(Image via Snapchat)
Last week brought a number of developments in the social space. The majority were things that were coming for a long time like Twitter’s IPO and Instagram introducing ads, but the most exciting piece of news came from Snapchat and its introduction of Stories.
For those not familiar, Stories essentially adds a news feed to the app. While the basic premise only allows you to message one friend at a time, Stories lets you post to multiple friends, meaning that those images are available to view for 24 hours. The idea is that you’ll string together a number of photos, showing people how a day or event has unfolded and therefore adding to the fun nature of the app.
With 350 million photos posted per day on the app, it has a considerable audience to work from, and it’s pushing this through a number of trailers both through the platform and through YouTube. It’s quite clear that it’s an important part of its overall strategy and the quality of these trailers attests to this.
For one, it’s an incredibly smart idea that will drive up the number of snaps posted without compromising the ethos of the app. More snaps means more reasons to visit the app regularly. However, the real genius behind this isn’t the way it will boost numbers, but in how it will resonate with users, both old and new.
Thanks to self-destructing images and drawing tools, Snapchat has a playful side, which has won it so many users, but that’s something that will only get you so far.
If you consider the biggest social sites and apps that place a focus on imagery, they connect with people on an emotional level. Facebook allows you to stay connected with family and friends, Twitter lets you see events unfold in real-time, and Instagram captures moments and documents your life.
Snapchat doesn’t have that yet, but seeing moments that will only be witnessed by yourself and select friends adds an element of exclusivity. It’s in our nature to share, but more importantly, we want to know more than others, and witnessing moments that are for our eyes only makes us feel good as we’re included.
Of all the major players, the one that this could cause trouble for would be Instagram. Facebook and Twitter are diverse enough to continue relatively unaffected, but since Instagram only offers one real concept (let’s face it, video hasn’t really taken off on the platform as its inclusion was mostly in reaction to Vine), it’s under the most risk.
Since growth is more vital than ever to Instagram’s future, now that ads are appearing on the platform, a rival that’s both ad free and brings a fresh approach to storytelling could throw a major spanner in the works and slow down growth.
The real test for any social site isn’t just whether it can grow, but whether it can do enough to create an emotional bond between itself and its users. A good hook will bring people in, but it’s emotion that will keep them using it again and again. For Snapchat, that’s where the real fun begins.
(Update: Originally this piece said that Snapchat has 150m monthly active users. A mixup meant that it’s actually Instagram that has 150m monthly active users as Snapchat only revealed the number of photos posted per day. Thanks to Ben Cera for mentioning it.)