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Snapchat seeks path to profit without losing its way

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Snap chief Evan Spiegel has announced plans to let Snapchat subscribers have exchanges with an AI-powered chatbot

Snap chief Evan Spiegel has announced plans to let Snapchat subscribers have exchanges with an AI-powered chatbot – Copyright AFP Frederic J. BROWN

Julie JAMMOT

Snapchat parent Snap on Wednesday unveiled new tactics including the increased use of artificial intelligence in its struggle to expand beyond the app’s loyal user base and reach profitability.

Snap chief Evan Spiegel, who cofounded the Southern California-based company in 2011, opened its annual conference with word that an average of 750 million people use the image-centric messaging service each month.

In more than 20 countries, Snapchat reaches the vast majority of those who range in age from 13 to 34, Spiegel said.

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But unlike Meta, with its “family” of apps including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, Snap has never made enough money from advertising to turn an annual profit.

Last year, Snap’s net loss tripled to $1.43 billion and it laid off a fifth of its workforce.

Tools and products presented on Wednesday were intended to attract audience-winning creators to the platform, get users paying for subscriptions, and convince partners such as advertisers that the app is a place to be.

However, Snapchat must be “careful not to stray too far from its roots” as an ephemeral, fun messaging service as it seeks ways to make money, warned Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg.

Snapchat needs to find a balance between private exchanges, “public spaces,” and the sense of “community and intimacy” that it has cultivated since its inception, the analyst added.

– AI Snaps –

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A decade ago, Snapchat came on the scene with an intentionally ephemeral product — images that disappear after a short period, an idea that was copied by other platforms. Users invented “stories,” a way for them to put “Snaps” taken through any given day together into a visual tale.

The service was a pioneer in using images instead of words to communicate, and playfully augmenting what cameras see using artificial intelligence “lenses.”

But, “no one is talking about” Snapchat because “they are not relevant,” Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi told AFP.

Snapchat does not even seem to attract the interest of regulators, who have made targets of TikTok and Meta, the analyst noted.

Spiegel embraced the difference, casting Snapchat as a break from the “social media popularity contest.”

“We’re fed up with having to look pretty or perfect in every post,” Spiegel said.

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“Tired of competing for likes and comments; exhausted by misinformation.”

Snapchat, instead, is a place to enjoy authentically communicating with friends and family, he maintained.

The app opens by default in a smartphone camera, letting users take photos or videos with or without filters to augment reality.

Such “Snaps” can be shared publicly at Snapchat or privately with those in one’s selected circle.

Tools presented on Wednesday included being able to ask questions of a “My AI” chatbot in group exchanges.

Subscribers to the Snapchat+ subscription service launched last year will soon be able to send Snaps to My AI and get a “unique generative Snap back that keeps the visual conversation going,” the company said.

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– ‘Not essential’ –

Like rivals, Snapchat is out to woo “influencers” whose posts attract viewers and advertisers.

Snap vice president Jack Brody reasoned that creators find Snapchat to be a place where they can “express their authentic selves.”

Alyssa McKay, a 23-year-old creator, told AFP of going from doing scripted skits on TikTok that weren’t really her to winning fans by being herself on Snapchat.

“I am one of the top female creators on Snapchat,” said McKay, who has some two million subscribers at the service and gets a share of ad revenue.

“I have such a strong relationship with my audience because they feel like they know me, and you don’t get that on other platforms.”

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But, Snapchat is not considered essential by most social media influencers, said Alessandra Angelini, founder of Influur, a service that connects brands with content creators.

They tend to put their energy into making money at Instagram and TikTok, not considering Snapchat as promising, Angelini said of influencers.

Snapchat on Wednesday set out to win them over with more ways to be noticed and share in ad revenue.

Snap also gave more details about ARES, its new business unit that will provide a suite of augmented reality tools for online retailers.

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

In a recent announcement, Snapchat revealed a groundbreaking update that challenges its traditional design ethos. The platform is experimenting with an option that allows users to defy the 24-hour auto-delete rule, a feature synonymous with Snapchat’s ephemeral messaging model.

The proposed change aims to introduce a “Never delete” option in messaging retention settings, aligning Snapchat more closely with conventional messaging apps. While this move may blur Snapchat’s distinctive selling point, Snap appears convinced of its necessity.

According to Snap, the decision stems from user feedback and a commitment to innovation based on user needs. The company aims to provide greater flexibility and control over conversations, catering to the preferences of its community.

Currently undergoing trials in select markets, the new feature empowers users to adjust retention settings on a conversation-by-conversation basis. Flexibility remains paramount, with participants able to modify settings within chats and receive in-chat notifications to ensure transparency.

Snapchat underscores that the default auto-delete feature will persist, reinforcing its design philosophy centered on ephemerality. However, with the app gaining traction as a primary messaging platform, the option offers users a means to preserve longer chat histories.

The update marks a pivotal moment for Snapchat, renowned for its disappearing message premise, especially popular among younger demographics. Retaining this focus has been pivotal to Snapchat’s identity, but the shift suggests a broader strategy aimed at diversifying its user base.

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This strategy may appeal particularly to older demographics, potentially extending Snapchat’s relevance as users age. By emulating features of conventional messaging platforms, Snapchat seeks to enhance its appeal and broaden its reach.

Yet, the introduction of message retention poses questions about Snapchat’s uniqueness. While addressing user demands, the risk of diluting Snapchat’s distinctiveness looms large.

As Snapchat ventures into uncharted territory, the outcome of this experiment remains uncertain. Will message retention propel Snapchat to new heights, or will it compromise the platform’s uniqueness?

Only time will tell.

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

While it is tempting to try to appeal to a broad audience, the founder of alcohol-free coaching service Just the Tonic, Sandra Parker, believes the best thing you can do for your business is focus on your niche. Here’s how she did just that.

When running a business, reaching out to as many clients as possible can be tempting. But it also risks making your marketing “too generic,” warns Sandra Parker, the founder of Just The Tonic Coaching.

“From the very start of my business, I knew exactly who I could help and who I couldn’t,” Parker told My Biggest Lessons.

Parker struggled with alcohol dependence as a young professional. Today, her business targets high-achieving individuals who face challenges similar to those she had early in her career.

“I understand their frustrations, I understand their fears, and I understand their coping mechanisms and the stories they’re telling themselves,” Parker said. “Because of that, I’m able to market very effectively, to speak in a language that they understand, and am able to reach them.” 

“I believe that it’s really important that you know exactly who your customer or your client is, and you target them, and you resist the temptation to make your marketing too generic to try and reach everyone,” she explained.

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“If you speak specifically to your target clients, you will reach them, and I believe that’s the way that you’re going to be more successful.

Watch the video for more of Sandra Parker’s biggest lessons.

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

Instagram’s testing out some new options to help spice up your live-streams in the app, with some live broadcasters now able to select a game that they can play with viewers in-stream.

As you can see in these example screens, posted by Ahmed Ghanem, some creators now have the option to play either “This or That”, a question and answer prompt that you can share with your viewers, or “Trivia”, to generate more engagement within your IG live-streams.

That could be a simple way to spark more conversation and interaction, which could then lead into further engagement opportunities from your live audience.

Meta’s been exploring more ways to make live-streaming a bigger consideration for IG creators, with a view to live-streams potentially catching on with more users.

That includes the gradual expansion of its “Stars” live-stream donation program, giving more creators in more regions a means to accept donations from live-stream viewers, while back in December, Instagram also added some new options to make it easier to go live using third-party tools via desktop PCs.

Live streaming has been a major shift in China, where shopping live-streams, in particular, have led to massive opportunities for streaming platforms. They haven’t caught on in the same way in Western regions, but as TikTok and YouTube look to push live-stream adoption, there is still a chance that they will become a much bigger element in future.

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Which is why IG is also trying to stay in touch, and add more ways for its creators to engage via streams. Live-stream games is another element within this, which could make this a better community-building, and potentially sales-driving option.

We’ve asked Instagram for more information on this test, and we’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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