The Rise, Fall, and Return of Snapchat

A closer look at Snapchat's failed update and it's impact on users.

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After a handful of celebrity-fueled controversies, a competitive social network introducing similar features and the rollout of an updated layout, Snapchat found itself in a deep branding crisis. Snapchat became popular with users in 2011 through a simple layout that supported different means of photo sharing. Primarily, users would share photos with friends for a maximum of 3 seconds. However, as Snapchat’s popularity developed, the addition of more features including filters, animated filters, longer “snap” times, and most recently the inclusion of Bitmoji or animated emojis and a map to show your location increasing the user experience in order to share more life experiences. The evolution of Snapchat met a massive amount of revenue throughout the configuration stages. By 2017, revenue was reaching $285.7 million per quarter with an increase of 8.9 million daily active users, totaling to 187 million active users (Lotus, 2018). These numbers helped to drive investor growth, giving the company a bright outlook for 2018. During the configuration stages of Snapcahat, I used the platform faithfully when sharing images and videos with friends. However, things took a turn for the worse within the next year.

At the beginning of 2018, Instagram and Facebook both adopted the unique story feature and their user growth and revenues were quickly outperforming Snapchat. In an attempt to “invigorate the platform’s advertisers and better cater ads to users,” Snapchat introduced a brand-new layout that completely changed the user interface and overall user experience (Carman, 2018). With the new layout, navigation was difficult frustrating users that wanted to manage their content while connecting with others. Ironically, the same features that made Snapchat popular for easily connecting users with celebrities and brands made it virtually impossible to do the same thing. The swift change caused a massive decrease in user growth with a reported loss at “2 percent of its daily active users — from 191 million to 188 million — in just a quarter” (Carman, 2018). On top of it, celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Rihanna were voicing their dissatisfaction with the app (Kylie for reasons involving the redesign, Rihanna for reasons involving controversial advertising) adding to decrease in users, revenues and stocks. Personally, I already started migrating from Snapchat to Instagram with the addition of the unique story feature. However, the integration of the new interface was so confusing that I decided to avoid the app altogether. CEO Evan Spiegel released a statement shortly after the rollout; “We feel that we have now addressed the biggest frustrations we’ve heard and are eager to make more progress on the tremendous opportunity we now have to show more of the right content to the right people.” Although Snapchat changed its interface to a layout that allowed users to find both friends, celebrities, and brands in one place, they couldn’t regain the users that they had in the year prior.

Fast forward a year, Snapchat has boosted both revenue and user growth with the rollout of a re-engineered app experience for Android users. According to Jan van Dijk, “there is a strong faith in the trend of S-curve adoption and in the extension of access by market forces alone” (Dijk, 322). By focusing on a specific user that may have been disadvantaged before, Snapchat reached 190 million daily active users, up 2 percent from 186 million in Q4 2018 when it plateaued. (Constine, 2019). Interestingly, I didn’t even notice this boost in usage because I’m an Apple user and haven’t accessed the app since I deleted the app last year. According to Josh Constine, of this increase, Snapchat managed to add users in all its markets, growing 1 million in North America, 1 million in Europe and 2 million in the developing world, where the Android app is critical. However, Since Rest of World users only earn an average of $0.97 versus $2.81 for North American users, international growth could cost Snap money until it figures out how to make more off ads there” (Constine, 2019). Now that Snapchat has nearly regained its user growth and revenue, I believe it’s time to focus on advertisements in those countries as they relate to users so that they can maintain a balance between the two. According to Nelly Oudshoorn and Trevor Pinch in How Users Matter, technologies must be culturally appropriated to become functional. “The cultural appropriation of consumer goods depends on the “cultural capital” of people” (Oudshoorn, N., & et al, 2003).

Snapchat Finally Updates Android App

References 

Carman, A. (2018, August 07). Snapchat’s redesign cost it millions of users. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/7/17661878/snapchat-earnings-q2-2018-results-redesign

Constine, J., & Constine, J. (2019, April 23). Snapchat revives growth in Q1 beat with 190M users – TechCrunch. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/23/snapchat-q1-2019-earnings/

Dijk, J. V., & Hacker, K. (2003). The Digital Divide as a Complex and Dynamic Phenomenon. The Information Society,19(4), 315-326. doi:10.1080/01972240309487

Oudshoorn, N., & Pinch, T. (Eds.). (2003). Introduction. How Users Matter. doi:10.7551/mitpress/3592.003.0002

The Rise and Fall of Snapchat | Snapchat User Experience. (2018, March 14). Retrieved from https://lotus823.com/rise-fall-snapchat/

2 Comments on The Rise, Fall, and Return of Snapchat

  1. I find this interesting! I only just recently got back on Snapchat myself, and am trying to figure out how to make it a marketable platform for my social media.

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