Since the launch of Instagram Stories in August 2016, Snapchat’s run into stagnating growth, a successful IPO followed by tumbling stock prices, and plenty of criticism about its treatment of creators on the platform. Now lagging far behind Instagram Stories in daily users (DAUs), with just 166 million DAUs to Instagram’s more than 250 million, the question of whether or not Snapchat is dying has become more urgent: Is Snapchat, as an influencer channel, dead?
While it may remain popular with younger users who use it to communicate with friends and follow the influencers who remain on the platform, Mediakix found that top Snapchat influencers are posting 25% more on Instagram Stories. As creators become frustrated with Snapchat’s lack of support for top creators, its uneven performance, and missing tools, it seems likely that Snapchat’s mass exodus to Instagram Stories may well continue.
UPDATE 8/31/2017 — Snapchat has buckled under the pressure of its content creators, finally implementing a new verification tool for celebrities, social media influencers, bands, and sports teams. The platform’s “Official Stories” will give verified accounts a couple of new perks: 1. a unique emoji on the right of the handle, 2. customized filters for special occasions, 3. a collaborator feature which allows multiple people to add or remove snaps on an account, 4. live attribution on Live Stories and most importantly 5. better discovery. Official accounts will be suggested in the drop-down search box making it easier to search and follow those accounts.
Snapchat is continually adding “top creators” as verified accounts. However, as the number of emojis dwindle with increasing verified accounts, so do the number of opportunities to become verified. Those looking to capture the coveted status should know one thing for sure: Snapchat is not using follower count as a sole determinant of account verification. Snap is allegedly choosing accounts on a case-by-case basis, giving Official Stories some semblance of exclusivity.
Snapchat has been losing popularity in the past months since the launch of influencer-friendly Instagram Stories, so wooing top content creators is a solid first step to regaining relevance. Snapchat’s interest in its community’s thoughts is crucial to its success as a social media platform. As it grows its content tools, marketers should be on the lookout for influencer analytics and measurement tools in the future.
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Most forms of social media rely on the strength of the content on their platforms to attract and retain users. Users are spending more than 5 years of their lives on social media (if not significantly more for certain demographics). Without good, compelling, diverse, varied content, platforms may languish and die, regardless of the quality of their interfaces.
Creators are key to that content draw, and engaging experiences are key to keeping users on a platform. While social media may be, at least in part, purpose-built for connecting people who know each other offline, the raison d’être has evolved over time. Many social media users today are looking to discover, learn, and engage with new people and content. If the best creators are on other platforms, users will be, too.
If Snapchat recognizes the importance of creators, it doesn’t have a great track record of doing right by influencers. Numerous creators have come forward, telling publications like Digiday, the Los Angeles Times, and BuzzFeed how unhappy they are with the lack of support they’ve received from Snapchat. Where platforms like Instagram and YouTube have forged bonds with influencers, creating open dialogues for feedback and optimization, Snapchat has directed a fair amount of indifference toward some influencers.
There are still a number of influencers on Snapchat who are creating for large audiences and maintaining relationships with Snap. But with eroding relations between Snap and influencers, it’s difficult to know how much longer that’ll continue.
Snap isn’t the first social media platform that’s failed to recognize the value of influencers. Long before Vine officially shuttered in 2016, creators made their frustrations with the platform known. In failing to support and invest in its top content creators, Vine saw many of its influencers abandoning it for other platforms and taking audiences with them. The same thing seems to be happening with Snapchat. Whether or not its fate (or fall) will be reminiscent of Vine’s remains to be seen.
Related Post: 5 Reasons Why Influencers Are Leaving Snapchat
Creators have no shortage of grievances when it comes to Snapchat, and their sticking points include everything from spotty performance to the noticeable lack of a verification tool for large and notable users. Making sure that creators have the tools they need is a core component of supporting a healthy influencer ecosystem, but that doesn’t seem to be Snapchat’s goal.
After rebranding as a camera company, it’s difficult to know what, exactly, Snap’s plans for the future are. Those who use the app every day, though, are becoming frustrated with a lack of sophisticated publishing tools and metrics that give creators insight into their audiences and their performance. Influencers are also looking for the discoverability and verification tools that platforms like help creators on Instagram and Twitter grow their audiences.
Even more central for influencers, though, is the lack of acceptance around the partnerships between brands and influencers on the platform. Snapchat, unlike Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook, lacks features and tools that facilitate partnering with brands.
Thus far, Snapchat hasn’t established itself as a platform that’s friendly or conducive to influencer marketing and is, instead, emphasizing its ad management tools for brands as the primary method for advertising on the platform.
Limiting advertisers’ options, though, however seemingly lucrative in the short term, may prove short-sighted.
Audiences go where the content is. And while a Snapchat product management executive might have told influencer Sarah Peretz that, “Snapchat is an app for friends, not creators,” it seems likely that many users are looking for both. As influencers like Sallia Goldstein see between 500 and 1,000 followers come to Instagram with every promotion on Snapchat encouraging users to follow her on Instagram, it’s not as if followings on Snapchat are being abandoned — they’re just moving.
In failing to invest in and support an influencer ecosystem on the platform, Snapchat won’t just lose influencers — it’ll lose fans, too. Users want to be where the people are, and though Snapchat has managed to hold on to tepid growth post-Instagram Stories, there’s a noticeable shift in attention. If Instagram succeeds in becoming the ultimate home for visual content online, there will be few practical reasons for users to continue committing time and energy to a platform with fewer opportunities.
For now, Snapchat is managing to hold on to its core user base — a largely younger demographic that’s interested in sharing Snaps and Stories with friends who are still active on the platform. But as Snapchat’s top influencers post more on Instagram Stories and Snapchat’s influencer prowess fades, it’s difficult to know how much longer Snapchat’s community can continue to thrive.