Why Journalists Can No Longer Ignore Snapchat

by Tim Cigelske
September 6, 2016
Photo from kaboompics.com and used under a Creative Commons license

“Not ready to pretend that @Instagram is @Snapchat yet.”

One of my fellow grad students tweeted that back on August 6, in the wake of Instagram cloning Snapchat’s features with their Stories function.

"The early numbers suggest another reality: Snapchat is here to stay."

Now we have numbers to show that this loyal sentiment is common among Snapchat’s core users.

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BuzzFeed news reporter  recently shared data from third party providers that “did not find any meaningful decline” in Snapchat’s metrics after the launch of Mark Zuckerberg’s latest attempt to challenge the king of ephemeral messaging.

“So for those who were quick to deem Instagram Stories a Snapchat killer, the early results suggest it may be wise to reconsider that label,” Kantrowitz wrote. “It doesn’t look like Instagram’s number of users changed after it released Stories, either.”

It’s still early in the life cycle of Instagram Stories, of course, and there’s still a chance it could eat away from Snapchat’s user base over time. But it’s not likely.

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The early numbers suggest another reality: Snapchat is here to stay.

Reminder: Related DigitalEd training: Snapchat and Instagram Stories for Journalists

Snapchat has already fended off Facebook’s clutches before, and apparently the company doesn’t even feel the need to have a Facebook page. First, the company turned down Zuckerberg’s $3 billion offer. Then, Facebook tried to mimic Snapchat’s disappearing messages feature with Slingshot, until the underwhelming app disappeared itself. And now, it looks like the latest ambitious attempt to unseat Snapchat has fallen flat.

Two platforms, two opportunities

So what does this mean for journalists?

First, it means that journalists who have held out hope that Snapchat might just be a passing fad should start taking the platform seriously. Believe it or not, Snapchat turns five years old (!) this month and has more active daily users than Twitter. Many journalists are already harnessing Snapchat, and those who have resisted need to reconsider what Snapchat could offer.

Journalists also need to think of Snapchat as its own unique platform with established norms, culture and users that can’t easily be swayed with the latest technology. If it was all about technology, Snapchat users would have already made the switch to Instagram Stories or even Slingshot. It takes time to understand all the nuances of Snapchat — like the easter eggs buried in the app — but it’s the platform’s idiosyncrasies that make it sticky to users.

And finally, journalists need to look at Stories with a fresh perspective and not just see it as a Snapchat clone. Instagram’s new feature may share similar features, but it’s evolving in a different ecosystem with different users. The best practices on Snapchat may not apply on Instagram. There’s still time to make your mark on Instagram Stories, even if you have no clue how to navigate Snapchat.

So with the report of Snapchat withstanding Instagram’s onslaught, the good news for journalists is that they don’t need to pretend that Instagram is Snapchat. But they also can no longer pretend that Snapchat will disappear.

Tim Cigelske (@TeecycleTim) is the Associate Editor of MetricShift. He has reported and written for the Associated Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Budget Travel, Adventure Cyclist and more. Today, he is the Director of Social Media at Marquette University as well as an adjunct professor teaching media writing and social media analytics. You may also know him as The Beer Runner blogger for DRAFT Magazine.

Tagged: ephemeral messaging instagram snapchat social media

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