Remember how Instagram teased brands with a new option to add links to websites within Stories content back in November?
Originally, only verified users had access, but that option is becoming more widely available - now, verified users and business profiles with more than 10k followers can also use it. But still, those are fairly restrictive requirements, especially since it's not possible to request verification.
But now, Snapchat might have one-upped its Facebook-owned rival. From this week, as part of their latest update, Snapchat is allowing all users to add links to their Snaps.
You can link out to websites on snaps now pic.twitter.com/71xKB0oRjk- Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) July 5, 2017
Here's how it works - when composing your Snap, you click on the new paperclip option, added to the right hand vertical tools list.
Once you click, you'll be able to enter a URL you want to link to - it'll load in the preview, then you press 'Attach to Snap'. When sent, the recipient will see a link option at the bottom of screen, prompting them to swipe up, taking them through to that link.
You can add links to Snaps you send to individual users, or those which are included in your Stories, greatly expanding the functionality of the app - particularly from a marketing perspective.
One of the key marketing issues with Snapchat, and with Instagram, has been the limitation on driving direct traffic, with no way to link people back to your owned properties. On Instagram, outside of the aforementioned links in Stories, you only have one link to utilize, within your profile, as you can't add active links to post captions. They have also teased their coming Shopping Tags, which add direct links within the image itself (and which they may soon be utilizing in partnership with Nike), but thus far there's been no word on a broader roll-out.
For their part, Snapchat added 'deep linking' back in 2015 to make it easier for publishers, specifically, to drive direct traffic the other way, to their Snap content, while more recently they've added new discovery tools like Search and Snap Maps which can help boost brand exposure within the app/ But the ability to add links is a significant upgrade for businesses looking to make best use of the platform - now, you can create a preview Snap for a post or offer, share it with your Snap followers, and give them a direct link to the relevant page, driving traffic.
For those brands that are seeing success on Snapchat, in using the app to connect with their audiences, this will be a huge boost, while for those who aren't currently using Snap and may have considered it, now they have even more incentive to do so - and more measures through which to track their results.
Of course, giving people the ability to add links also opens the network up to spammers, which Snapchat does have some counter-measures for.
As noted by TechCrunch:
Snapchat will also display a preview of the link in a pop-up next to the 'Swipe Up' arrow to help users avoid clicking through on questionable links.
In addition to links in Snaps, Snapchat's also added a couple of new creative tools to hold user interest.
The first is Backdrops, which lets you identify objects within an image then add a colorful background to give it a new spin.
It's fairly easy to use, and it looks kind of cool - but then again, I did see something similar on Facebook, posted by Mark Zuckerberg this week.
The backdrop is a little flickery, but it's one of the latest additions to Facebook's Camera tools, which is very similar to Snap's backdrops. Except, on Facebook, you can use it on video - on Snapchat, backdrops are only currently available for still images.
The other new option is Voice Filters, which are now available as a separate item. Up till now, you've been able to change your voice via certain Lenses, but Snap's making it available as a standalone tool within the composer.
As you can see from the image, tap on the speaker option at the bottom right and you'll get a listing of voice options to choose from.
As with the recent additions of their Magic Eraser and real world 3D object tools, Snap continues to show that it can innovate and come up with new creative options, tools which will no doubt resonate with their audience. The problem for Snapchat, of course, is that Facebook can - and will - copy them. No one doubt's Snap's ability to remain cutting edge, the challenge lies in being able to scale and expand their audience enough to become a serious competitor in the revenue stakes.
This is why Snapchat's working hard to add new advertising and revenue options, to demonstrate that it's more than just a 'cool' app, that they can actually monetize their audience. But thus far, that remains to be seen, and if Facebook keeps stealing their features then rolling them out to global markets - many of which where Snapchat basically has no presence - that will make it very hard for Snap Inc. to lean on their innovative nous to get a foothold and grow their audience, as Facebook will have already beat them to it, making it harder to motivate users to switch across.
That's not to say Snapchat can't win out, I don't think anyone's willing to wholly bet against Evan Spiegel and Co. and their capacity to understand their audience. But it's a very tough road to take.
The introduction of links is a big deal for brands. Now we wait and see how long it takes Instagram to follow suit.