Congratulations to the founders of and the early investors in Snapchat or Snap Inc. on their successful initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange today. Shares apparently rose 44% on day one and we can expect the luxury car dealerships around Venice Beach here in Southern California where the company is located to have some good weeks ahead of them.
I will not speculate about whether the stock price represents a fair evaluation or not. However, I can speak about my own experience as a user of Snapchat. In short, it has been a struggle. I have persisted over the last year to try to figure out the benefits and use cases of this platform as I enjoy keeping an open mind to new things. Still, I now find it difficult to even remember to check the app on a daily basis.
Snapchat User Interface
Immediately, I was struck by how unintuitive the user interface felt to me as I didn't really recognize established patterns of how social networks were “supposed to” look look like. For example, fluent users swipe the screen up and down or right and left when I was used to click on menus and buttons.
Then I realized that this is exactly why they have appealed to a much younger demographic as they were not interested in yet another social network trying to mimic Facebook. For younger users, the user interface made perfect sense and then I realized that this app has been designed with a mobile-first perspective as opposed to a social network like Facebook that was designed for a desktop experience first only to be adapted to to a mobile interface at a later point. Looking back, I now remember how Facebook was both slow and not very apt at figuring out their transition to a mobile experience.
When my daughter Selma overheard me being interviewed over the phone by NBC News about social media trends last year, she said “dad, you are not allowed to talk about Snapchat anymore unless you learn how to use it!” Lo and behold, she sat me down and gave me a one-hour crash course to get started and this form of “reverse mentoring” is something I discussed in my TEDxUmeå talk. I think it is healthy to swallow your pride and accept the fact that young folks can teach you things just as you hope to share something of value with them at times.
This way, I was able to start experimenting some by starting follow people and share updates. I certainly had some good experiences and laughs along the way. I also noted that more people in my demographic, albeit heavily biased toward other marketing professionals, appeared on the platform and began using it for business and as a part of their “content marketing strategies.”
My frustration over the fact that updates would disappear was alleviated when Selma taught me how to save my updates and even save a whole day's worth of updates in so-called Snapchat Stories. I began obsessively saving everything I did thinking that I may want to repurpose that content later on other platforms or simply have them on my phone to be later exported to my trusted desktop experience.
Then Instagram “stole” the concept when they launched Instagram Stories. My daughter was quite upset about the unfairness of the whole situation. I tried to respect her frustration by not jumping over completely at least not right away. Still, I soon recognized that many more of my friends were on Instagram and the engagement I got from my Instagram Stories quickly dwarfed the response I saw on Snapchat. Hence, I began using Instagram more and Snapchat only sporadically.
My Future with or without Snapchat
My reduced usage of Snapchat may have less to do with the platform per se and more to do with the social network of people I have and where they hang out. Not so much on Snapchat or perhaps I have not looked carefully enough. I believe I will keep using it and recently, Selma and I achieved a new milestone with a 5-day streak of snapping each other. Who knows, perhaps, I will go all Gary Vaynerchuk on the platform one day and give it another chance but I have my doubts and don't expect to take the platform too seriously for my personal use.
That doesn't necessarily mean that I am dissing the future prospects of Snapchat even if I like many others see that they have a formidable foe in the Facebook/Instagram combo that doesn't seem to have any qualms about adopting the best features Snapchat come out with. At least Selma, 13 years old, still spends (too much…) time using Snapchat and have streaks with her friends going on in the 200+ days range. However, she isn't too impressed by the “Spectacles” sunglasses the company is pushing.
What about your experiences with Snapchat? Am I missing out? Will you be my snap buddy?
If you'd like to check out my TEDxUmeå TEDx talk in which I talk about my reverse mentorship experience with Selma and Snapchat, have a go at it and let me know what you think!