Snapchat Leaps From Social Media Hype To Messaging Life Companion

Photo of Karol Severin
by Karol Severin

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Snapchat rolled out a new set of features to its chat capabilities yesterday. Besides adding direct voice and video calling capabilities, the ‘Chat 2.0’ now offers a seamless way to switch between various types of communication within a chat session. Users can now start a conversation and utilize all voice, video, text, and stickers within a single session. The critical part is that they never have to switch off the existing session. Instead all forms of communications seamlessly overlay within it.

The move arguably puts Snapchat to the forefront of messaging experiences, when compared to the likes of Messenger, Whatsapp or Instagram, none of which currently offer such comprehensive set of chat capabilities within a single chat session.

Messaging users often engage with multiple messaging platforms as each is deemed appropriate for different types of communication with different people. Over the past years, each major messaging platform has developed their own signature use case, with Whatsapp built upon text messaging and simplicity, Instagram taking the picture space or Skype and Face Time with video calling. Each messaging platform carved out a territory they are mostly used for. Snapchat’s new update essentially takes all these use cases and makes them available within one single experience.

Despite amassing an impressive 214 million monthly active users (for more data and analysis on key messaging platforms, refer to our Mobile Messaging Platforms Report) Snapchat’s use case had been traditionally aimed at a rather niche type of mobile messaging (i.e. perishable snap messaging). Indeed adding the more conventional direct phone/video call functionality opens the door for more mainstream audiences to warm up to the platform. But perhaps even more importantly, it gives existing users less of reason to switch off the app and continue communication via a competitor’s platform instead. Naturally, the longer Snapchat can keep users engaged on its platform, the better its chances of monetization. Success of ad-supported messaging platforms is directly dependent on how good of a job can they do to keep consumers within their ad inventory ecosystems.

It will be interesting to see how other messaging platforms will react to this development. While messaging behemoths like Messenger currently have large enough audiences to gradually ‘move on’ from improving the core user to user messaging experience to more disruptive innovations such as bot services, they can’t afford to sleep on their laurels either. In the US ,Facebook is already loosing traction with its youngest audiences often no longer finding Facebook ‘the coolest platform on the block’. The youth adoption momentum is on Snapchat’s side. And now the update gives Snapchat a very real way of leaping from the reputation of a social platform with a hype expiry date towards a messaging life companion for younger audiences. In other words, Chat 2.0 shows us that Snapchat is here to stay as it defines a more comprehensive use case for mainstream audiences. If through such improvements, Snapchat manages to keep its audiences within its ecosystem as they age, it presents a long-term threat which incumbent messaging platforms should not take lightly.

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