Everyone who works in digital advertising -- especially those with a focus on social media and influencer marketing -- knows there is a fierce battle going on between Snap Inc. (Snapchat) and Instagram. As the CEO of an influencer marketing company, I can tell you Instagram is winning that battle in a big way.
Instagram stories launched in August of 2017 and their brands are already leveraging these stories far more than Snapchat stories. Of the campaigns we’ve run here at Open Influence in 2017, we have found 22 percent leveraged Instagram stories compared to just five percent that leveraged Snapchat stories.
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There are many reasons for Instagram’s dominance from an influencer marketing perspective, but let’s start with the fact that Instagram markets itself as a social platform while Snap Inc. describes itself as a “camera company.”
Considering Snapchat itself is a social platform designed around ephemeral communication between users, it seems odd for Snap Inc. to brand itself as a camera company. That positioning doesn’t signal to the market that social media marketing is a priority for the company.
That said, this battle is far from over. There are many ways for Snap to close the gap and better compete with Instagram in the world of influencer marketing. Here are three things Snap should do today:
1. Prioritize building a community to win back influencers.
Snapchat has focused primarily on facilitating communication between users that already know each other. They are essentially neglecting influencers engaging with their platform in the process. In July of this year, Snapchat finally unveiled a few features designed to appease influencers, most notably, Paperclip.
This feature allows users to link to external websites in their Snapchat videos. This enables influencers to link-out to brand websites. It is this branded website traffic that demonstrates the value of their influence to advertisers.
This is a solid step for Snapchat. Score one for Snapchat since Instagram currently only allows verified accounts (brands and celebrities) to add links in their Instagram stories -- but it must do more.
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Additionally, Snapchat needs to give social influencers a little TLC. Unlike A-list celebrities, many influencers’ livelihood depends on their ability to capitalize on their social followings, and posting on each platform is a full-time job. These small businesses or influencers aren’t getting paid by advertisers with no expectation of returns.
Treating them well and making it easier for them to make a living goes a long way to building loyality among the influencers. To start, Snapchat needs to offer better audience analytics tools, link attribution and verifiable metrics that they can share with potential brand partners.
For example, Snapchat could offer custom filters, audience demographics data, or early access to new features. Building a real community of influencers is like growing a garden, it requires a lot of care and attention.
2. Eliminate friction in the user experience.
Snapchat needs to enhance its discovery capabilities. Currently, there is no way to search for other users within the app itself. That’s a big problem for influencers who have now been forced to promote their Snapchat presence on other social networks -- especially Instagram.
Snapchat has basically been relying on other social networks to grow its user base. This might not have been a huge issue for Snapchat when its functionality was unique enough for consumers to regularly use it along with other social networks.
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Now, with Instagram (and other Facebook-owned platforms) continuing to replicate Snapchat’s most popular features, it has certainly become a problem.
Snapchat needs to simplify the user experience. As a millennial that has followed Snapchat since day one, many people -- including myself -- were initially drawn to Snap because of its simplicity. It was an app that allowed you to send photos to your friends -- then that photo would disappear after they viewed them.
Adding the video function was cool, and the filters are fun, but some of Snapchat’s more recent moves seem too far removed from the app’s core purpose. I’m going to Snapchat to send funny photos and videos to my friends -- not looking for the Daily Mail to pop up in my “discover” section.
I would really rather not be notified that Kim Kardashian went to the beach today. Instead, I might want to follow Kim Kardashian -- and in that case, there should be an easy way for me to find her, and any other celebrity or influencer I’m interested in.
3. Snapchat advertisers are flocking to Instagram.
To win back the trust of the advertisers, Snapchat absolutely needs to collect more data about its users. If there is one company that has nailed this, it’s Facebook, and you’d better believe Instagram benefits from that information.
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Snapchat needs to find better ways to collect user data on the backend. They should also consider third-party partnerships that would enhance its ability to gather the data and add it in a user friendly fashion.
Once Snapchat gets its data game up to par, it should focus on winning over direct response advertisers. Direct advertisers are the guys that will spend millions after seeing any kind of instant return.
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It doesn’t really matter how big or small, the direct advertisers just need some type of instant gratification. From there, Snapchat should adjust pricing and user acquisition funnels until it has the perfect mouse trap for these direct response advertisers.
Next, it needs to build an arsenal of case studies around sales and brand lift. It should create case studies for virtually every brand category that demonstrate clear value in terms of awareness as well as conversions.
Influencers aren’t going to bend over backwards to convince brands to spend money on Snapchat. It will clearly be up to Snapchat to prove to advertisers that it's a platform that is a valuable channel for engaging with consumers.
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Bumbling as it is, Snapchat isn’t out for the count from an influencer marketing perspective. Influencers continue using both platforms. Whether Snapchat regains lost influencer marketing dollars is entirely up to the company itself.
If Snapchat takes action today to cozy up to influencers, simplify the user experience and win back the trust of advertisers, Snapchat will find itself closing in on Instagram and possibly start surpassing it before we know it.