Though long known and described in the media as a social media platform, Snap Inc., parent of the popular social media portal Snapchat, has always shied away from being labeled as a social media firm. Its preferred tag was a camera company.
But these days Snapchat is looking less like either and more like a company trying to build itself into a super app ecosystem for users, making headlines for a new partnership that will allows musicians to license their music on Snap directly, a partnership with the NBA to promote its All-Star Game and a new deal with newspaper conglomerate Gannett to sell digital advertising. And those are notably the headlines of the last seven days or so.
Looking back over the last year or so, Snap has been busy building out its ecosystem dramatically — and making it possible for more types of users to do more within the total Snap ecosystem. Last summer, Snap began rolling out new developer eCommerce tools to make transacting on the site easier for consumers and merchants. Those tools included Snap Minis, created to allow new ways to connect on the app and described by Snap as “a new way for developers to bring their services inside Snapchat and empower new, social experiences.” Users will be able to use apps like Headspace to meditate with friends, flashcard apps to study together, or apps to buy event tickets, all easily integrated into Snapchat’s features.
Snap also rolled out upgraded augmented reality (AR) features within the app, used to notable effect by Ikea which went to leverage them to build a virtual escape room within the Snapchat app. Those escape rooms are filled with, and force users to interact with Ikea products.
“One of the challenges during this Covid-19 time is that we really want to create different experiences to continue to engage our customers with our home furnishing solutions in new ways — especially visually,” Paul Anderson, Ikea’s U.S. interior design leader, told Adweek about the company’s efforts. “For people who are a little apprehensive of visiting our stores during this time … it’s about trying to really meet people where they’re at.”
In parallel, Snap has also sought to expand the boundaries of what Snap users can expect to see within the app, adding its short video streaming feature Spotlight as a direct rival to TikTok and Instagram Reels. As of late 2020, Snap was taking that competition extremely seriously, offering $1 million “to users who create entertaining snaps.” Payouts are calculated using a “proprietary equation” based on the comparison of views against other highly viewed snaps.
“Our ranking algorithm looks at factors that show people are interested in a particular Snap, like: the amount of time spent watching it, if it is favorited, and if it’s shared with friends,” the company said. “We focus on serving the right Snaps to the right person at the right time. We do this by trying to understand your personal preferences.”
The acquisition, according to reports, will allow for the faster development of the Snap Map, which will let users look at public snaps from a given area and share with friends, the report stated. That feature was added last summer to the main Snapchat navigation bar and was drawing around 200 million users per month. The acquisition was designed to also improve products like Local Lenses, which lets developers make geography-specific augmented reality lenses to interact with physical locations.
And Snap’s growing ambitions seem to align with a platform with an increasingly large and engaged population of uses. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel noted during the firm’s most recent earnings call that the company ended the quarter with 265 million active users, and that the average Snap user opens the app about 30 times a day.
“We are reorganizing our product team around the five core platforms on Snapchat — Map, Communication, Camera, Stories and Spotlight — which we believe will drive increased focus and operational excellence as we transition each platform into a monetizable business,” Spiegel told analysts. “We successfully made that transition with Stories, which we monetize with full-screen vertical video ads, and with our Camera, where businesses can pay to promote their Lenses.”
And Snap is thinking about growth — big growth. Peter Sellis, Snap’s senior director of ad products, told investors during investor day the firm is positioned to drive multiple years of revenue growth of more than 50 percent as its ambitions and monetization plans become more expansive.
Snap may not want to be known as a super app any more than it wanted to be called a social media platform before. But it’s certainly investing its time, energy and money to make its ecosystem an easier place for consumers to stay longer, do more and check in on more times per day.
And, given its last earnings report, it seems fair to say that consumers are getting interested in the new and improved growing Snap ecosystem.