Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

3 Takeaways from Snapchat's Dramatic Update

3 Takeaway's from Snapchat's Dramatic Update Header
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:


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.
UM admissions Website

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:
https://www.instagram.com/p/BHCvt7KA7ci/?taken-by=realmassivecre
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!

Subscribe to Josie’s Digital Leadership Download

* indicates required






If you’re ready to connect with your campus, you’ll love this BRAND NEW resource that I’ve created called Get Connected: The Social Media Guide for Campus Leaders.
This guide shares the latest usage of young adults of social media and how campus leaders can genuinely connect with their campus community.
[button link=”https://www.josieahlquist.com//getconnectedguide/”]Request your free copy[/button]

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Share this post!

You may also like...

Person holding a smartphone with both hands, smiling, visible from the nose down, set against a coral background with text overlay reading "SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER SUMMER GUIDE - A Survival Kit for Higher Ed Social Media Managers" and a logo stating "Dr. Josie Ahlquist, purpose-driven digital leadership.

Summer Social Media Manager Guide

Summer’s here, but the pressure to deliver outstanding social media results isn’t taking a break. Whether you’re part of a team or a team of one, I want you to know you’re not in this alone.

Read More »
Blue and pink graphic highlighting fifteen next-gen higher education women.

NextGen Higher Ed: 15 Women Shaping the Future of Marketing and Communications

A new generation of women is poised to lead the charge in the ever-evolving landscape of higher education marketing and communications. 

This post spotlights 15 remarkable women who are the next wave of higher ed marketing and communications leaders. Prepare to be empowered, informed, and inspired.

Read More »

Chapman University’s Transformative Social Media Strategy in Residence Life

This post serves as a case study, exploring how social media strategies can be tailored and optimized to meet the unique needs of residence life, and showcasing the tangible impact on community engagement and program success.

Within this case study, we look at how Tim Alexander, a previous Digital Community Cohort participant and Resident Director at Chapman University, utilized DigiCohort tools to grow Chapman’s residence life community both online and in-person.

Read More »

Subscribe to my newsletter

For the latest on digital engagement and leadership and everywhere they intersect.

Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

Connect with Rebekah

Spark your mission on social media

Sign up for the Digital Leadership Download

The newsletter that brings the latest in digital engagement and leadership right to your inbox

Unsubscribe anytime. Read our Privacy Policy.

Sign up for the Digital Leadership Download

The newsletter that brings the latest in digital engagement and leadership right to your inbox

Unsubscribe anytime. Read our Privacy Policy.