This article was contributed to CongRegation 14 (#cong14) at congregation.ie in which the author participated. Visit the website to view this great social media gathering event!
Astronomical valuations for tech companies are nothing new, in fact it’s commonplace nowadays. The tricky part is justifying these sky high estimations and that problem becomes even harder when the company doesn’t have any real turnover to date. This is Snapchat’s problem. Yes Snapchat, the app made famous for being used by teens and others alike to send each other disappearing sexts, is apparently worth US$10 Billion! Maybe proving once and for all that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
So how do you attempt to validate, and more importantly monetise, an app with such a large estimated worth but no real turnover? Snapchat might just have the answer. Earlier this year Snapchat added a new feature called Our Story to its Recent Updates section. The Our Story feature is a central live feed of user generated videos and pictures usually lasting 2-3 minutes from a particular global event. Users can contribute to the Our Story feature by having their location services enabled to prove they are at the event before submitting their content for review by Snapchat. All of the content from the live feed can be viewed multiple times but only lasts for 24 hours or the duration of the event.
Initially Our Story was tested at a handful of music festivals like EDC and Lollapalooza and after great engagement with users was rolled out to more events such as American College Football games, The FIFA World Cup and even things a bit more obscure like Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico City and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest hot air balloon festival. The addition of the Our Story feature has proven a roaring success for the company. According to Snapchat the number of daily views for their Stories has now surpassed the number of daily views for individual snaps and stands at over 1 billion.
What’s more impressive than the numbers though is the thinking behind the move towards live events. In doing so, Snapchat has created a new era of event participation and live broadcast by giving users the chance to experience, and contribute to, global events from multiple points of view in near real time with ease and convenience. The Stories are always expertly edited and deliver exactly what the name implies, a story of the given event from beginning to end, and for the first time ever allows users access to what in the past would have gone unseen. The American College Football Stories usually show fans en route to the game, behind the scenes footage from both teams dressing rooms shot by the players themselves, a fans view of a touchdown from the packed crowd, songs being sung by the fans and finally who won! According to Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel more people are watching College Football on Snapchat than on TV (100m vs. 2.6m). This high level of engagement not only helps to build a sense of community for Snapchat it also attracts new users who may have been turned off in the past by their unjust seedy reputation.
In October the company expanded its Stories feature to include College Campus, a brief insight into daily college life at 4 US colleges, UCLA and Penn State among them, with a live feed of campus generated content. Except this time Snapchat tried a bit of clever marketing by limiting the ability to both post and watch the feed to users actually on the college campus. Creating exclusivity around the College Campus Stories feature is a great way to increase demand for it and who knows maybe even improve class attendance rates for fear of missing out!
By making the move into live broadcast Snapchat has not only diversified its product and strengthened its brand, they’ve also managed to figure out a way to monetise an app for self-destructing photos and videos. One option available might be to offer sponsorship of a live event in the Our Story feature. This would be less intrusive to users than sponsored ads on or before individual snaps and also offer advertisers better targeting and fit for their brand. In October this year Snapchat rolled out its first sponsored ad. A twenty second trailer for the horror film Ouija, paid for and specially edited by Universal Studios to play in a similar fashion to other Stories. And this is what excites marketers and advertisers most about Snapchat, it’s not their 100 million monthly active users, although that sure helps, it’s the similarity to TV advertising that their platform provides. For now the Stories only last for between 2-3 minutes, but this could easily be increased as could the 24 hour lifetime.
Snapchat has also reportedly held negotiations to distribute other media content from both traditional mass media outlets like Time and CNN as well as new media from Vice, Spotify and Vevo in a new section within the app called Discover. And the news earlier this week could give a hint of another possible revenue stream Snapchat has in mind for the future, SnapCash. A joint venture with Square to offer users a Peer-to-Peer payment feature that has initially been advertised as being a handy way to send friends money. But who’s to say it couldn’t one day be used to pay for admission to an event, or extended behind the scenes footage, or a new music video not available elsewhere. The possibilities are limitless, much like Snapchats future seems to be if they can continue to grow and innovate with such ease. $10 Billion could even end up looking like a bargain in a couple of years!