January 15, 2018Published by: Kieran Moriarty

Cold Snap – Snapchat’s winter of discontent continues

Over the last month, social media users have been bombarded with updates from the biggest social platforms: Instagram opened up an exciting range of possibilities for how people and brands could use the app via new features such as pinned stories and follow hashtags, Twitter followed suit with a game-changing update of its own; a “Threads” button which simplified the process of posting multiple tweets as part of a unified train of thought (alas, an update for editing tweets still remains elusive), and only last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced huge changes to Facebook’s algorithms with the aim of prioritising personal content from family and friends on our news feeds once more.

Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have sought to refine and improve the USPs which users value most from their platforms. As a result, their respective updates have been generally well received by the public. For one particular social media giant however, updates have been far less appreciated by users. 2018 has not started well for Snapchat.

In an early blow for the company, Snapchat’s latest app update has been deeply unpopular with fans in UK, Australia and Canada. Up to 83% of reviews on the App Store have been negative and some users have even gone as far as to demand for a return to the previous version.

Criticisms of the update have primarily stemmed from how Snapchat has become less user-friendly. Many have complained that it is more difficult to locate popular features such as Stories, that feeds are no longer chronological and that there is too much advertising. In an attempt to monetise its service, Snapchat significantly increased the amount of advertising it displays on its platform to bolster revenues. This move appears to have backfired as many major brands and companies appear to prefer Instagram as a more effective advertising platform.

Clearly, all is not well with Snapchat and this latest update setback is consistent with the company’s travails over the last few months. In November, Snap was left reeling from the news that only 150,000 units of Spectacles glasses had been sold since the product’s encouraging launch in June. This commercial failure has now been further compounded by a report published last week which highlights the poor performance of Snapchat’s features across the board.

Taylor Lorenz’s (The Daily Beast) report presents leaked usage data for a wide range of Snapchat’s features from the end of April to mid-September 2017. The data shows that usage for the Snap Map live location sharing and geotagged content search feature, which launched in June, dramatically fell from an initial peak of 35 million daily unique viewers to just 19 million. The Discover section usage has also decreased to around 34 million daily users. To add insult to injury, Instagram’s imitation of Snapchat’s Stories feature has ensured that the growth of the original has stopped dead in its tracks. According to the data, the number of daily users posting to Snapchat Stories remained stuck at 51 million users between April to September, representing stagnation of what was once Snapchat’s crown jewel.

The cumulative effect of all of these setbacks has caused Snapchat’s share prices to plummet and many to speculate about what the future holds for the social media giant. While Instagram, Twitter and Facebook continue to develop new updates that are addressing the problems highlighted by their users, Snapchat is struggling to keep up with its competitors. The fiercely negative reaction towards the app’s latest update is symbolic of the company’s present fortunes. Whether one of the great social media innovators of recent years can bounce back in 2018 remains to be seen.

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