Unlike the big social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat has always focused on the ethos ‘Snapchat is for friends’. The platform was released in 2011 and has grew over night to join the ranks of other huge social media sites. As of last month, over 158 million people were using Snapchat on a daily basis. That’s a significant number of people!
‘Snapchat is for friends’
And it is. Or was anyway. Snapchat has never introduced a ‘likes’ system, it doesn’t implement a ‘followers’ count either. It is simply a way to stay in touch with friends that you choose to, and all in a unique manner. That could all be about to change with the addition of a new feature.
The new feature is a simple search option, something that hasn’t really been relevant to Snapchat in the past. The feature is an addition to the existing ‘Our Story’ feature that the app already has. It will allow more relevant content to be discovered easily, and also allow for people to discover your public content much more easily too.
The feature will be multi-faceted. It will allow for users to search with a variety of options. These will include keyword searches, location searches to find content from nearby, and even topical searches. Topical searches will focus on single areas such as music or sport. This will allow users to find a lot more content with ease when using Snapchat.
Why Add a Search Feature?
Well it could be argued that Snapchat didn’t need to change, but there are a few reasons that could be behind the change. Nothing stays the same, and most things that don’t change quickly get boring. This is especially true in the fast moving society and the massive role that social media now plays. Making sure to introduce new and different features keeps users engaged. Increasing the content discovery options for Snapchat will keep people engaged a lot longer too.
Not All Content Is Published
However, unlike other social media platforms, Snapchat will not make all content public. They have implemented software that scans videos for relevant content to tags. This ensures that if you search for ‘cats’ that the videos actually contain cats and that they are not just stupid videos of irrelevant content. Here’s what Snapchat have to say about the filter process used to determine what is made public.
“Snapchat is using algorithms to scan the caption text, time and visual elements found in Snaps submitted to Our Story and group them by theme. For example, it could pull out Snaps with the words ‘dog’ or ‘puppy’ in captions, or use machine vision to detect the shape of a real dog in the photos or videos, and aggregate them into an Our Story that comes up when people search for ‘Puppies’.”
Back in 2015, Snapchat introduced its first publically available content discovery option. This was called ‘Story Explorer’. Story Explorer didn’t have a search bar like Our Story does. Users could find content that was related to Snaps that they were interested in by swiping up on the app. This worked on keyword association and was not an overly popular feature. It was the gateway to what is perhaps the biggest feature change on snapchat yet though.
What Does Mean for Users?
To be honest, the change probably won’t mean much to most Snapchat users. At least not at first. Once people start to use it though, it will likely snowball into a much more popular feature. For all new users it will be part of the app, so it is more likely that they will be the ones who use it more frequently initially.
Marketing and Advertising
Social media marketing campaigns will now have a much larger reach through snapchat. With platforms like Facebook already built upon user engagement, Snapchat has been lagging behind with regards to business marketing. That could all be about to change. With users able to search for content by keywords and location, it is unlikely businesses will want to miss out on this opportunity.
Advertising has never been part of Snapchat’s business model. There has been no official mention that Snap Inc. will incorporate advertising in the new discovery feature. However, the option to do so is now much greater that it has been in the past. It is unlikely that Snapchat will remain ad free forever, especially if the extension to ‘Our Stories’ becomes popular.
You Copy Us, We Copy You!
There has been quite a lot of talk recently of all social media apps becoming like Snapchat. Snapchat had the original market for temporary content. Disappearing messages and videos, and the attempt to block screen capturing on the app too. This made Snapchat a unique platform where people felt comfortable sharing more intimate and secretive content. It was only going to be seen by the person they sent it to, so people didn’t worry as much as posting content on other social media platforms.
It seems that every social media platform is offering something similar these days though. With Facebook Live and Instagram Live both offering very similar services to those that Snapchat offered. Before these were options, Facebook users would have used the Snapchat app for these sort of posts. Now that they don’t have to, it is possible people are simply not using Snapchat as much.
By fighting back against the change and implementing their own user engagement ideas, Snapchat can reaffirm its grip on the market. This may be seen as them copying features from more mainstream services such as Facebook, but if Facebook are going to copy their main feature then it is only fair. The option to search through content like this is likely to annoy some of the die-hard Snapchat fans who have been using the platform since the beginning.
However, if Snapchat wants to succeed then it will always need to adapt and change. Most people are likely to forget this option wasn’t always there within a few weeks!