The goal of the latest Snapchat redesign, according to Snap Inc.CEO Evan Spiegel, is to separate the “media” from the “social.”
In a video showing off the revamped app, Spiegel explained their approach, citing user feedback as the driver:
“One of the complaints we've heard about social media is that photos and videos from your friends are mixed in with content from publishers and creators and influencers. But your friends aren't content. They're relationships.”
Previously, content from friends on Snapchat was combined with professional and media content on one screen and accessible by swiping right on the app. Now, users can swipe right to access the “Discover” section of the app - the new home of publisher and branded content - or swipe left to find messages and Stories from their friends.
Apart from the above-mentioned feedback, the redesign is also a result of Snapchat’s efforts to better monetize the app, in alignment with their goal to create a cleaner and more friend-focused experience. However, not everyone's a fan.
Many users are unhappy that the app now mixes their friends’ Stories with their private messages, making it difficult to distinguish the difference between the two, while also making it impossible to watch a continuous stream of friends’ Stories (note: a recent revision seems to have somewhat addressed this).
According to TechCrunch, 83% of user reviews published since the app redesign have been negative, giving the app one or two stars.
The redesign has also sparked major concerns among brands and marketers. If your business maintains a presence on Snapchat, here’s what you can likely expect from any on-platform marketing efforts moving forward.
Prepare to pay-to-play
The decision to move publisher and brand-produced content out of the main feed means that marketers now need to be prepared to pay if they want to achieve the same reach that was once possible when their content was integrated among their fans’ regular feeds.
The new Discover tab may remove a user’s friends as “competition” for views, but it also means your content now faces increased competition from other brands and publishers.
First of all, your Stories will only appear within the main tab if your brand follows back any users following you. Snapchat's also mixing Official Stories – content by those with verified accounts, such as celebrities – into the Discover tab, along with Publisher Stories and Snapchat’s 'Our Stories' and Shows.
Furthermore, instead of showing each Story in a horizontal format, similar to the friends’ screen, each Story on the Discover tab is presented as a vertical thumbnail, or “tile.” This means that fewer Stories appear on a user’s screen at a time. So if your brand’s content appears “below the fold,” it may never be seen by your fans at all.
The redesign appears to be an effort to push Snapchat’s Promoted Stories ad format, which enables brands to purchase a “tile” on the Discover tab. However, according to Marketing Land, Promoted Stories can only be purchased through Snapchat’s direct sales team, and have to be purchased as a countrywide, one-day takeover, which can be incredibly expensive for smaller brands.
It remains to be seen if Snapchat will make this advertising option more accessible for brands of all sizes.
The Snapchat algorithm rules all
What users see in their Friends and Discover tabs is determined by Snapchat’s algorithms to help make the user experience feel more customized for each person.
For example, if a user frequently views certain friend’s Stories, then Snapchat will push that friend’s content to the top of the user’s feed more often, ideally, keeping them coming back more often to see more of the content they want.
According to Marketing Land, the Snapchat algorithm will also surface Stories and Shows in the Discover tab that users might not be aware of, but might be interested in, based on the content they’ve viewed in the past. The bad news for brands is that the algorithm will now have more power over the content that appears in the Discover tab than the users themselves.
While this could help keep users engaged for longer on the app, it could also lead to even more pressure on brands to buy ads in order to get their content in front of their fans.
Community engagement will be more critical than ever before
The decision to move all media and branded content to a separate section makes it more important than ever for brands to actively engage with their fans on Snapchat.
Before, it was possible to have an audience for your content without investing heavily in building up your follower base. Now, marketers will need to implement a strategy on how to actively engage with their fans and keep their attention moving forward.
For many brands, following users back may be the one way to do so, and dedicating someone on the team to handle this job may be necessary.
Is it time for brands to ditch Snapchat once and for all?
For many brands, it may be time to completely switch over to Instagram and Instagram Stories once and for all.
A study by CivicScience suggests that Snapchat has been losing approximately 2% of its Millennial audience since late 2017, while Instagram has been gaining 2% in the same demographic in the equivalent time frame. Given the backlash, the redesign certainly wouldn't appear to be helping these numbers.
Instagram continues to beat Snapchat at its own game by continuously innovating and improving upon the Stories phenomenon, and as a result, Mediakix revealed that influencers are using Instagram Stories 25% more than Snapchat each day.
With the redesign, Snapchat's showing signs that it may become a strictly pay-to-play platform. Instagram’s larger audience and more robust search and discoverability features are becoming increasingly attractive for brands and social media influencers alike, and we may see many more of them leave Snapchat in favor of the Facebook-owned app.