success lies.

5) It's super fun!

The combination of not having to worry about the future of your posts and having a whole load of personalization options is the perfect recipe for a blast. Wow, these cat ears look great on me!


How do brands use Snapchat?

Snapchat is the new digital marketing phenomenon, and so increasingly more brands are beginning to launch campaigns designed especially for this network. To make the most of its success, Snapchat has included several advertising opportunities especially designed for companies with different options, like encouraging users to download an app. Here are some of my favorite examples of brands using Snapchat, use them to find some inspiration and join the Snapchatting community!

  • The yoghurt brand 16 Handles used Snapchats characteristics to perfection to make their discounts go viral. In one of their latest campaigns, the brand encouraged users to use this network to share a photo or video in which they were consuming one of the brands products in exchange for a discount coupon for their next purchase. To make it even better, consumers had to present the coupon in the store to get the discount… but of course, they only had 10 seconds to do so. And if that weren’t enough, the discount value was a surprise: 16, 50 or 100%.
  • The series Girls invested heavily in Snapchat to promote their third season exclusively for their Snapchat followers. Of course, the secrecy made sharing irresistible.

A company as seemingly “serious” as General Electric has also showed that they know how to use this app. How? Using Snapchat to introduce lunar astronaut Buzz Aldrin to their younger audience.

 

Laia Cardona

@laia_cardona

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Tags: Social Networks



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