Snapchat: An Alternative To Branding

By: Ben Okun

In the wake of Snapchat turning down $3 billion in cash to be acquired by Facebook, many are criticizing the 23 year-old CEO, Evan Spiegel, for inexplicably declining such a large sum of money. After all, Snapchat is a photo-messaging app that has generated exactly zero dollars in revenue during its two year existence. So why didn’t Spiegel take the money and run? Perhaps, it’s because Snapchat represents a new kind of social media; a care-free and causal platform in which users do not feel the pressure to create a brand and can explore without leaving a single trace of their footsteps. Only time will tell if Spiegel’s gamble will pay off, but Snapchat certainly represents an intriguing opportunity.

Snapchat is a free app that allows users to take photos or videos and then send them to a list of recipients within the users’ contacts. The user sets a time limit on how long the message can be viewed for and after that time limit, the message self-destructs and is deleted from the Snapchat server. Users can enhance the photos by adding text and using a built-in paint feature. A Bloomberg study noted that Snapchat’s main demographic is adolescents between 13 and 23, and the app is often used to send “selfies,” a growing phenomenon among social media users. The same study also revealed that in recent months, Facebook has been losing traction with this same, teenage demographic, which is part of the reason they wanted to acquire Snapchat.

More traditional social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are strikingly different from Snapchat. The former are branding platforms, in which users can construct an image and persona of themselves through what pictures/videos they decide to post, tweets they send out and messages that they like, retweet and comment on. For the most part, all of the activity on these social media sites is there to stay forever. Anyone can go through your profile and dig up information or photos that you may not be proud of, or forgot that you had posted. As a result, anyone that uses social media should do so with extreme caution, because that information is a living record of their brand.

This could potentially scare teens and younger users, who just want to use social media for fun and aren’t looking to brand themselves or portray a professional image. Enter Snapchat, who has seen an explosion among this demographic. Snapchat is everything that these other social media sites aren’t; a new, cool app that allows its users to be goofballs without being held responsible. There are minimal consequences with Snapchat and although there is some debate as to whether the messages are actually deleted from the server, users can feel a sense of comfort knowing that their messages are not made public. At this age, many teens are applying to schools and looking for jobs, and Snapchat serves as an unfiltered outlet for them to express themselves and have fun. Users are able to send light-hearted messages that do not stick around and define who they are, something that is very appealing to this young demographic.

Evan Spiegel turned down a massive $3 billion from Facebook with the hope that Snapchat turns into the next big thing, an empire of its own. The jury is still out on whether Speigel’s decision is a wise one, but the one thing Snapchat does have going for it is its uniqueness. In an age where social media activity is heavily monitored, criticized and used for branding purposes, Snapchat takes a completely different route. This alternate route could spark a revolution within social media, one in which the “selfie” dominates and the brand is mostly hidden.

As always, we welcome any and all comments and if you like what you read, be social and share.

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