Snapchat's growth strategy can be summed up in two, rather fitting words: short and sweet.
As a social network, they've grown their audience significantly since launching in 2011 - the app has more than 150 million daily users, who spend an average of 25-30 minutes on the app every day. As mentioned, they've done this by keeping their messaging options short. Messages have a 10 second maximum, and stories disappear within 24 hours. This ephemeral mindset has resonated with its user base - but could it also be the app's achilles heel?
A Shift in Mindset
New updates to the app are signal that the internal mindset at Snapchat is changing.
Where short and fun content has been the norm for the past five years, their latest update shows that they are making a move away from that space - or at least giving users the option to create content that lasts longer. With the introduction of Memories, Snapchat has allowed users to create content that can be saved within the app, and given them the option to share longer videos via a workaround.
Memories can be created from snaps and be shared at a later date as a story or message, meaning that users stories no longer have to be updated in the moment. This is a significant shift away from what we've come to know Snapchat for - being an app that's more about spontaneity than it is about creating the perfect image or video.
In addition, the workaround to add longer videos via Memories is also a important. Long videos shot outside of Snapchat can now be added to a user's story via multiple snaps, marking the first step into longer form content from the app since its inception.
Pressure From a Familiar Foe
It wasn't long after Snapchat announced Memories that we saw Instagram announce its own version of Stories.
The update's very similar to Snapchat's Story feature, giving Instagram users the ability to post short-form content that disappears after 24 hours. Instagram has long been the more permanent photo-sharing social network, and the update puts a lot of pressure on Snapchat going forward. The step into stories may signal that Instagram is interested in updating their messaging platform in the near future, given that Facebook has always been focused on capturing messaging traffic - video or otherwise. If Instagram overhauls its messaging platform to mimic Snapchat as well as they've mimicked their stories, Snapchat could be in a major messaging battle. Instagram's move into ephemeral content seems to be an easier, more natural process than Snapchat's move into eternal content.
It's also important to remember that while Snapchat has long been one of the most forward thinking, fun to use social apps, Instagram is chasing them closely.
One area in which Snapchat has dominated is video filters and Lenses, allowing users to add overlays that turn them into puppy dogs, hippies, old ladies, and even tacos. Nothing yet exists on Instagram that can compete with these features, but Facebook's recent acquisition of MSQRD could be a hint that integration is coming. MSQRD offered users video filters similar to what we see in Snapchat, and its integration into Instagram would up the engagement levels on the app significantly.
It's yet another reason why Snapchat needs to keep innovating to stay a step ahead.
Change is Coming
The pressure is mounting, and Snapchat will likely be tweaking its offering to try to gain the upper hand. More music and video filters will help them maintain their fun-factor, but it would be conceivable to see bigger changes in the near future.
Anyone who's used Snapchat knows first hand that discovery has always been troublesome on the app, and that could well be the first area of overhaul. On Instagram, it's easy to find celebrities and friends to follow - the same cannot be said on Snapchat. Adding a directory could be a way to ensure users are following people they're interested in, increasing their time on the social network.
Additionally, longer form and longer lasting content could also be coming - the introduction of Memories should be a clear sign to everyone that the app does not intend to be ephemeral forever. Longer videos shot in real time would be the next logical step for the app, as they try to steal content and defend their own from their main competitor in the video-messaging space.
Snapchat has long been the leader in ephemeral content, and while they still hold that title, it's clear that they need to adapt and adjust to maintain dominance.
The big guys are coming.