The Ghost of Snapchat Past?

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Kylie Jenner – is there anything she can’t do?  She boasts the title of being the boss of a multi-milion dollar cosmetics company, a yummy twenty-something mummy, and even an expert in predicting stock market trends.  Amazing!

If you’re a little lost here, let me fill you in.  After Kylie sent out a tweet explaining that she was feeling a little less than impressed with recent changes to the Snapchat app, their stocks plummeted $1.3 billion in value.

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By the tone of the tweet, I feel like Kylie probably wasn’t even thinking very much about it at the time of writing.  It was probably just a normal Wednesday for her, chilling out in her mansion, sipping an iced tea, smashing billions in value off the stock market with a single comment.  Average midweek stuff.

While some have marvelled in horror at these events and pondered what kind of world we live in when the Kardashians have sole control over who lives or dies on Wall Street, others have pointed to Snapchat having experienced a general downward trend over the past year – with Kylie’s comment simply kicking them while they’re down.

Last March, Snapchat went public, and despite warning investors that the app may never turn a profit, share prices spiked immediately after hitting the market.  However, the year since has been turbulent.  The company saw a disappointing 17% drop in their shares in mid 2017, with not a Kardashian in sight – the culprit behind this dip was social media giant, Facebook – owners of Instagram.

Snapstagram?

I can actually remember my first reaction when Instagram began rolling out their suspiciously Snapchat-like updates.

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Funnily enough, Instagram’s market value went completely unaffected by my tweet.

But despite Instagram blatantly plagiarising the most popular aspects of a rival app and integrating them into it’s own features, Instagram Stories flourished.  They introduced new and different features that Snapchat lacked, such as different fonts, filters and gifs, and of course, the endlessly popular boomerang feature, which allows us to watch other people clink glasses not just once, but several times in a loop!

Their tactics worked, though, and Instagram Stories alone now boasts more users than Snapchat.  And in keeping with the latest trends, Kylie Jenner gave fans the first peak at her new baby Stormi earlier this year, not via Snapchat, but on Instagram, in a post that became the app’s new most liked picture ever.  It seems that everything Kylie touches turns to gold, and so this gesture probably indicates that we should all invest all of our money in Instagram as quickly as we possibly can.

Redesign – or Re-disaster?

Never mind the threat from Instagram, though – Snapchat may have actually shot themselves in the foot with new updates that nobody asked for.  The company began rolling out a redesign of the app in late 2017, and their shares actually picked up by 25% in response as investors anticipated the effects of these new changes with optimism.  That fell a bit flat however when the changes rolled out…and just about everybody Hated them.  With a capital H.

As the full extent of the redesign was rolled out to user’s phones, the reaction was not good.  In fact, it was sort of dire.  Kylie was not the only one not feeling the apps new layout, with users complaining that the app was now ugly, confusing and difficult to use.  Some users despised the changes so much that a change.org petition aimed at Snapchat asking them to revert the app back to it’s old look gained over a million signatures.

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Personally, while I wouldn’t say I despise the changes, having to scroll for what feels like years to find someone I messaged yesterday while the names of random people I barely know and would never wish to speak to personally in a million years appear at the top of my feed is just a tiny bit annoying.  Or, you know, massively infuriating, depending on what mood I’m in.

Snapchat commented on the whole debacle by arguing that the update aimed to make the app ‘more personal’ and that users simply needed to get used to it, while promising more changes soon to be rolled out which would make the app experience more ‘customisable’.  While I’m not a tech expert by any means, am I crazy for thinking that if your customers don’t like changes, it’s unlikely you’re going to fix their negative attitudes with more changes?  Or maybe I’m just crazy, who knows…

So is this the death of Snapchat?

As a company that isn’t currently all that profitable, Snapchat’s future lies in the value of its shares.  They need investors to believe that Snapchat is growing and that it’s here for the long run, and not just a social media fad that will disappear into irrelevance as easily as one of its 24 hour stories.  This kind of volatility in its market value could spell disaster for a company that’s still only really in its early years.

Overall, I think there are a few lessons to be learned from the Snapchat redesign disaster, one of which being that the customer is always right.  A little more pilot testing and research into what the audience wants could have saved Snapchat a whole lot of stress and headaches over the past few months.  However, it’s yet to be seen whether or not this whole series of unfortunate events will see a decline in Snapchat’s actual user base, as it still attracts 187 million users a day – it hasn’t quite died and joined MySpace and Bebo in social media heaven just yet.

And personally, until the day I lose all of my 200+day long streaks, Snapchat will still be my go to.

 

Una McHugh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/una-mchugh-a11956106/ and Twitter @unamickq