Snapchat has long been in need of something new to set it apart from the ever-growing competition. Instagram’s copycat “Stories” now has a daily active user base of 250 million, which far exceeds Snapchat’s 75 million, and is growing exponentially each quarter.
Many of Snapchat’s features are easily replaceable. Take the Discover feature; you browse curated content from media outlets or brands which range from developing news stories to feel-good human interest pieces. Yet, young people get their news and content from a ton of different sources, with Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter still leading on that front. As a messaging service, most people would look elsewhere (texting, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp). Some may even get annoyed when they receive an all-text message on Snapchat (though, I for one am a huge fan of responding to people’s snaps with messages via the app, sue me.)
But for what it’s worth, Snapchat has something the other social media apps have lost amid the push of advertising- the power of intimate social connections.
So Snapchat still has appeal. It’s long been heralded as the best platform for staying in contact with your closest friends. Maybe you don’t want your general follower base to see pictures of every taco you ate at the Taco Food Festival. Or perhaps you value how easy it is to send quick pictures to your friends one minute, and then a longer video to your story the next. Like when you post a video of your favorite band performing to your story, and then flip your camera around to send a snap to your friends of you crying because the band is just so amazing and you can’t contain the happiness. Some major pros there, but Snapchat has felt the push to keep innovating to keep up with other apps’ rapid development.
Snapchat’s newest feature (available via the latest update) is Snap Map, a feature based off the start-up Zenly which Snapchat recently acquired for a mere $250-$350 million cash and some stock shares. With Snap Map, your avatar appears wherever you are in the world, down to the street, and in metropolitan areas, even the building. Your avatar stays up for a few hours after opening the app, but will eventually disappear if you’re not using Snapchat. Users can opt to go into “ghost mode,” which will hide their avatar from the map. Users in ghost mode will still be able to see the locations of their friends on the map, as well as the heat-mapped location stories curated by Snap’s team. (Users can upload snaps publicly to the map by sending them to “Our Story.”)
Snapchat claims these features will allow users to stay better connected with their friends and find cool events and happenings going on in their area. However, the general consensus so far is that people seem pretty apprehensive to opt in to the feature.
There’s also the question of security risks- a quarter of Snapchat’s monthly user base is 13-17 years old. It’s probably not very safe for people to be able to find a minor’s exact location on a map, especially considering teens may have allowed people access to their account that they’ve never actually met in real life. Many people also think this could lead to a spike in stalking, or super uncomfortable “accidental” run-ins with people you were trying to avoid.
I recently moved across the state, and Snapchat is by far one of the main ways I stay in contact with my friends. However, I could see this new function leading to a lot of stressors that old Snapchat never seemingly had, at least not outright. For instance, knowing when all of your friends are doing something without you, or realizing you’re missing out on a cool street festival when you have to be at work. I can also easily see the benefits in allowing people to experience really cool world events, like spontaneous protests or rallies (I recently watched snaps documenting the beginning of monsoon season in Mumbai). Imagine how cool it would have been to tune into the Women’s March via Snapchat!
But could this get boring? Lose it’s appeal in a matter of days? Or will people actually use this to find cool spots and events happening in their current location. After all, there’s a reason Foursquare never really caught on.
It’s been a few days since Snapchat released the update, and I only have about 10 friends that have popped up on the map. Will people welcome some novelty, or could this be Snapchat’s demise? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Author’s Note: Oh, and I’ve been successfully avoiding getting a Bitmoji this whole time. Now I have to get one, or resign to my new Snapchat persona as a rainbow-colored outline of a Bitmoji. Lovely.
Kristen Heintz is a Social/Digital Media Intern at Maven Communications
Tags: Digital technology, Innovations, Internet Privacy, Snap Map, Snapchat, Social Media, Zenly
Categorised in: Social Media
This post was written by Kristen Heintz