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For a brief moment in time, it looked like uber-cool social network Snapchat was going to win over young millennials and displace Facebook as the No. 1 social network in the world. Snapchat had the attention of all the social media cool kids, as well as innovative new features – such as disappearing photos and augmented reality filters for photos – that made Snapchat a darling of social media enthusiasts. But it’s now the case that Snapchat has stopped adding users, and the race is on to find another Facebook alternative. So why didn’t Snapchat live up to the hype?
Why Snapchat never passed Facebook
One big reason, of course, is that the threat of a rival forced Facebook into a number of moves designed to minimize and co-opt the growing influence of Snapchat. It almost became a joke that, whatever new innovation Snapchat came up with, Facebook would find a way to undercut Snapchat by adding the same features to its Instagram platform. The best example here is the introduction of Instagram Stories. It’s now the case that, for just about any reason you’d use Snapchat, you can just as easily use Instagram.
Another big reason, though, had nothing to do with Facebook’s brazen co-opting of Snapchat, and everything to do with how Snapchat failed to make itself advertiser-friendly or brand-friendly. For example, organic reach on Snapchat is extremely limited, and for brands to gain any sort of traction on Snapchat, they have to do a lot of cross-promotion in the real world (such as via email newsletters).
Add in the fact that nearly one-half (45%) of Snapchat users are in the 18-to-24 demographic, and it all adds up to the fact that companies going after an older demographic tended to ignore Snapchat. Let’s face it, if you’re a maker of luxury automobiles, you probably aren’t going to spend a lot of money marketing your cars to 18-year-olds using goofy filters and lenses. Instead, it was brands like Taco Bell that tended to win Snapchat.
Can any social network replace Facebook?
While it might be too soon still to proclaim the death of Snapchat (the company did report record quarterly revenue at the beginning of 2019), the fact is that nobody is seriously talking about Snapchat as a Facebook alternative these days. Instead, the new media darling appears to be TikTok, a social media platform that is generating a lot of buzz these days.
Certainly, it’s worth exploring what features exist on TikTok that don’t exist on Facebook. In addition, it’s worth tracking which brands are getting an early jump on TikTok. It may only be a matter of time before Facebook prepares a series of moves to co-opt the ability of TikTok to gain market traction, though. We’ve seen this story in the past, and we know how it will turn out. But if there’s any good time to gain a step on Facebook, it’s now. The Silicon Valley giant is reeling from 18 months of negative sentiment around its approach to privacy and data security, and the time might be right for a company to step forward now and become “the next Facebook.”