Snapchat has been receiving a lot of attention lately. For the most part, that attention has been filled with skepticism, and with good reason. The company has recently gone through a round of layoffs, halted hiring, left thousands of Spectacles unsold and failed to meet investor's revenue goals since their IPO.
That being said, comparing Facebook to Snapchat is like comparing apples to oranges, and there are still many lessons entrepreneurs and other tech companies can take away from what Snapchat has done and the principles they embody as a company.
Snap, Facebook and Instagram: What's the Difference?
The reason so many of us loved hopping on Snapchat is because it's exclusive. It's a private app meant to nurture already existing relationships, not grow an audience, as is done on Facebook and Instagram.
Snapchat is an app to communicate with close friends in an intimate setting, not the friends we barely knew in high school or our opinionated uncles and aunts.
Facebook's entire business model is centered around scale, around connecting as many humans as possible, much different than Snap. Snapchat users go on it as an escape from Facebook and other similar networks, where (one could argue) hyper-visibility is slowly chipping away at privacy.
Because of this difference, the bigger Facebook (so, Instagram) becomes the more valuable Snapchat becomes to its users. With every extended family member who's swayed by Facebook to create an Instagram account, Snapchat becomes more attractive. Why? Because it's a place users can still shamelessly be themselves without worrying what their grandparent or their dad is going to think about it.
This contrast is the reason why Snapchat and Facebook aren't Pepsi and Coke. They aren't Biggie and Tupac. The two aren't Uber and Lyft. They're simply apples and oranges, and entrepreneurs can learn a lot from both of the social media titans.
Here's What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Snapchat
1. Stick to What Makes You Unique
Every innovative business has products or services to differentiate themselves from their competitors. For these type of companies, the moment they begin to stray away from the things that make them unique, they put themselves in a precarious position.
So far, Snap has stuck to their uniqueness well.They've avoided comparing themselves to Facebook or being influenced by the moves Mark Zuckerberg makes. In terms of being a social media app centered around privacy and exclusivity versus hyper-visibility, they know they're different and they embrace it.
Your customers love the things that make you different. If they didn't, they wouldn't have been your customers in the first place. Cater to them and only them. Don't pay attention to the outside noise. Your haters aren't the ones paying your bills.
2. Be Patient and Play the Long Game
"Hardware is going to be an important vehicle for delivering our customer experience maybe in a decade." - Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap
The quote above embodies what forward-thinking CEOs do: prepare for the future. Much like Jeff Bezos, Spiegel is no stranger to 'the long game'. The original Snapchat app was so unique that it led some of the biggest tech nerds scratching their heads wondering how to use it. Spiegel also turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook, and is already suiting up for commercial augmented reality.
For your own business, if you invest in the future today, you'll be automatically catapulting yourself ahead of competitors. Be present and live in the moment, but also be sure to be patient. Most of the time, the biggest payouts don't happen overnight.
3. Not Every Company Has to Make $27 Billion Per Year
When it comes to tech, we tend to think of things as binary. If one company is making less money than the other, our binary thinking tells us the latter company will certainly die. This thinking neglects the fact that niches can exist within social media apps. It neglects the fact that we as consumers use more than one app during our day.
Snapchat has a strong core of users. Ones who are unlikely to migrate to Facebook, and unlikely to ever find the same level of friend-to-friend connection they get on Snapchat from Instagram Stories.
Yes, it's very unlikely Snap will ever make $27 billion in a year like Facebook does, but that's okay. Not every company has to make $27 billion per year to have influence within an industry.
As an example, despite all the negative, ominous press Twitter has received over the past couple years, people forget the company still made $2.5 billion in revenue in 2016. That's more money than Taco Bell made in the same year. Do we think Taco Bell is going to crumble anytime soon?
Both Snapchat and entrepreneurs everywhere can learn from Twitter's mistakes here. If you're a $20 million company, then act like it. Embrace it. Don't live above your means. Only when you know the true logistics of your company should you begin to make an outlandish number of hires, projections and more.
4. Innovation and Creativity as Currency
Let's not forget that (for the most part) Facebook is the company that has been cloning and copying Snap, not the other way around. There's value in that. There's value in innovation. There's value in leading the charge. There's value in making your competitor come off as the 'older, less hip' social media platform or version of your company.
Apply this principle to your own business. As a brand, if you're miles ahead of your competitors when it comes to innovation, you'll always have an audience, whether big, small or somewhere in between.