Despite long being focused on avoiding the common, sometimes problematic, mass audience-style metrics which are popular on other social platforms, Snapchat says that, in response to requests from its creator community, it will now allow users to display their subscriber counts on their public profiles.
Wow! I can add my subscriber count to my public Snapchat profile now. pic.twitter.com/fjtiNFMTLk— Mike Metzler (@MTZLER) November 3, 2020
As you can see in the above tweet from Conviva's Mike Metzler, the listing is optional, with a toggle that will enable users to display their subscriber count, or not, on their profile listing.
As explained by Snapchat (via Tubefilter):
“We’ve listened to feedback from our creator community and many of them expressed interest in having the option to show that their community on Snapchat is growing. So, starting today, we are giving creators the option to make subscriber counts visible on their public profiles. We understand not every creator wants to have public metrics visible to their fans, therefore, creators can choose to toggle this metric on and off as needed in their settings.”
As noted, that's a significant shift for Snapchat, which had originally pitched itself as an antidote, of sorts, to Facebook and Twitter-style social platforms, which emphasized broad reach and audience, as opposed to more intimate connection.
Indeed, Snapchat has repeatedly spruiked the line that the app is 'about real friends' as opposed to appealing to strangers online, which follower/subscriber counts directly relate to. Snapchat messages disappear, because they're not designed to be a lasting, public statement, replicating the intimacy and connection of real-life conversation.
But increasingly, Snapchat has pared back in its opposition to more common social media norms in order to maximize engagement and interaction within the app.
Snapchat added improved search functionality back in 2017, making it easier to find more people to follow in the app, while as noted by Tubefilter, the app also rolled out creator profiles last year, providing another way for high profile creators to build their followings on the platform.
Snapchat also launched a new function bar earlier this year, further aligning with more common social platform UI.
Given these gradual shifts, it makes sense that Snapchat would also provide users with an option to display public user counts - but it does feel like a step in the wrong direction in some respects.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, for example, has stated that, if he had his time again, he would reduce the emphasis on follower counts, even labeling the metric 'meaningless' in broader context.
As explained by The Verge:
"By emphasizing an account’s number of followers, Dorsey believes that it incentivizes individuals to post more polarizing content that has the potential to go viral and attract more followers, creating a more divisive and toxic discourse on the platform."
Essentially, follower/subscriber counts indirectly promote competition over 'who's bigger', which can then lead to people doing whatever they can to chase the metrics. Which may have benefits for engagement (and that may be why Snapchat's adding it), but as Dorsey notes, the negatives can outweigh the positives in this respect.
It seemed like Snap was aware of this, and that its approach was actually a more mature one, based on lessons from the first wave of social networks. But in the chase to maximize engagement, maybe that doesn't matter.
Maybe it'll be a better experience, and good addition, but it's hard to see how it can provide significant benefit, outside of increasing competition for people to 'win' at building an audience.
Either way, you can now display your Snap subscriber count, if you so choose.