Surprise surprise. Another social media platform is gaining steam. But can you really call Snapchat a platform? I suppose you can but, for those looking to grow their own platform, can it really be of any use? In a recent Six Pixels of Separation podcast (which I highly recommend you check out), Mitch Joel discusses the permanent internet vs. the impermanent internet. Snapchat falls under the category of impermanence.
Here’s a quick rundown for those unfamiliar with Snapchat:
1. A user takes a picture (or short video) using the app (the user can’t use pictures that already exist in your camera roll as you can with Instagram).
2. They can then add rough animated sketches or text to the pictures.
3. A time limit/expiry time is set for the picture – making it only available to be seen for that length of time while the viewer holds a finger on the screen.
4. If a viewer decides to take a screenshot of the picture, they can do so successfully but the viewer will be notified.
5. The picture is then deleted forever.
In a world where many of us work hard to create content that will help us find our voice online and give us permanent credibility, Snapchat seems to be much too fleeting to be instrumental. This skepticism is met with even more pessimism from those who scoff at the app, calling it “sleazy”, “controversial”, and “obviously only for racy photos”.
Let’s consider the good, the bad, and some possible uses.
The Good: Snapchat has continued to bring enjoyment (on somewhat of a surface level) to its users who enjoy giving people a glimpse into their daily lives without worrying as much about how they look or how the Toaster filter affects their like count. And of course, fuelling our dopamine-driven social media world, is the busy nature of a person’s Snapchat inbox due to the ability to mass send pictures. The fact that Snapchat connects people can’t be disputed. It can brighten a boring workday, enhance an event, and give you a laugh you otherwise wouldn’t have had (and who can put a value on that?). My initial concerns were that Snapchat would become everyone’s default photo app – limiting Instagram use and hindering the spread of video apps like Vine. I’m starting to become more optimistic about its effect on apps like Instagram which, in my opinion, are bombarded with those low-quality-look-at-me-now pictures. Now these pictures can be shot out into the Snapchat world and expire like they should – increasing the overall quality of pictures posted to the ‘Gram.
The Bad: As you’d expect, and as the naysayers will attest to, Snapchat does get used for pictures that would otherwise not be taken or sent. It’s almost like “don’t worry, i’ll just snapchat it” will begin justifying things that shouldn’t be justified. Also, the “humour” sometimes goes a bit too far and “fun” is had at the expense of a person being photographed by adding cartoon drawings of things I’m sure you’ve seen or could imagine before the picture’s sent. Here’s a controversy resulting from inappropriate use of the app: Teens’ Nude Photos From Snapchat Lead to Investigation Also in the category of “bad” falls the fact that Snapchat’s impermanence makes it more easily classified as a time-wasting app – increasing doubt as to whether a business could use it in a positive, meaningful way.
Possible Usefulness: On that note, here’s where I’ll make a quick argument regarding its usefulness for a business. I ran into the organizer for the Regina Folk Festival the other day. She was carrying a roll of posters of the 2013 summer festival’s lineup on them. The lineup was to be announced the following day and the group of us sitting near her did all we could to convince her to give us even a one second glimpse. And now I’m sure you can see where this is going. How easy is it for a major festival to encourage people to add them on Snapchat with the incentive of advanced lineup “glimpsing”? I’ve spent minutes looking at full lineups for festivals and failed to notice a band that later sparks conversation with a friend. The amount of conversation resulting from a multitude of people each getting a one second glance at a small picture of the lineup would be an interesting thing to attempt to measure. Even if someone manages to take a screenshot, the idea of a “leaked” schedule can create even more conversation. It’s these kinds of things, that actually add some value for viewers who give companies the permission to speak to them, that will endure as we become more selective about who we follow, like, and listen to.
Conclusion: Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think. Would love to hear your thoughts!