We just can’t seem to stop talking about Snapchat these days. First there was the security breach at the start of the year, which saw millions of user names and contact details leaked. Snapchat promptly resolved the issue, although CEO Evan Spiegel’s reticence over making a public apology for the mishap made headlines. He eventually caved to PR pressure and apologised, but not before cementing his reputation as a “cocky” and “arrogant” CEO.
Snapchat found itself in the news again this week when US Senator Rand Paul announced that he would be joining the network, prompting commentators all over the world to assert that Snapchat just isn’t cool any more. Because really, what could be less appealing to its prominent tween user base than a 51 year old politician jumping on the bandwagon?
That said, Paul’s reasons for joining Snapchat aren’t that absurd. He is a socially savvy public figure with a decent-sized following on Facebook and Twitter. He told NowThis News that he joined Snapchat “to communicate with people and not leave a trace for the NSA”, referring both to the app’s trademark disappearing images and his longstanding objections to the National Security Agency. Only time will tell whether Paul will fully embrace the medium and become embroiled in a sexting scandal like Anthony Wiener.
But back to Snapchat. What’s interesting about the platform, and Spiegel, is what they imply about other social networks, particularly Facebook. The story of how Spiegel rejected Mark Zuckerberg’s offer to buy Snapchat has achieved urban legend status in Silicon Valley, with numerous column inches dedicated to verifying what really happened. But the fact of the matter is, Spiegel knows his product is one people are flocking to, meaning he gets to choose to whom he can sell Snapchat, and when.
“There are huge benefits of Snapchat to Facebook”, says Patrick D’Souza, founder of the marketing consultancy Insanity. “But they are even bigger to Google, given the sheer width of the web, and services the company provides across it.” Any number of social media sources will tell you that Facebook is haemorrhaging users, especially teenagers, losing out to youth-centric networks like We Heart It and messaging apps such as Snapchat.
“This year marked the start of what looks likely to be a sustained decline of what had been the most pervasive of all social networking sites,” states one study, which went viral last year. “Young people are turning away in their droves and adopting other social networks instead… Facebook is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried.”