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“Snapchat has reached a critical mass,” YouTuber and Snapchat star Casey Neistat told technology research firm Gigom’s Carmel DiAmicis in a recent interview. “They’ve grown up. They’re up there with the big boys now, they’re in the Twitter and Instagram space.” Snapchat’s growth—the platform now claims close to 200 million active users, according to Business Insider—and mass appeal, especially among younger audiences, has made the disappearing photo and video app the social media platform of the hour, but both tech analysts and marketers looking to take advantage of Snapchat’s burgeoning advertising capabilities are wondering how dominant the vanishing photo and video app will become. Considering its rapid growth and distinct advantages over YouTube, does Snapchat actually pose a threat to the Google-owned video behemoth?
Snapchat may have started as a way for young users to send lascivious content that would be erased from existence seconds after it was received, but the launch of socially-driven of innovations like Stories (which lets users stitch together a string of photos and videos over a 24-hour period) has helped the app shed its somewhat niched image and evolve into far more than just a trendy messaging platform. Today, Snapchat has become the best way for both Snapchatters (the term used to describe the platform’s most popular content creators) and ordinary users to create, share, and engage with videos on their mobile devices.
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The ability for anyone with a Smartphone to create and publish videos is not the only advantage Snapchat has over the video-platform incumbent, YouTube. According to Forbes’ Ellen Huet, the ephemeral nature of Snapchat’s content creates a sense of urgency and increases engagement by forcing users to check the app before the Snapchat Stories published by their friends, celebrities, or Snapchat stars disappear forever. This immediacy, Snapchat believes, makes the app’s relatively new advertising platforms enticing for brands who want to capture the attention of the much-coveted 18- to 24-year-old demographic and, because audiences must hold down a button to watch each Story, Snapchat can all-but-guarantee that users who see ads or sponsored content are 100% engaged.
While Snapchat’s early growth has been notable, the app’s ability to attract brands and brand sponsorships (and thus monetize through advertising) will likely be the determining factor in how legitimately it will be able to compete with established social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook. The “Discovery” feature and branded filters offer companies one way to target Snapchat’s engaged audiences. Global brands like Disney, McDonalds, and Major League Baseball have all found success collaborating with Snapchat stars like Jerome Jarre and Shaun “Shonduras” McBride to develop brand-sponsored content or perform Snapchat Takeovers of brand channels.
Snapchat may be the most talked-about platform in social media right now, but it’s unlikely that the disappearing photo and video app will replace YouTube anytime soon. More likely is that Snapchat will continue to grow by filling the need for both social media stars and ordinary users to share genuine, stripped-down scenes from everyday life and, if monetized correctly, will remain a viable way for both content creators/celebrities and marketers to connect with audiences for years to come.