Snapchat’s Identity Crisis Will Force Brands and Publishers to Play the Waiting Game

When someone tells you they need time to figure out who they are, bad news is on the way. That’s just as true in business as it is in romance. Identities are important because they help us set expectations. When there aren’t any consistent expectations, relationships end.

Snapchat is not normally a place for heartbreak, but given its current identity crisis, it could be headed for a messy split from brands and publishers. First, Snapchat launched as a photo-sharing app. Then, as video rose in popularity, the company adapted. Next, strange as this seems, it began calling itself a camera company. In trying to keep up with Instagram and Facebook, Snapchat has tried to do so many different things that it’s hard to pinpoint what kind of company it wants to be.

Last week, The Daily Beast released internal data that shows the mixed success of Snapchat’s features. The hyped geolocating Maps feature tanked in popularity in 2017, while daily message activity rose among teenagers. Snapchat would like to think of itself as an interactive multi-media platform, but its users disagree. A new update in the works could change these dynamics even more.

Daily Beast Snapchat reportDaily Beast Snapchat report

Then there’s the matter of Discover, Snapchat’s daily magazine-like channel full of content from major news and entertainment publications that disappears after 24 hours. The channel has a lot of potential to be a primary news source for younger generations, but progress stalled because Snapchat could never figure out how to integrate it the way Facebook integrated paid distribution into the News Feed. The proposed update could exacerbate these issues. Once the update is live, Discover content will live a lot further away from the main hub of activity.

Snapchat believes this change will make the interface more user-friendly. But advertisers will balk if the 20 percent of users who regularly swipe over to the Discover feature dwindle.

If we’ve learned anything from Snapchat’s history, the company still has a lot of self-exploration to do. That could be good or it could be bad. But until the company lands on an identity and offers a solid distribution product, brands and publishers should hold off on making a commitment.

Image by iStockphoto

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