Snapchat emerged as a dark horse in the world of social media, and it has come a long way since its controversial "sexting" days. According to the company, 150 million people use Snapchat every day, and they spend an average of 25-30 minutes watching a collective 10 billion videos.
For a long time, the company sat on such data and focused on creating a unique experience for its youthful user base (60% are under the age of 25), while limiting options for marketers and being incredibly selective in which brands it allowed to advertise on it platform.
However, to stay competitive post-IPO, Snap needs to not only maintain and grow its user base but also convince marketers of the value of advertising on the platform.
Leading up to its IPO at the end of 2016, Snapchat increased accessibility and options for marketers. That effort was likely fueled by other social media giants—notably Facebook, which also owns Instagram—creating similar versions of the app on their own platform. Facebook Stories has had a lackluster initial reception, but Instagram Stories is threatening Snapchat's dominance; as of mid-April 2017, it surpassed Snapchat in active daily users.
Marketing Capabilities Added in 2016 and Early 2017
Snapchat tested and rolled out several ad features leading up to the IPO, despite making it clear to investors that the platform may never be profitable. In addition to its Discover feature, where selected brands publish new content daily that is tailored to the platform, Snapchat now offers targeted ad offerings (including behavioral ads), mid-roll ads, and sponsored geofilters and lenses. It also opened its API to select partners in the fall, and it is experimenting with ways to advertise using its Spectacles product.
In early May 2017, Snap launched a new self-service product called Snapchat Ad Manager that lets marketers buy any of Snap's ad formats, including videos, and target them to certain groups of users. Ad Manager expands the advertising pool to a broader base of small to midsize companies.
Leading marketing industry experts are hoping that the IPO, and the increased options for marketers, will create a more competitive digital media landscape. At this year's Mobile World Congress, WPP CEO Martin Sorrell said he thinks Snapchat has the potential to be the third major player competing with Google and Facebook for digital advertising, although it still has a long way to go.
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