Snapchat’s ultimate competitive advantage

Historically, social networks have always been where we gather and connect through information. We connect at public forums, town squares, and barber shops. We connect over culture, sports, and politics. You name the place and topic; social networks are there.

But in this day and age, this theoretical social network utopia has developed a pervasive dark side. Some aspects of our social networks feel heavy with anger, fear, and distrust. It is no longer a place to gather and connect as much as it is a place to stay within the confines of our particular bubbles.

Facebook and Twitter have become battlegrounds of thought and opinion, and there is only one social network that still stands for fun — Snapchat.

Facebook and Twitter hold the honor of being the source of news for a lot of people and have larger reach, albeit among a slightly older demographic. Meanwhile, Snapchat enjoys news that discusses the social platform as a preferred choice of teens (Nearly half of US teens prefer Snapchat over other social media) and, of course, the occasional bearish article about how Facebook is eating its lunch and stealing it’s features.

Some of my colleagues may laugh at my love of Snapchat, but my pro-Snapchat argument stems from my love of Snapchat’s ethos. It is simply a way to capture ephemeral, fun, social experiences. From the start, Snapchat gave users, mostly teens, the ability to not take themselves too seriously, as the platform did not codify and save their activities. It furthered its ethos with the launch of lenses, which can best be described as senseless fun. I mean who can’t laugh at themselves vomiting a rainbow, enjoy being disguised as a puppy, or even catch themselves absorbed into the phone watching a dancing hot dog.

Even with recent additions, designed to extend the platform’s users’ social network, the ethos of short-lived and intimate social experiences still holds true. For example, Snap Map only includes Snaps from friends, who share their location with you, and large social gathering events (usually more themed on the fun-side culturally).

All of this points in one direction, fun is Snapchat’s ultimate competitive advantage. It is the platform where we can truly escape the constant cultural and political turmoil and connect over the trivial again — a core aspect of the original promise of social networks.

Many will continue to compare Snapchat to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in terms of marketing impact. That’s fair and Snap is paying heed. With Snap’s recent acquisition of Placedthe location-based analytics and advertising measurement startup, it won’t be long before Snapchat’s ability to impact business results go from opaque to transparent.

However, we should remind ourselves that we all have multiple real-life social networks, which serve different purposes. In the modern construct of social networks, let’s appreciate Snapchat for what it is — the fun one.

Of course, it’s natural to want to, and begin, mimicking the giant — Snap Poaches Machine Learning Star From Facebook. But it’s likely that this wouldn’t end well; continuing to do so means playing on the giant’s turf, and by its rules.

I continue to argue, instead, Snap’s leading advantage is fun — don’t abandon it, appreciate it. Because at this time, we need our lighthearted social network as much as our serious ones.

For example, regardless of the end result for Spectacles, the launch was brilliant and well received. People all over were initially hungry for a pair: “Everywhere Snap [dropped] a Snapbot…crowds line up, dozens of people deep, and spend their hours waiting in line posting and tweeting about how excited they are .” — Recode. Effectively, Spectacles’ launch, just like the dancing hotdog, was a manifestation of Snap’s ethos of fun.

To Marketers — let’s recognize what Snapchat is and isn’t. It isn’t the reach platform that Facebook is. It isn’t the cultural town hall that Twitter manifests daily. It is where you interact and have fun with your target audience. To do this well, stop trying to simply reach your audience on Snapchat and start creating experiences and moments you can truly connect (and laugh) with your consumers.

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