This article originally appeared on Compelo.
Anyone who’s noticed a drop-off from what was at one point an inexorable rise might be wondering what the future holds for Snapchat in 2019.
Seemingly on its way to the same level of status as Facebook and Twitter a year ago, the social media platform experienced a torrid 2018 that has made its place among the pack particularly unstable.
Questionable design choices, sponsored content and a high-profile celebrity abandoning their account all played a part in putting Snap Inc – the company that owns Snapchat – in its current predicament.
Where Snapchat went wrong
At its inception in 2011, Snapchat was the social media platform centred on the simple notion of ephemerality.
Users could send “snaps” to a private network of chosen friends, with a selected lifespan of one to ten seconds, and, once opened by the recipient, the video or photo disappeared and was gone forever.
It was a strikingly straightforward, yet revolutionary concept – and one that truly resonated.
In 2015, Snapchat was the most popular social media platform among people under 25 in the United States.
Yet, as time went on, things became a little more complicated.
There was the poorly-received redesign of the app earlier this year, the replication of its most popular “Stories” feature across Facebook’s family of king-sized platforms, and the introduction of sponsored – and, at times, controversial – content interrupting users’ feeds.
In quick succession, a roster of increasing complexities and business challenges arose – amounting to an unfortunate fall from grace throughout 2018.
Not only are active daily users decreasing on the platform each quarter, but Wall Street recorded an all-time low in trading in early December.
Not to mention, Kylie Jenner abandoned her account, causing its stock to plummet and wipe about $1.3bn (£1bn) off the company’s market value.
So, the question arises… What should be next for Team Snap?
This should be the Snapchat 2019 strategy
As was documented in a lengthy memo from Snap Inc.’s CEO Evan Spiegel last month, the company is at the dawn of necessary change.
The user experience faults in the redesign have been duly noted, the separation of friends from professional content creators will be contemplated and the overall notion of “too-much, too-soon” is being reflected upon.
Errors have been recognised, and faith in the platform prevails.
At the crux of Spiegel’s forward strategy is the aim to cement Snapchat as the “fastest way to share a moment” – and introduce the importance of the app’s “fast, visual communication” to fresh audiences, as the business heads into new markets.
It is undoubtedly a positive step in the right direction – an aim from execs to return to the core product value that made Snapchat so attractive and appealing to audiences when it first launched.
Yet, while speed of communication is a fundamental facet associated with the Snap brand, more work must be done to entice dwindling users.
In a social media landscape evermore focused on uploading condensed, burst-like videos that express personality and humour – take the turbo-charged ascent of TikTok, the Chinese video platform enabling users to share themed, bite-sized clips, as just one example – the speed and frequency of sharing is no longer a differentiator, but a prerequisite.
Rather, interaction, self-expression and authenticity are heading for the spotlight – fake followers are out and increased privacy, unique content and genuine engagement is in.
Intimacy, individuality and simpler ways to share a “moment” take centre stage – luckily, these are characteristics at the heart of Snapchat’s DNA.
As a user, I can say from experience that the app was the warmer, friendlier alternative against its competition – a way to express the funnier, simpler, more every day and perhaps less momentous segments of life with select friends – a feed freed from filter mania.
While users meticulously edited every pixel of their Instagram post, the pressure and permanence of sharing was forgotten with Snap.
The more you shared, the better. Less focus on being a ‘good’ social media curator, more focus on amusing your friends and sharing your daily activities.
Somewhere along the way, the clarity in this approach got slightly lost and it is here that the integral value lies moving forward.
Returning to its roots and embracing simplicity should be key to Snapchat in 2019
Further developing the app’s Discover platform to generate original or sponsored content while reassessing the app’s design to enhance speed are credible, perhaps more complex business objectives – but reigniting trust, loyalty and engagement with former users rests on one thing: simplicity.
For too long, social media platforms have become cluttered by a constant stream of UX updates, complete redesigns and obscure feature adds.
As a result, audiences regularly recognise social brands as some of the most complex in the world – as evidenced in the 2018-2019 World’s Simplest Brands survey by Siegel+Gale.
The study – asking more than 15,000 people across nine countries to evaluate brands and industries on their simplicity – revealed social media brands to be the second most complicated industry in the US, with Snapchat being named the most complex of the set.
So, as Snap gears up for its next chapter, there is a need to retain and preserve its core message and original mission for audiences – to be the brand built on establishing and enabling spontaneous, ephemeral, and authentic conversation.
What Snapchat could learn from Slack
Solidifying this raison d’être could be revitalising. Look no further than corporate messaging platform Slack, whose founders took their initial idea – making mundane tasks entertaining – from their first product Glitch, and repositioned it for a new audience.
It was a refined purpose that unleashed a new lease of life.
Just how Snapchat navigates this period of change is crucial to its future as a platform – embracing simplicity across its entire strategy – from design and content, to marketing and partnerships – could successfully streamline its approach and iron out its recent errors.
Not only would this ensure users and their needs feel valued, appreciated, and placed rightly at the forefront, but simultaneously communicate a clarity of direction and certainty of vision from Team Snap – something integral to renewing confidence among its investors.
Be clear, sharp and impactful as you move into your new era, Snapchat. It sounds simple, but the best ideas often do.