It’s been a tough year for Snapchat.
Although Snapchat experienced “a slight uptick” according to it’s fourth-quarter earnings (the app now has 187 million daily active users, up from the 178 million it reported in the previous quarter), the company is still having a hard time competing with Facebook & Instagram.
In the following article, we take a look at how Snapchat’s recent UI update has quickly turned into a PR nightmare and if the platform has a fighting chance to survive or if it’s time for advertisers to abandon ship.
Introducing the New Snapchat UI
In the face of increased competition from Instagram and Facebook, Snapchat made the decision to debut a new UI.
Note: The platform’s new interface rolled out in November 2017, only to a small amount of users. The majority of Snapchat users did not have access to the new UI until February 2018.
The hope was the new interface would improve user experience and increase the amount of ad inventory available within the application.
Thanks to the update, Snapchat is now integrated into two feeds.
- The “Friends” tab is similar to the old layout; users will find their friends snap stories, but instead of being sorted chronologically by last post time, the new UI sorts these through an algorithm “based on who you keep in touch with the most and who’s contacted you most recently”.
- The “Discover” tab serves up content from major media outlets, influencers or brands, who either have a following large enough to earn their berth, or are paying for the placement.
But why the separation of personal and publisher/brand content?
According to Snapchat:
“Until now, social media has always mixed photos and videos from your friends with content from publishers and creators. While blurring the lines between professional content creators and your friends has been an interesting Internet experiment, it has also produced some strange side-effects (like fake news) and made us feel like we have to perform for our friends rather than just express ourselves. The new Snapchat separates the social from the media.”
Unfortunately, the new layout received some pretty harsh feedback from users and now Snapchat is now being pressured to return to the old UI.
To make matters worse, media mogul Kylie Jenner cost the company $1.3B in market value (a 6% drop) overnight, after she launched a Tweet showing her disdain towards the application at the end of February.
The negative opinion was reconfirmed by over 24M of her followers and today more than 1.2 million users have signed the Change.org complaint letter asking Snapchat to get rid of the updates and go back to the previous UI.
The Timeline of Snapchat Advertising
In the beginning, Snapchat confined users to play within their interpersonal sandbox, rather than allowing for ad space.
Unlike other social platforms, Snapchat became known as a social media channel to connect real life peer to peer relationships, rather than exposing a user to a wider, global audience.
If you look at Snapchat’s revenue growth–from $58.7 million in December 2015 to $404.5 million in 2016– you’d have no idea this company wasn’t sure how to make money off their platform when they first started building it.
Things were going pretty well – up until the company decided to go public and roll out their Ads API in 2017.
In November, Snapchat responded with a new pixel for retargeting – hoping to attract advertisers and compete with the sophistication of Facebook’s targeting capabilities.
Finally, they followed up with the UI update in an attempt to win back advertisers and users alike.
SnapChat’s New UI Receives Backlash From Users
Unfortunately, given the amount of negative feedback the new UI has received so far, it’s clear that the organization has failed to balance the need for monetization with a user interface that users appreciate and enjoy.
CEO Evan Spiegel was forced to acknowledge the consumer outrage the update caused, promising that tweaks to the friends and discover pages will be made.
By nature, social platforms must account for the public response fostered after an event like this, but it is still unclear what the next steps will be.
As we said back in November, Snapchat may be working on new advertising features (and augmented reality), but that’s not the real problem.
The real problem is a shrinking user base.
Decreases in daily users and app downloads combined with mediocre targeting capabilities are not likely to attract new advertisers.
On the other hand, could the money Snapchat collect be enough to offset the decline the user base is facing?
Although Snap Inc. has not lived up to the expectations of Wall Street since its IPO, they have managed to convince some investors it can beat Instagram.
According to reports, while Snapchat ads once were primarily bought by large brands with household names, revenue from smaller businesses more than doubled from the third quarter to the fourth. In addition to that, Snapchat ad prices have fallen.
Nothing is certain, but one thing we will all be watching very closely is how Snapchat’s algorithm prioritizes content.
Snapchat is “currently using a software algorithm, similar to the one Facebook uses to prioritize News Feed, to determine what content shows up near the top”.
As users continue to grumble over the new UI, “Discover” publishers / advertisers are actively trying to figure out what Snapchat’s algorithm values in terms of content.
We want to know – what do you think of Snapchat’s new layout so far? Comment below.
—Michael Bergman contributed to this article.
For more information on Snapchat’s recent update, email [email protected]