Snapchat’s struggles – a company in freefall?

by | 09/08/18

Recent figures show that Snapchat’s daily users have dropped – the first time such a statistic has ever been reported by the company.

Over the April-to-June period it recorded 188 million daily active users (DAU) – three million fewer than the previous quarter.

Often referred to as the ‘must-have app for millennials’, Snapchat has enjoyed substantial growth since it was released in September 2011, but almost seven years later, could the new challenge be maintaining its userbase rather than growing it?

The beginning of the end?

While boasting 188 million daily active users is still a staggering statistic, the loss of three million of its most loyal consumers shows that something isn’t working, or rather, the social media landscape is experiencing another cultural shift.

We’ve seen in the past, other successful social media platforms fall by the wayside from positions of undisputed dominance, and so when statistics like these come to light, it’s often followed by a lot of scepticism as commentators declare a ‘dying app’ and begin predicting its downfall, often prematurely.

While losing three million daily users is clearly not ideal, it’d be unfair to start writing Snapchat’s obituary just yet, as we’ve seen plenty of times popular social media platforms recover from some quite precarious positions.

What’s to blame?

While the inquest into Snapchat’s downturn will be ongoing, identifying the two biggest contributing factors doesn’t require the help of seasoned detectives or specialist social media analysts.

Snapchat’s confusing update almost six months prior was met with immediate, widespread backlash from its most loyal users, as the redesign changed the way in which content was accessed and consumed on the app.

Tampering with the functionality of the app turned out to be a catastrophic move for the company, and despite efforts since to address some of the most pressing issues, this initial change was enough to turn off many users, causing them to fall out of love with the once much simpler app.

At the same time, Snapchat’s biggest media-sharing rival Instagram had rolled out its own ‘stories’ feature – a feature that was being used by 400 million daily active users in June.

Instagram also recently gained a range of augmented reality effects, which superimpose graphics over people’s faces and other real-world objects.

While these are all features Snapchat adopted first, Instagram has found a way to introduce them effectively, overcoming the initial criticism of being ‘unoriginal’ and directly taking users away from Snapchat with the lure of a sleek, easy to use app.

It’s not over yet

While the situation may currently look bleak, Snapchat is more than capable of overcoming existing obstacles and regaining positive momentum to spark future growth.

Switching over to programmatic advertising – where ads are bought via automated software tools rather than human sales agents – has allowed Snapchat to attract more high-profile brands to the platform.

Improving its ability to match promotions to relevant consumers, the app has successfully maintained its impressive sales record, keeping the money coming in despite its userbase encountering damage.

While it looks as though the battle has been lost to Instagram at this moment in time, one exciting new update or one misjudged adjustment from its rival could change the entire scenario.

For now, though, Snapchat needs to focus on maintaining its existing userbase, addressing the most pressing issues and delivering solutions that can bring back the magic responsible for its worldwide success.