How Snapchat's Evolving, One Small Update at a Time (and Why You Need to Pay Attention)
In case you missed it, Snapchat announced two significant updates last few weeks, both focused on the same goal. The first was the announcement that Snapchat's media partners would be given the option to 'deep link' to their Snapchat content - meaning publishers can provide a direct link to their Snap content from one app to another. So, for example, a publisher could post a direct link to their content on Snapchat from the Twitter app.
If you click on the same link via desktop (as there's no desktop version of Snapchat), you're taken to a screen with the publisher's Snapcode, which you can use to connect to that publishers' Snapchat content via your phone:
This is a big change as it enables publishers to get more value from their Snapchat content - one of the hesitations brands have in regards to Snapchat's temporary nature is that spending money developing content is seen as somewhat risky, as there's no long-term value in that investment (Discover content, like Stories, disappears after 24 hours). By enabling publishers to deep link to that content, it helps them get more eyeballs to their Snapchat channels - and as you can see in the above example from Mashable, publishers can create enticing posts to promote their Snapchat content in other apps, to which being able to access such within one click is a much more effective promotional option than simply calling for people to come find you in Snapchat.
The second update along this line came last week, with the addition of profile URLs for all users to deep link to their own Snapchat channels.
As with deep linking for brands, now all users can share their Snapchat URL (which is 'http://www.snapchat.com/add/USERNAME), making it easier to promote your Snapchat presence across other platforms.
While both additions seem small, they're significant in the sense that they remove friction in the Snapchat discovery process, making it easier for people to locate and follow the accounts they might be interested in. Under the previous system, there was no way to direct people to your Snapchat content, other than via discovery within the app itself (which is not particularly intuitive) or via Snapcode, which not all users, particularly new ones, understand (though I do love that Snapchat makes all their users into advertisers by giving them customizable versions of their logo to share).
That lack of discoverability is actually somewhat in-line with Snapchat's wider ethos - Snapchat's essentially an 'in-crowd' app, you're either on it and connected or you're not. This is core to Snapchat's popularity - the fact that Snapchat content disappears upon viewing underlines this approach and that exclusivity, that intimacy, also leads to higher levels of engagement. Because people have to pay attention to snap content, if they don't, they miss out and it's gone. In this sense, discoverability hasn't been a priority for the app, as the in-crowds communicate amongst themselves and tell each other who to follow, and that, too, is part of how Snapchat maintains their exclusive feel. But the problem with that approach, at least from a brand perspective, is, as noted, it can be hard to allocate significant spend on content that only exists for a short amount of time.
This is why the ability to directly link to Snapchat content and drive traffic to your Snapchat profile is important. With the ability to use your other social properties to boost snap exposure, Snapchat content becomes more viable, even more valuable, as users will be able to entice more people across to their Snapchat channels with daily updates and one-click access.
From Snapchat's perspective, these additions are also highly beneficial - easier linking means more users will be putting more effort into getting users to come over and check out their snap content. As they do, Snapchat gets a chance to win more audience, with more visitors coming across and being exposed to what the platform has to offer.
The low-key release of these announcements somewhat belies their significance and importance in the wider scheme of the platform's evolution into something more than just a disappearing content app. What'll be particularly interesting will be to see how Snapchat's visitor numbers are impacted over the next six months as a result, and which referring domains become more prominent in the app's traffic rankings. The most likely outcome will be that overall traffic will rise, but more specifically, traffic from social apps and links to branded Snapchat accounts will see a big boost.
By now everyone in social knows about Snapchat and the hold it has over Millennial audiences, it's no secret that it's driving attention amongst certain groups and has a strong foothold with the next generation of digital consumers. What's interesting is seeing how the app develops and grows into a wider presence - and Snapchat's doing this is through small, seemingly innocuous updates like these, minor developments with much bigger potential than they seem. Snapchat's not grabbing at attention by releasing hundreds of UX updates and changes, they're not pushing out features in order to stay front of mind. Snapchat's evolving through regular and significant developments like this, changes that evolve the service incrementally, without disrupting their core fan base. They may seem small, but they're important, and the regularity and pace of such updates is equally relevant in this regard.
It's worth paying attention and seeing the longer term impacts of their gradual and incremental functionality shifts.
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