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Snapchat Evolved: New User Experience & The Massive Business Behind Snapchat Memories

  • By Andy Ash
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Snapchat Evolved: New User Experience & The Massive Business Behind Snapchat Memories

To the Snapchat purist, the launch of Memories may have come as a disappointment. But as a social media influencer, online marketer, business in today’s economy, or for that matter Snapchat themselves, this launch is pure gold.

Snapchat Memories represents a huge pivot in Snapchat’s core functionality and overall appeal, so the initial backlash comes as no surprise. However, behind Snapchat’s move is much more than meets the eye. Like the many successful evolutions before it, the focus of Snapchat Memories is the same thing: Attention.

To understand exactly what’s going on, we need to start by looking at Snapchat and the economy around it. Today the possibility of living our dream is clearer than ever. Every day, as we scroll through our countless social platforms, we see new D-list celebrities riding their microfame to easy livin’ and cold hard cash. The era of the social media influencer is only just beginning. Anyone has the same access to the world as the media giants before us, meaning our dream job is quite literally at our fingertips- if only we can find a way to get people to look. Where eyeballs go, money flows.

Okay, let’s get philosophical real quick by understanding the function of attention, and then we can get down to brass tacks→ why exactly Snapchat is about to explode and what we can expect to see.

ATTENTION:

We possess no instrument more powerful than our attention: That’s why everybody wants it. This is the attention economy and we’re all in the game whether we like it or not. Today, attention can be payed, sold, bought, and earned. To be a real player you must master both your focus and your self-awareness. Limitless access to information brings with it limitless opportunity- but the only ones cashing in on the new currency of attention are the ones that can control their own.

So what does Snapchat have to do with all of this? Simple.

SNAPCHAT SCREAMS ATTENTION!

And for that reason, it is primed for success. 

Snapchat is the hottest social platform right now- it is changing how we even think about social media. These guys are not romantic about what they have and are making successful evolution after successful evolution, forcing all other platforms to evolve themselves. Yet for some reason, businesses have remained hesitant to recognize its value.

Snapchat is the only platform that guarantees that when a user is consuming content, it is the only thing they are viewing. Content on snapchat covers the user's entire screen and is gone only seconds later. If we do not pay attention, we miss it. So when a user clicks to view, they are ready to pay attention.

Aside from Snapchat’s built in one on one chat, content comes primarily in the form of public stories which are seen chronologically. Stories themselves are how we as human beings learn and understand, so seeing them in this way increases our ability to pay attention, and in turn our depth of understanding and depth of relationship with the creator.

Until now, Snapchat’s platform has been purely about authenticity and one-to-one exchanges. It was the breath of fresh air in a carefully curated online world. Snaps had to be taken directly from the app and shared in real time with no tools for editing other than basic filters and text overlays (and some pretty hilarious face lenses). It was spontaneous and transient, and that made it stand out from the rest.

While Snapchat Memories certainly represents a shift in user experience, much of this feel will remain. Unlike other platforms Snapchat is still what we can call judgement free. The number of viewers on any given Snapchat Story can only be seen by the account owner. There are no obscurities caused by likes or fake followers. Whether or not you can actually comment on a story is up to the storyteller, but either way, these interactions can only occur via one-on-one messaging rather than public displays. This means there is little to no appeal for trolls or negativity in the app. As users, we consume what we want, when we want, and without the need for social proof we decide whether or not we actually like something.

Awesome right?

Now let’s talk about what exactly will change.

-Users, Brands, Influencers, And Content Creators- Here is what Snapchat Memories means for you:

Brands and Big Businesses:

From a content marketing standpoint, Snapchat Memories is a dream. Memories allows for a more ad friendly environment and the ability to upload polished content makes using the platform easier and safer than ever.

If you and your brand are not on Snapchat yet, you will be soon. And if you’re a really big brand with a large advertising budget not yet on Snapchat, I recommend some serious consultation ASAP. But I digress. The transition to Snapchat Memories means brands no longer have to have a snapchat manager on 24/7 as you can create your content outside the app and upload as you please. You or your team can craft and edit your stories on your own time and much of the content you are already creating for other platforms can now be repurposed for Snapchat.

For the brands already on Snapchat, you can expect at least some curated, designed, and branded content similar to what you see on Snapchat Discover created by designers and video editors. Of course the challenge will be to craft content that remains present and engaging as the feel of the feed transforms from entirely native content. It will likely be the individual content creators and influencers who first find the right blend of live and curated content as they lead the charge in the shifting user experience. If you don’t know what to do, follow them first.

For the moment though, I’m less concerned about big businesses. Their arrival to Snapchat was inevitable with or without the Memories update. For the user, all that’s important here is that they are coming to the platform sooner rather than later.

Influencers, Content Creators & Personal Users:

It still boggles my mind how few influencers have made the push to Snapchat. But that will change, fast. Snapchat Memories is HUGE for influencers.

Okay. First the bad news, then the amazing news.

Whether intended or not, the Snapchat Memories update is a play to make Snapchat more valuable and easier to use for existing social media influencers, thus pulling them to the platform. This is where it gets truly interesting and we find what has been at the core of the user backlash surrounding the update. While I am happy to see some influencers joining the platform, Memories was just the right move to bring the worst types of influencers over, and with them Snapchat’s real end game- tons of new users. Now even though you haven’t seen many of them yet because of Snapchat’s lack of native discovery, don’t be fooled into thinking a few aren't already here. But either way, thousands and thousands more are coming. Who am I talking about you ask?….The guys who just don’t give a damn. Now I’m making up these names on the spot but I’m certain I'll come pretty close to their actual handles. You may know them on Instagram with usernames like GreatVines, BestVidz, or FunnyViral. Or even worse, the ones that always arrive first, the accounts rightly referred to in the industry as the “baddie” niche. Accounts like Girlsdaily, TwerkTube, or the real oxymoron ElegantBabes. Pictures of half naked girls were among the first to explode the paid shoutout market on Instagram and it’s no surprise they are making moves on Snapchat now. Nude accounts are already running rampant and ad sales are cruising right on with them.

These are the type of people who have amassed large followings on other networks by ripping off creators (or clothes) and curating virality. Most don’t create anything and will sell ads without a care in the world for what they are promoting. Money in their pockets and time on their hands…to the top they go. Memories just gave them reason to push their followings to Snapchat as they can now passively upload their bootlegged and overplayed content, do the bare minimum amount of work, and build another massive space for ad revenue.

At the end of the day though, it’s up to us whether or not we let them grow and it is certainly my hope that we choose to reward creators rather than curators. However, please pardon me if I have little faith, but my cynicism has proven time and again to be one of my greatest business assets. Expect to see the words “email me for credit” or “no copyright intended” as these marketers rake in the dollars from others’ work…

Yepp. Exciting stuff. But enough with that. Let’s talk about the good news.

Snapchat Memories just changed the game for content creators- And it’s absolutely awesome. Prior to the update, if users wanted to upload a photo as part of their Story, it had to be taken within the app. Now a user can upload any photo or video they want.

However if we’re being completely honest, many top snapchatters were already gaming the system. From using jailbroken phones to upload content, to perfectly shooting snaps of a computer screen as it hosts a video they edited. They make it appear real time, but it’s not. Now, content creators can get away from this practice as it makes more sense to do a simple upload within Memories- unless of course continued deception proves more valuable for whatever reason. Regardless, we will get to see more content creators start creatively playing with new ways to tell stories.

One such creator is our very own Alex Goldsmith. On his Snapchat account GoldsmithTV, Alex has already begun this process and is currently carving out an entirely new niche on the platform. Each morning, Alex uploads a new comedy sketch through Snapchat Memories, and then in the evening he does live snaps and mini sketches relating to the story he just shared. In this way, he is able to produce content similar to a YouTuber, then immediately interact with his audience. This creates the kind of highly immersive experience between creator and consumer that is capable of producing relationships of far greater depth than any other platform.

This level of interaction is sure to attract many new content creators to Snapchat to craft stories whose style, I imagine, will be blend of what we see on YouTube & Vine, while maintaining elements of Snapchat’s narrative form. Below are a few more variations of the idea to produce highly engaging content depending on your niche and style.

  • Show behind the scenes content creation as it’s happening via live snaps, and then release the content itself via memories when it’s completed.
  • Share your story in real time via live snaps, then share an edited highlight real of the experience the following day or week via memories.
  • For current storytellers sharing their lives or some type of ongoing experience can also use memories in these ways to enliven their narrative:
    • Upload your old snaps as flashbacks when they relate to your current situation.
    • Create fake flashbacks as a joke to help tell your story or demonstrate what’s going on your head.
    • Intertwine curated content of any kind between snaps to better express the experience. 

REMEMBER AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS ARTICLE I SAID I SAW THE UPDATE COMING? HERE'S HOW:

If the top Snapchat Influencers were gaming the system and sharing stories in ways different from the app's intended design, why wouldn't Snapchat adjust?

With the idea ingrained in my mind, I reached out to an old friend of mine, Alex Goldsmith and told him what I saw coming. He was just the talent to lead the next wave of Snapchat. Feeling a unique blend of both doubt and certainty, we went all in, building sketch after sketch and knowing all too well that our vertical video content wouldn’t be suited for any other platform. Snapchat had to evolve… And it did.

Since Snapchat began, it has captivated the attention of its users. A photo sharing application originally garnering its appeal for sending ephemeral content. Packaged and sold with the sweet smell of sex- it took its initial leap into our minds and lives as a way to share dirty or otherwise private pictures without the fear of them going further than their intended recipient.

But this bit of success was only the beginning. Evolution after evolution, Snapchat has grown into the giant it is today. With each new update, users and critics would predict its downfall only to end up falling in love and spending more time on the platform. And through it all, Snapchat never lost its sexy appeal (See the Memories launch video).

Snapchat has shown us a whole new way to communicate online by talking in pictures and videos rather than just words. In real time, it provides us with multiple perspectives on events happening around the world, giving us a more in depth experience than any number of tweets or any one media company could possibly provide. With this and the curated content found in the Discover feeds, Snapchat has become a primary news source for millennials around the world. To top it all off, Snapchat is leading the charge in Augmented Reality and its ad campaigns continue to produce ROIs vastly greater than rival platforms. 

With all the bells and whistles, it was time to make a play. For Snapchat to continue to grow and reach the largest possible audience for the maximum amount of time, uploading non-native content was a perfect next move. Snapchat is not romantic about its platform and never has been. Until now, Snapchat’s moves have focused primarily on depth. However, with all that it's currently holding it was only a matter of time before they scaled for width... and it was user preference that showed them exactly how to do it. My prediction: The company will continue to evolve, likely past mobile-only, until it reaches market penetration only matched by the likes of Facebook. However, the future of social is ultimately still in our hands.

Everything we watch, everything we read, every link we click, every page we scroll, every post we write, every follow, every retweet, every share, every like- they all matter. And they matter a whole fucking lot. In a digital world, everything is counted and numbers rule. Where there is information and where there is access, there is someone looking to use it.

We don’t even realize it yet but as a collective user base, we voted on this update to Memories. By giving the most attention to those gaming the system, we showed Snapchat exactly the type of stories we wanted. Snapchat simply gave us what we asked for.

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