Friday, July 1, 2016

Snapchat's intervention in the future of mobile advertising

What ghost?

Yesterday, Google unveiled what would be the next version of Android which was previously only known as Android N (and also Namey McNameface). Android Nougat is the name of the next big Android release that is slated to be released in the coming weeks. But, that's not what this article is about. It's about Snapchat and how it's changing how mobile advertising is done.


What does Snapchat have to do with the next Android release? Well, this time around, Google did things differently and took the opportunity to unveil Android Nougat through their Snapchat account. A first for Google as far as I know. The news about Android Nougat soon spread out but this is just one of the Snapchat exclusives.

In my opinion Google announced Android Nougat through Snapchat mainly because they wanted to use this opportunity to gain more followers. This is not the first time that Snapchat had an exclusive dibs on a new product. Last year, Burberry showed off their new fashion lineup 24 hours before it hit the runway.

So, it's time to talk about Snapchat.

To be honest, I never understood the need for Snapchat. I just thought it was another Instagram when I came across it 2 years ago. Unlike a lot of people my age, I was never very "in" when it comes to all the social trends like fashion and things that are "LOL" quality and thus I am always missing out on the social trends and only realizing a little late.

I have to be honest, I don't usually follow all the social trends happening and thus I have somewhat to neglected Snapchat. Likewise, I guess there are some people like me which think Snapchat is nothing much of a glorified version of Instagram.
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My journey with Snapchat is somewhat like how I started my first Facebook account. I didn't start it with the need of using it. I was simply following the trend. Only recently that I started using it more often mainly because I was feeling a little misplaced when other people are raging all about Snapchat and I'm just sitting there knowing nothing about it.

In case you don't know what Snapchat is, it is basically a social messaging platform. It probably won't be much of a threat to Facebook or Twitter but it is somewhat of an alternative towards Instagram. The story of how Snapchat was formed is quite interesting and you can read all about it on this Forbes article but basically, the app was conceived in Stanford and has since then risen to popularity due to it's main feature.

That feature is making photos disappear. Once you send a photo or video on Snapchat, it will be gone after 24 hours. The only thing that's left is points that get accumulated to your Snapchat account each time you send a snap.

The exclusivity

The main purpose of the app is to share moments and the model that Snapchat is built upon is very similar to Instagram. You can either share 'snaps' with an individual person or through your 'story' or with all your Snapchat friends. This idea is very similar to how you share images through your Instagram feed and Instagram Direct.

Snaps form the core of Snapchat and they are basically the result of an image or a short 10 second video. The unique part is actually the processing of these 'snaps' where you can customize your images (or short video) with a set of filters which are either static or moving in the case of videos. There's also the option to decorate your image with text or your own drawing.

And probably the biggest difference about Snapchat snaps compared to Instagram photos is that they are designed to fill the entire screen. This solves the problem of letterboxing and provides an immersive viewing experience but this causes a problem with landscape/wide shots as you can't fit everything into the frame.

Snapchat does allow you to send snaps in landscape mode but these horizontal snaps will look a little out of place due to the app's vertical UI. In a lot of ways, Snapchat is making vertical videos and photos popular again. While it does look immersive on your smartphone, downloaded snaps viewed on a computer will look a little confined due to the letterboxing.
"Snapchat is making vertical videos and photos popular again"
In terms of interaction, Snapchat doesn't actually have a 'like' button for snaps but you do have the option of replying through another snap or through a private message. And unlike other social platforms, you can track down who is viewing your snaps.

Moving onto the main selling point of Snapchat which is the vanishing snaps. When you send a snap, it will immediately disappear once the receiver opens it and in the case of snaps shared to your 'story', it'll last for 24 hours before disappearing. It is possible to replay snaps in case you missed it but you only can do that once.

This disappearing act is what gave Snapchat it's initial popularity but some people are still a little skeptical if their snaps are really lost forever or just sitting idle in a server somewhere.

However, that's not the only thing that's giving Snapchat it's name these days. Geofilters and lenses are becoming one of the most 'innovative' feature that Snapchat has to offer. Sure, sharing pictures or 10 second selfies of you eating dinner might be cool but having the ability to instantly speed up the video or turn a piece of broccoli into an emoji of a fried chicken as you put it into your mouth is an impressive feat.

Even I think it's cool and this is coming from someone who has mixed feelings about Snapchat. Check out the video below to get a sense of what Snapchat Geofilter and lenses are capable of.



Monetization


Just like what Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Google Plus are doing to survive. Snapchat has also developed a monetization model for their platform. And if you were wondering, yes Google+ does have news feed advertisements.

How monetization works on Snapchat isn't as aggressive compared to how other social media networks are doing it. Snapchat ads are designed to be interactive and come in the form of geofilters and pre-rolled ads. This kind of advertising might be a direct approach but it does serve it's purpose and I believe that it is more effective compared to regular advertising on Facebook or Twitter.

While Snapchat Geofilter ads are nice to play with, but the bulk of revenue for Snapchat most likely comes from their Discover page which have evolved into a major segment in the last year alone and I personally think that Snapchat could consider spinning off the Discover page into a separate application.

The Discover page is quite similar to flipboard. At a glance, Discover page publishers are like regular Snapchat accounts but Publishers combine images and videos as the headline for users to receive information and under these snaps are conveniently placed articles where users can continue exploring the headline.

That's about it when it comes to how Snapchat is monetizing their app. I personally think Snapchat has a pretty compelling mobile advertising platform here. Sure, these ads are designed to be in your face (literally for some ads) but they do serve their purpose and these ads are both functional and effective in a lot of ways. That's probably the big reason why there has been a surge of popularity amongst businesses lately to promote their business on Snapchat.

Conclusion

Admittedly, Snapchat is not everyone's cup of tea but as I have found in the past, social media can scale up pretty quickly and it's easy to miss out on things when you don't follow with the trend. I am by no means concluding that I love Snapchat and that I will use it everyday. But my point is that it has come to a point that Snapchat is going to be as important as Facebook or Twitter.

Some part of me still thinks that Snapchat is irrelevant but people my age clearly think it's the best thing ever. Thus, I have no choice but to cave in to the trend and learn to love Snapchat. In all of it's essence, Snapchat has a similar motif compared to other social networks available today. Their approach for conversing through pictures and videos have proven to be effective and popular to the younger generation.

If done right, Snapchat is a simple and intuitive way to share your personal life. But it takes some practice to understand how and when to use these filters. I can tell you that it took me a while to learn how to use Snapchat because honestly, the UI feels a little hard to understand. But when you master all the Snapchat tools, you can actually create an interesting story.

I wouldn't say that Snapchat is revolutionizing the social media world but Snapchat's core features are fresh takes on existing communication methods. One thing that they are leading is advertising and I hope that other social media services follow on Snapchat's footstep and innovate on advertising.

In case you're wondering, my favorite social media service is still Twitter.

Insider Talk

The idea of this article actually came when I was arguing with one of my colleagues about the need of a Snapchat app for Windows Phone. And since I have been wanting to write an article about Snapchat for a long time right now. This is the perfect times to talk about it.

I actually learned some things about Snapchat through this article. These kind of articles is what I like to write because I start the article knowing little about the topic and finish the article feeling confident that people can rely on what I am saying.

And yes, the Snapchat Windows Phone app. I doubt that it'll ever come. But here's a fun fact, I created my Snapchat account through 6snp which is a third party Windows Phone Snapchat app. A little bummer that Windows Phone doesn't have an official Snapchat client but I hope that Snapchat can improve the performance of their Android app.

Happy 4th of July weekend guys and stay tuned for a review next week.

dw