Written by Mausum Shah
Since the breakout of social media at the turn of the 21st century, idea developers have focused on platforms allowing people to showcase where they are, what they’re doing, or what they’re thinking. At first, this tech movement relied mostly on everyday users creating content, typically photos or blogs intended to be widely available. The most successful platforms for this in the early 2000s to do so were MySpace, Facebook, and Tumblr. More recently, the trend has shifted from public posting, to more “private” instant uploads. Snapchat has emerged from this trend with unprecedented success.
Created by three Stanford students— Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown— Snapchat was designed to connect users to their own select groups of followers. The application allows the user to take photos or record videos, add text over the image, and send it to whomever they chose.
While its social media predecessors (e.g. Facebook and Instagram) carry the expectation that a post may be visible to anyone with access to an account, Snapchat shares content more narrowly. Photos and videos each come with a 10-second-max viewing window. Once that viewing window has closed, the photo or video is automatically deleted.
With privacy as a central tenet, Snapchat has found its niche that the social media world has embraced. According to Snapchat’s official website, by May 2014, users were sending over 700 million photos and videos per day. Perhaps even more impressive than Snapchat’s dominance in private instant uploads is how the company is cultivating that turf.
In summer 2014, Snapchat launched Geofilters, defining them as, “special overlays for Snaps that can only be accessed in certain locations.” Essentially, when users are in specific geographic locations, such as the West Village or Times Square, they are
able to snap a picture or send a video to their friends with a fun location tag.
Snapchat has evolved from simple uploading to a sense of artistry. The company declared that, “Artists and designers are encouraged to use this tool to bring their one-of-a-kind style to the Snapchat community.”
With the introduction of Geofilters, Snapchat’s valuation and popularity grew exponentially. Geofilters were created for every type of location, ranging from small suburban towns to famous landmarks around the world. Snapchat provided a sense of global community that other social media platforms could not quite create.
This led to the dawn of Snap Stories— a universal forum on Snapchat where users can submit a picture or a video to a live feed of a specific location, set by the Geofilters. With this, a user in New York City can check out the live feed of users in Beijing who have submitted their photos and videos.
Snapchat routinely features various cities and events, from the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona to the Super Bowl in MetLife Stadium. But to retain its roots as an intimate sharing platform, Snapchat developed the personal Snap Story. This acts in the
same manner as its global counterpart, but it is not location- specific and is made only available to the user’s friends. With advances in both the private and public sectors in the world of online applications, advertisers soon took notice
Popular brands, such as McDonalds, SoulCycle, and Sephora, have pursued Snapchat’s 100 million daily users. Many brands have adopted the strategy of creating Geofilters to attract users in the vicinity of a store. By updating their Geofilters on a monthly basis and individualizing certain tags based on store locations, brands have found a purposeful marketing strategy applicable to any fun selfie.
To the advertiser, it’s brand awareness; but to a Snapchat user, it’s a new filter— a new memory. Gordon Wong, a tech enthusiast and NYU student, reviewed these additions favorably, saying, “It’s a cool and entertaining way to interact with your family, friends and community.”
Through its sponsored Geofilters, Snapchat has been able to generate ad revenue without “annoying” its users— a problem that many applications and social media platforms face. According to analysts interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, if Snapchat is able to analyze the data they gather through these sponsored filters, the application’s value will skyrocket. In other words, brands will be racing to get their Geofilters on Snapchat. This has already started to happen.
Thanks to Snapchat, the sponsored content industry is being transformed. It will be interesting to see what’s next for Snapchat and other social media companies planning the future of content sharing.