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How Snapchat is Redefining Traditional Media

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In a world of dismal algorithmic feeds and filter bubbles, Snapchat offers us all lessons we can apply to channels for both brands and people.

Anna Russett, Senior Strategist at Havas Chicago, spoke at Social Media Week Chicago on how Snapchat has changed media forever.

Below are some takeaways from the session. To watch the entire talk, plus access more than 100 hours of other SMW events, presentations, and interviews, sign up for SMW Insider.

At first, social media was relatively simple. There were a limited number of platforms and each platform served a particular purpose. Now, there’s a sea of countless platforms to choose from and of them serve many different purposes. Most importantly, brands realized that conversations were happening without them. In order to stay relevant, brands discovered that social media was a platform they all needed to be on.

When brands first entered the social media space, a lot of brands didn’t know how to create in the medium. “They were putting print or billboard-like ads that were speaking at people instead of with them, and people were upset by this. A lot of brands started to take news or pop culture that was happening, slapped on a logo, and said ‘ok, we’re relevant now’ but people didn’t like that either,” says Russett. After timeline was replaced by an algorithmic feed based on relevance, brands realized they had to stop pushing out irrelevant content in order to stay on top of the feeds and increase engagement.

While all of this was occurring, Snapchat was emerging and growing amongst an audience of young kids. According to Russett, Snapchat’s growth can be credited to the struggle of other social platforms in balancing brand content and user content. “This younger generation was getting a little fed up with all these feeds formalizing, with brands taking over, with an older generation starting to come in. Snapchat is where they retreated,” insists Russett.

While other social platforms were struggling to figure themselves out, heres how Snapchat able to get young kids excited about their platform.

1. Snapchat prioritizes image over text

When a user goes to create something on Facebook or Twitter, they are prompted for text first. Then, they can throw in a video or a photo to supplement it. But when they open up Snapchat, they’re immediately prompted to take a photo or a video. “It’s a whole different mindset. I think young kids really connected with that because it’s a human desire to connect with other people through images. We process visuals much faster than we process text,” says Russett.

2. The “Dangers of Social”

People are constantly told about the dangers of social media and the internet. “As a kid, you can’t be funny, post stupid stuff, and have a good time. We’re all familiar with that fear of what we’re going to post,” says Russett. When Snapchat came in, however, this was no longer the case. “These kids realized that with Snapchat it’s temporary, fun, and different. You weren’t creating a monument to yourself in a Facebook album which later resurfaced when people ‘liked’ them. People don’t really want that permanence.”

3. Networks were getting too large for comfort

Platforms such as Facebook started to filled up with distant cousins, aunts, grandparents, and more. “People were starting to take over the platform and it wasn’t as fun anymore. With Snapchat, that’s where cool kids retreated. They needed a different place to be,” adds Russett.

4. No pressure to be perfect

Snapchat has no metrics, which allows the users to feel free to be themselves. “I think with other social platforms, you felt that you had to be funny, interesting, and beautiful all at once. In a place like Snapchat, you don’t have to feel like that. You can be silly and funny and post whatever you want.”

Although Snapchat was able to grow its popularity amongst a younger audience, was it truly innovative? Russett argues that Snapchat wasn’t creating anything new. “Think about Snapchat and related back to when broadcast TV first aired. Broadcast happened, and then they were gone.”

As for the key to Snapchat’s success, Russett comments, “Snapchat works with a lot of historical and human truths. They’re just working within the human truths that they’ve discovered.”

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