Snapchat Will Not Be Able to Hold the Center

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Snapchat Will Not Be Able to Hold the Center
Snapchat Will Not Be Able to Hold the Center

Welcome to Contrarian Week, a celebration of opinions that contrast conventional wisdom. I am kicking things off by talking a bit about Snapchat, the current social media darling that plays by its own rules and is looking forward to a high-profile IPO.

Marketers have continuous temporary amnesia. If there is a truism in marketing, that which is cool one day is surely not in some near-future day. Some move into blockbuster status, some disappear, but none remain cool forever. Friendster begat Myspace begat Facebook begat Tumblr begat Twitter begat Instagram begat Snapchat. There was/is also Whatsapp, Yo, Peach, Ello, and countless others.

What separates Snapchat from the previous social media darlings? A more steadfast disinterest in playing ball with advertisers and content creators. Snapchat's POV, for the most part, is "this is what we do, and that's it." People who want special treatment, per this New York Times article, are denied

“YouTube, I have a rep and they help me out with anything,” Mr. McBride says in the video. “I've talked to people at Instagram about how Instagram stories work and we work together on stuff. Snapchat, I don't really have a point of contact, and they're not really embracing their creators.”

From my perspective, there are two fallacies here. One, Snapchat seems to labor under the impression that people do not want marketing messages. The rise of the very influencers mentioned in the above Times article disproves this theory. There are hundreds of young men and women that have built up businesses from nothing but a computer and camera and brands. The reality is that the audiences of these influencers don't really care about brand incursions; they welcome them. Snapchat is holding a line that shouldn't need to exist because they believe it will keep their product as the social media account for the young and influential. But that's not it. The second fallacy is that, by taking this approach, Snapchat will keep itself forever young and cool. Nothing stays forever young and cool.

Snapchat created a novel way of distributed content (disappearing messages) and then came up with another innovation, stories, that could curate different types of content into a theme. And it's entirely possible that they will continue to innovate and stay ahead of incumbent competition. 

Regardless, social platform fatigue is real. Part of the reason why people leave popular platforms is because it's easy enough to do so, especially if you're following influencers who have migrated to the newest thing. And Snapchat is playing a dangerous game. Influencers know they need to be on Snapchat now, but if their needs are not being met, they'll leave as soon as they can.

So Snapchat's interest in keeping pure of most* marketing is not what makes it cool, nor will it keep them that way. History tells us they probably will lose that coolness factor, so they might as well cash in as much as they can.

* They do sell a ton of ads, after all

Welcome to Contrarian Week, a week where we invite readers to send us their contrarian opinions.

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