Why Snapchat isn't social media

Snap actually says so. I agree.

It’s a bagel morning for me. Lox, scallion cream cheese, capers, tomato, on an egg everything. Doesn’t exactly jive with my whole adult basketball comeback attempt, but did I mention scallion cream cheese?

While I have you, I’m throwing a FREE webinar tomorrow on Influencer Marketing Strategies with tech journalist Taylor Lorenz & Fohr! Grab those details right over here.

Until then, let’s talk about:

  • Why Snapchat isn’t social media

  • Why TikTok’s future isn’t music—it’s sounds.

  • The Celtics’ new viral video creator

—Jack Appleby

Why Snapchat isn’t social media.

There I was, starring at a pause & a frown in a very important moment for my career. I’d just said “I don’t really get why you’d be on Snapchat in the first place” to the social strategy lead at Beats By Dre—aka, the person who had final sign-off on whether I’d get my first agency director job. Not my most polished delivery, but a sentiment I stood behind. She wasn’t an easy interview (nor client, if we’re being honest), but she let me walk through why I loved Snap’s paid offerings for brands, but why making content for the ghost was expensive, inefficient, & ultimately not the best use of time or budget.

She actually told me I was wrong, but I did get the job.

Feeling a little vindicated 8 years later after Snapchat surprised us all with their first Super Bowl commercial, titled “Less social media. More Snapchat.”

Here’s the 2 min version of the spot.

Pretty great video. I don’t think waiting to reveal the company til the end was wise for the actual Super Bowl spot (my whole viewing party was confused, then tried to reprocess it, then gave up), but the message? The content of the commercial? I dig it.

Snapchat released a manifesto version as well—it’s a pretty stellar piece. Maybe my favorite long-form to come from a brand trying to explain themselves. Let’s have a read.

Snapchat’s Manifesto

"The promise of social media started out great. It was a place where we could connect with people and share bits of our lives. A place where we could be a part of something bigger than ourselves — where we could feel supported and loved.

But somewhere in the adolescence of social media, things began to feel off. Friends became people who felt more like strangers. Moments became more curated. Sharing became more contrived. Social media felt like an inauthentic version of our lives, rather than a source of genuine connection. And this made us feel less connected, less open, and less comfortable expressing ourselves.

People feel exhausted by the social media popularity contest. Fed up with having to look pretty or perfect in every post. Tired of competing for likes and comments. Misled by misinformation.

But Snapchat is not social media. It never was. In fact, it was built as an antidote to social media.

Snapchat opens to a camera, and not a feed of content, so we can share our perspective easily with those who matter most to us. You know, the people we’re friends with in real life; the ones we feel comfortable sharing our full range of emotions with — the ups and downs, the good and bad — without the pressure to post the perfect thing.

Conversations on Snapchat are designed to delete by default because that’s just how conversations in real life work. We can express ourselves with our close friends – in the same way we would if we were just hanging out together. There’s no feed with unmoderated content or live streams; just creators, publishers, and entertaining content from our community – all moderated before it has the potential to be seen by lots of people.

Our lives are so much more than just a series of pretty and perfect moments. They’re funny and messy and exciting and boring and beautiful and heartbreaking and crazy… and real. And it’s best when they’re shared with those closest to us.

Because ultimately, it’s surrounding ourselves with the people who matter most to us that makes us the most happy. We all need more connection. We just need less social media to do it.

Less social media. More Snapchat."

Okay, so… what does that mean for brands?

Snapchat’s squarely in that social-adjacent area of digital communication, alongside messaging products like WhatsApp and video products like YouTube and Twitch—where there are social behaviors, but they aren’t true social media platforms.

Should your brand have a Snapchat account, where you make content? No. You’re not a person. Be gone, brands!

But there are plenty of strategic + creative reasons to advertise on Snapchat!

Creative examples of Snapchat advertising

Most platforms have Creative Strategy teams that help large brands think of platform-specific ideas. I’ve worked with most of them—I can confidently say Snap’s team was always was easiest to work with + the most creative (besides my beloved Twitch CS team, tho I’m shamelessly biased on that one).

Even better, Snap has an entire website dedicated to case studies to get a lil’ inspiration for advertising intiatives, showing all sorts of filters, lenses, & other good-fun-interactive options, like last month’s HR Block campaign.

Some Snapchat audience stats for ya

Here’s a few numbers the folks at Snapchat shot my way:

  • Snapchat has over 414 million daily active users (Q4 2023 earnings)

  • Snapchat reaches 90% of the 13 to 24 year old population + 75% of the 13 to 34 year old population in over 25 countries

  • Snapchat is still teenagers’ second-favorite app behind TikTok.

All in all—if you’re looking to do something creative to reach Gen Z, you should probably spend paid media budget on the ghost app.

Social Cues

There are so many social big thinkers out there, writing all kinds of amazing strategies, analysis, and breakdowns. All ships rise with the tide, so here are a few reads from other places I think you could learn from.

Meet the Celtics’ 20-year-old viral video editor. This guy’s turning Boston highlights into cinematic short-form videos that generate huuuugeee social numbers. I’ve never become a fan of someone’s work this fast.

Ollipop is paying 2 friends $40k to be Senior Soda Consultants. The fake title contest gag is a popular one with brands (honestly surprised the “job” isn’t Chief Soda Officer). The announcements make great headlines—I always wonder if the ROI / resulting content works out?

Music is TikTok’s Past. Sounds may be TikTok’s future. I’ve been hesitant to link to any specific new story on the UMG vs. TikTok fight because it’s just constantly developing, so here, have some theorizing on what’s next for the Tok.