By Mallie Rust, Marketing & Content Coordinator at josieahlquist.com
I admit I’ve never been totally sold on Snapchat. I know, sounds totally crazy for a college student not to be into Snapchat, but I promise that it’s not just because I didn’t get enough views on my snap story. While I definitely enjoy some of the features, my work as an advertising student and Josie’s content/marketing coordinator has me skeptical of their monetization model. Snapchat’s post-IPO attempts to become more advertiser-friendly fly directly in the face of what drew users to the app in the first place, and their latest update just proves my point.
The Update Heard ‘Round the World
Earlier this month, Snapchat rolled out a new update that dropped the app’s Stories page in favor of a new “Friends” page. It was a move intended to make Snapchat easier to use, but it mostly made users angry. On the day of the update, I woke up to an all-caps “WTF IS WRONG WITH SNAPCHAT” text from my sister.
Full disclosure: I haven’t actually had Snapchat installed on my phone since November. After I got that text from my sister, I started looking around for more information and opinions from the people who were actually affected by the update. My friends use Snapchat way more often than I do, so of course, they were more than happy to tell me exactly how much they hated the new update and why. Their frustrations include not being able to easily watch their friends’ snap stories, the fact that it’s harder than ever to reply to snaps, and yes, the huge drop in snap story views. I feel like my friend Annabelle summed up the whole mess perfectly:
“It’s a whole ordeal to send a text snap to someone. I can’t just swipe left on their name anymore.”
The new app layout took what was simple and made it into an overcomplicated ordeal. My friends aren’t alone in feeling that way; you can see plenty of tweets echoing their sentiments:
I legit have not watched a single snapchat story since the update… I’m sorry snap, but you’re done 😔
— Sam (@SamGolbach) March 7, 2018
I hate how the new snapchat update makes you view famous people’s stories. Like I have to sit through and watch the bits I’ve already seen again if they post something new. Like seriouslyI just wanna see the new bit I don’t wanna watch Kim Kardashian’s 2 hour long story 5 times.
— Evie Clark (@LovevieX) March 5, 2018
i usually don’t mind updates but wow this snapchat update is the worst thing ever created. instagram stories here i COME pic.twitter.com/NiN1pSfVZo
— cassie (@thisgirlcassie) February 7, 2018
There’s even a million-signature strong petition to revert the changes!
Unfortunately for disgruntled users, the Snap CEO Evan Spiegel isn’t backing down. The CEO stated the following at Goldman Sach’s Internet and Technology conference: “We’re excited about what we’re seeing so far,” Spiegel said. “The best part is that even some of the complaints we’re seeing reinforce the philosophy [behind the design].” It’s a bold statement from the company, especially considering that almost 80% of all tweets about Snapchat post-update are negative according to a study from social analysts at Likefolio.
I can’t predict what the future has in store for Snapchat, but I can see three major things marketers can learn from the response to Snapchat’s latest update right now.
1. User experience matters
The number one complaint about the Snapchat update is that it fundamentally changed the user experience of the app basically without warning. Snapchat was already known for being difficult to use as a new user, and this update confused long-time users and Snapchat influencers. In an attempt to appeal to advertisers, the app lost sight of what attracted users in the first place.
Contrast that with Instagram stories. Their design is simple and intuitive, and that’s attracted a lot of former Snapchat diehards who crave Snapchat’s formerly unique features without all the clutter. For a more in-depth breakdown of the Instagram Stories UX vs. Snapchat’s UX, UX Planet wrote an excellent piece on Medium.
One of the first places consumers go for information is your website, which makes it the perfect place to start improving your UX. Take a look at your company or institution’s website and note how many clicks it takes to get to the most important page. The more clicks there are, the more chances there are for people to just ditch the process entirely. There’s one big UX rule of thumb that marketers should adhere to for all of their content: don’t make your potential customers work any harder than they absolutely have to get to the good stuff!
The University of Maryland admissions website is a great example of the kind of user experience you should strive to create. The design is simple and navigation is clear and straightforward, helping users find what they need quickly and without too much hassle.
2. Social platforms evolve constantly, so should your strategy
For many marketers who have been focusing on Snapchat, the news about users leaving the platform in droves is more than a little bit nerve-wracking. The unfortunate truth is that social media platforms are focused on making changes that benefit their bottom line, not necessarily ones that benefit yours.
That doesn’t just go for Snapchat. Facebook’s recent algorithm update is another great example of how updates impact strategy. Companies like Medium were forced to completely overhaul their strategies after experiencing huge drops in engagement and revenue. Publisher LittleThings even completely shut down in the wake of the new algorithm!
When you’re developing your social media strategy, design it to be flexible. As soon as you start to hear rumors of algorithm changes, go back to your strategy and start brainstorming the ways you might need to adjust it. Don’t let current success make you blind to changes that will significantly impact your content’s performance.
It’s all about constant campaign optimization, and the social team at Newcastle University has an amazing approach. Matt Horne tracks Newcastle University’s social media every month and comes up with three key takeaways that will inform new strategic initiatives. He’s even got an insight on the Snapchat update!
3. Platforms shouldn’t be your main focus, quality content should
While I don’t think Snapchat’s situation is so dire that it’ll disappear tomorrow, I’ve had my doubts about the longevity of the platform since their IPO. There was so much hype surrounding Snapchat, but hype doesn’t always equal success. Remember Meerkat, the darling of SXSW 2015? It only lasted a year and a half before shutting down.
There’s no guarantee that the social media platforms you use today will even exist tomorrow. There is one thing that you can guarantee though: quality content will thrive no matter what platform it’s on. It can be difficult to define what exactly makes content “quality,” but the Content Marketing Institute has some killer resources to help boost your content quality.
Now, that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore platforms when creating your content. After all, a high-quality LinkedIn post just won’t work as an Instagram post. As you create your content, think about the ways that you can repurpose it for other platforms. Take this infographic that I designed for a past internship, for example:
It started out as a side image in a blog post, but it turned into one of RealMassive’s most engaged-with posts on Instagram the month it was posted. That list in your blog post could turn into a great infographic you can share on Instagram, while a killer twitter thread could be expanded to a full blog post.
Social Media Through a New Lens
The biggest takeaway from all of this is simple: the only constant on social media is change. Successful social media strategists don’t just recognize that, they actively plan for changes and audience shifts. While Instagram-focused social strategies are seeing a huge boost from the droves of Snapchat users jumping to Instagram, there’s already a threat on Instagram’s horizon in the form of Vero, which is basically Instagram minus the annoying feed algorithm.
No matter what the future holds for Snapchat, Instagram, Vero, and the countless other social platforms that will pop up and disappear, hands-on marketers with flexible strategies will be able to weather the changes and thrive.
How does your team deal with ever-changing social media platforms? I’d love to hear your strategies and successes in the comments below! For the latest on digital engagement and leadership, subscribe to Dr. Ahlquist’s Digital Leadership Download here or complete the form below!
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