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Social media marketing is now the most effective way for brands to reach large audiences, and Snapchat is fast-becoming the marketing platform of choice for today’s most innovative companies. To help both marketers and everyday Snapchat users understand the app’s evolution, viral growth, and popularity, we look back at the innovations—both in terms of new features and the expansion of Snapchat ads and advertising—that grew the ephemeral message app from a simple idea to a $20 billion company in just five short years.
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Snapchat’s founders Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy meet at Stanford University. While hanging out at their fraternity house, Spiegel and Murphy conceive the idea for a photo messaging app that will immediately erase any photos a user sends.
Spiegel reveals his idea for Snapchat in his product design class at Stanford. According to Spiegel, his classmates called the app “a terrible idea.” (Forbes)
Snapchat launches from Spiegel’s father’s living room. Originally named “Picaboo,” the photo-sharing messaging app is only available on iOS.
After learning from his daughter that Snapchat is one of the most popular free apps for teens, Barry Eggers, the managing director at the venture capital firm Lightspeed Ventures, invests $485,000 in the company (Tech Crunch)
Snapchat is released on Android and unveils video-sharing functionality. In an interview, Evan Spiegel’s conveys his future plans for monetization: “We didn’t think we were ever going to raise venture capital so we were planning very early on to generate a revenue plan.” (Tech Crunch)
Snapchat receives $13.5 million in Series A funding from Benchmark Capital, setting Snapchat’s valuation at $60–$70 million. With the app’s popularity skyrocketing—more than 60 million photos/videos are sent using Snapchat each day—agile brands begin experimenting with Snapchat to develop marketing and promotional campaigns (New York Times).
Taco Bell becomes the first U.S. brand to conduct a meaningful Snapchat campaign; the fast-food company offers to reveal a “secret announcement” (the introduction of a new menu item) to any social media users who start following Taco Bell on Snapchat.
Related Post: A Brand Guide To Advertising On Snapchat [Infographic]
Snapchat’s valuation reaches about $800 million after raising an $80 Series B investment.
Acura launches NSX supercar Snapchat campaign. The campaign offers a behind-the-scenes look at the supercar to the first 100 users to add Acura on Snapchat.
Snapchat launches a groundbreaking new feature, “Stories,” which allows users to stitch separate Snaps together to form one cohesive narrative. Unlike individual Snaps, which disappear immediately after viewing and, Stories remain on the app for 24 hours. Stories can also be viewed by a user’s entire friends list, thus paving the way for the creation of Snapchat ads capable of reaching large audiences (The Verge).
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg presents Spiegel with a $3B offer to buy Snapchat. Spiegel declines Facebook’s offer.
Snapchat receives $50M in Series C financing from Coatue Management. Snapchat reveals updates to the app, including a feature that allows users to replay one Snapchat Snap each day and the ability to add “smart filters” (text, emojis, and other information) over Snapchat images and videos.
Snapchat releases a new feature, Geofilters, which allows users to access customizable filters (i.e. Snap overlays) based on their location.
“Live Stories,” a new feature which stitches Snapchat users’ content from a specific place, event, or experience into one cohesive Snapchat Story, are made available. Earliest Live Stories, which Time magazine calls “real-time, crowdsourced documentaries,” include those for New York City, the iHeartRadio Music Festival, and the NBA Playoffs. One month later, Snapchat begins using push notifications to promote new Live Stories.
The first native Snapchat ad, a trailer for the movie “Ouija,” is published under the app’s “Recent Updates” section. Just like any other Story, the advertisement disappears after 24 hours.
Snapchat releases “Snapcash,” a new feature that allows Snapchat users to send money to friends within the app. Marketers predict that users will eventually be able to use Snapcash to purchase items directly through Snapchat.
Discover, a new feature that allows Snapchat users to view Stories from mainstream publications like CNN, Vice, Yahoo News, Comedy Cental, National Geographic, Daily Mail, ESPN, Food Network, and Cosmopolitan, is launched. The format of Discover opens the door for brands to integrate Snapchat ads within a publication’s daily Story (much like television advertisements appear throughout a TV show).
Brand advertisements begin appearing in the “Live Stories” section of Snapchat as companies are given the opportunity to sponsor content. Innovative brands create Snapchat ads designed specifically for vertical screens.
Related Post: A Marketer’s Guide To The Best Brands On Snapchat
Snapchat ads continue to expand with the launch of new sponsored Geofilters. Global brands like Mcdonald’s and General Electric immediately develop and launch filters for Snapchat users to integrate into their personal Snaps.
Developers alter Snapchat’s software so users no longer have to hold a finger on the screen to view Snaps or Stories. The change made the app more conducive to video viewing, particularly when users were viewing Snapchat ads.
Snapchat releases Lenses, a facial recognition feature designed to boost user engagement and time spent on the app. The innovation is an immediate success, and brands immediately see the potential in using “augmented reality” features to promote their products and services.
Related Post: The Future Of Virtual Reality Advertising
The first sponsored Snapchat Lens goes live for The Peanuts Movie.
Snapchat launches “on-demand” Geofilters, which lets brands design and purchase their own branded Geofilter to use at company offices or for events.
Snapchat launches Snapchat Partners, a new program designed to integrate advertisements between a user’s friend’s Snapchat Stories. Brands to experiment with this new form of Snapchat ads include Hollister, Warner Bros., and Verizon.