To put it mildly, since Snap's IPO in March of 2017, it's been a rocky road. From their revenue not meeting investor's projections to the rise of competing Instagram Stories to Spectacles (the company's attempt at hardware) under-performing, it's no surprise why there has been uncertainty about how bright Snap's future truly is.
A recent advertisement that aired during the NCAA Final Four didn't exactly help the case either. As first reported by The Verge, the commercial shows people of all ages, from kids to grandparents, enjoying the app:
Why This Is Concerning for Snap
While the ad may seem like an innocent attempt at expanding their audience, it's symptomatic of a much larger problem and crossroads facing the company. Recently, Snap redesigned its entire app, a move that left many loyal users scratching their heads, including myself.
The purpose of the redesign was simple: to increase potential advertising dollars the same way every other social media platform monetizes its attention. That's by getting every pair of eyeballs (regardless of who those eyeballs belong to) on their platform for as long as possible.
Because of this, Snap is in a precarious place. In order to truly "win" in the marketplace, it must keep its core users happy with the product while simultaneously proving to investors it can become a profitable, stable business.
Up until now, Snap has done a terrific job keeping this balance. With interactive feature after interactive feature, from Snap Map to Context Cards, the company found a way to be innovative and fun while still opening up the possibility of massive advertising dollars.
With moves like the redesign though, Snap may be straying away from what makes them unique and valuable in the marketplace: being a reaction to the lack of privacy of Facebook (a fact that's become even more clear as of late with the Cambridge Analytica scandal).
This is why messages disappear, this is why the logo of Snap is a ghost, this is why Snap was so hesitant to get involved with the influencers on their platform. They are, or were, a company based on privacy, on intimacy, and not being held accountable for your posts.
This is also why people who think Instagram Stories directly threaten Snap don't see the whole picture. The companies run on two entirely separate models. With every Grandma Jill or Great Uncle Sal who joins Instagram or Facebook, Snapchat gets more powerful.
Why? Because it's one of the only places users can be themselves without having to worry about whether or not their future boss will fire them or their mom will scold them for drunkenly singing Rihanna at a piano bar.
Since its IPO, I've said that if Snap can stick to its core values of being a private, friend-to-friend platform then the sky is truly the limit. The second Snap's leaders let short-sighted investors bully them in the boardroom and enter the "rat race for eyeballs and attention" that Mark Zuckerberg is involved in, their days are numbered.
From this ad, it's clear Snap is pushing to try and gain traction within other demographics--which may very well be a sign they're preparing to enter that rat race.
Why It Matters to You
So why should you, as an entrepreneur or marketer, care what happens to Snap?
The main reason is simple: A defeat for Snap is a defeat for privacy on social media as a whole. It would mean that, to investors, the only truly "valuable" social media platforms are those where our thoughts and ramblings are permanently cemented in the online world.
Snap was a reaction to the privacy we were losing as consumers, and it going public was a stamp of approval from the business world that intimacy and authenticity were deemed valuable in the marketplace.
Let's also remember that not every business is built for Facebook. If Snap falls off, that's one less unique, original platform to connect you with potential customers. For business owners, the more viable platforms there are online, the better.
Snap has a difficult road ahead. The second every mom and dad hop on the platform, the magic might disappear. In an era where everything we do is tracked online, and where people can lose jobs over Tweets they posted when they were 13, a private app allowing users to be their true selves will win. Maybe that winner is Snap, or maybe it's an app a couple college kids are developing as we speak.
Only time will tell, but I certainly don't envy Evan Spiegel right now. Well, except for being a billionaire and being married to Miranda Kerr. Those would both be nice.