Dear Snapchat, It didn’t have to go down like this

Things are not good in Snapchat land. On Thursday, Snap announced that it had gained a mere 7M daily active users in the past 3 months- up from 166M in May. “So?”, you might say, “that’s still growth- at least they aren’t loosing users”. Well…. The problem is that during the previous 3 month period, they had gained 8M daily active users. Healthy social networks mean exponential user growth and that’s what investors expect to see.

But that’s really been the problem all along for Snapchat- it never invested in the user experience to become a social network. For me, that’s really the unforgivable part of this whole saga. It could have been great. But they decided not to listen to the voices along the way who have been clamoring for features such as robust native analytics (still MIA), links (added July 2017), group chat (added December 2016) long before Facebook ever got into their turf. The lack of those key features kept many individuals and, importantly, brand strategists from adopting Snapchap as a core network. Instead we used it for the tech, not for the relationship outcomes. That’s why Facebook was able to swoop in and undermine it so quickly with Instagram.

Successful social networks have technology and community. That’s why Facebook was able to survive Google+ but Snapchat is becoming entirely undermined by Facebook.

Google+ went after Facebook HARD. People, including myself, loved the Google+ interface. Recall that this was around the time that Facebook was facing uproar from their original users about privacy, the algorithm and ad-creep. We were looking for an alternative to the social network whose founder said that privacy was no longer a social norm.  The hope was that Google, with their motto at the time of “Don’t be evil” could provide that. Moreover, Google+ had better tech as well- from higher resolution photos to native video integration with YouTube and Hangouts (light years before Facebook would introduce video)- they outpaced them. And yet they could not, for the life of them, build a user base.

Fast forward to the present where Snapchat is in the battle of its life because, wait for it, Facebook is copying features. Yes it’s true that Snapchat can still hold onto the “cool” factor amount teens. But that same 2016 report spelled doom for monetization-showing that teens hate ads or, even worse, simply ignore them. Also let’s be honest once those teens mature out of their anti-establishment phase, there is a very strong chance that they will migrate over to the platforms that their sorority sisters, frat brothers, universities, and yes (gasp) even parents are on (college kids get homesick).

In his article “Why I’m leaving Snapchat and so are all of your friends” Owen Williams summed it up well:

I think, after years of being an active Snapchat user and fan, I’ve decided to move on. The service was fun, but I’ve realized recently that it doesn’t offer anything unique, and even if Facebook was copying the company in the first place, it’s done a better job than Snapchat ever could.

The majority of my friends have moved across, and those who initially relented seem to have started getting their feet wet with Instagram too. Facebook, be it accidentally or on purpose, has created an Instagram renaissance that has us more addicted than ever before because we get to see beautiful photos in the feed, then the raw, real life stuff in stories.

Google+ was pretty much doomed from the start but Snapchat didn’t have to be. They had several years of unsullied market share that Facebook tried and failed to land grab. But instead of thinking through ways to strategically strengthen their signal, build out platform stickiness and monetization opportunities, their boy kings decided that they were too good for such things. They were Snapchat.

Well. Good luck with that is all I can say.


How, After Four Years, I Finally Learned to Love LinkedIn

“(Insert Name Here) would like to add you to her network on LinkedIn. Register for an account now to connect with her” Remember that message? The one that finally got you to jump on the LinkedIn bandwagon? Mine came on May 12, 2009 from my future husband of all people so I finally figured I’d see what all the fuss was about and join.

I must admit, I was fairly underwhelmed. I went around and “connected” with members of my graduating class and of course some token high school buddies. I added a basic resume to my profile and then left. I probably checked it less than 100 times between 2009 and 2013 which for a social media nut is fairly mind-boggling. I just didn’t “get” it. What was the draw? I was connected to most of these people on Facebook, why would I want to be part of their “LinkedIn network”? Looking back I now realize exactly what was wrong- to use tribal marketing terminology- my “tribe” wasn’t active on the network.

This is an issue that Google+ is now dealing with. The whole “if you build it they will come” thing is much more difficult in the era of Facebook dominance. Social media means forging online connections. On Facebook they tend to be the online manifestation of offline relationships. On Twitter it’s an opportunity to forge online relationships around common interests that can then turn into offline relationships. Social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest provide additional dimensions to these connections. The point is they all fit and make sense to our natural human state as social creatures. I already wrote a post about the steep learning curve to Twitter adoption as opposed to Facebook. But this is nothing compared with the hurdles that Google+ faces.

But I digress- the topic of this post is about LinkedIn so let’s get back to that.

As I said, the issue for me with LinkedIn is that my tribe wasn’t present- and by present I don’t mean that they weren’t users. Rather, they were not updating or active. There were no opportunities to exchange viewpoints. A social network’s value comes from building relationships through conversations so if there’s no one to talk to or if the conversation unfolds over a matter of weeks due to inconsistent usage then there’s very little utility in using it. (once again- Google+)

BUT, as I said- I’ve learned to love LinkedIn. Why? Well, I started a job as a Community Strategist and Social Media Today which plunked me into a new tribe- one that uses LinkedIn effectively and this has made all the difference. I was motivated enough to even change my profile pic. I’ve done status updates for the first time EVER! I’ve shared content and I’ve been building my network.

There’s a clear lesson here and it’s one that echoes my prior post on Twitter. The Social Network must match the user’s needs. No matter how brilliant the social strategy, it will amount to squat if it is built outside of existing social networks and communities. We must be active where our target audience is active.

I talked about this in a recent #SMTnews tweetchat. The topic was Google+ vs Facebook. The general consensus was that Google+ seems like a really cool thing but needs widespread adoption before it will be a viable social alternative to Facebook.

Now don’t get me wrong, LinkedIn isn’t at all my favorite network. But it’s become something that I find myself checking daily and I’m becoming an engaged user. So the lesson of this story? Social media users must feel that the social network offers something for them AND there must be some type of social draw back to the network day after day. Otherwise profiles may be created, groups may be joined, but the power of the network is actually rather empty.