Snapchat may have just found an update that Facebook can’t, or won’t be willing to, copy. Behold, the separation of social and media.
It’s no secret that Facebook, but most notably Instagram has been steadily incorporating Snapchat’s features into its user experience (UX) in a series of “me too” updates.
At roughly 255 million active users globally, Snapchat is dwarfed by Facebook (2.06 billion) and Facebook-owned properties Whatsapp (1.3 billion), Messenger (1.3 billion) and Instagram (700 million). Developing a distinct social media offering to grow its user base is a challenge in itself for Snapchat. That challenge is amplified when Facebook’s substantially larger empire cherry picks what works and uses it across its platforms. It effectively mutes Snapchat’s points of difference. Miranda Kerr for one has had enough and feels that Facebook should be more innovative.
Sorry Miranda, Facebook doesn’t really have to be innovative with Instagram – just ask their VP of product. As the smaller platform that needs to grow its user base, the onus is with Snapchat to innovate. And Snapchat has clearly been doing a good job of innovating with most of its defining features being imitated and made staples of Instagram.
Another aspect to this update is what’s happening with Discover – Snapchat’s home for “stories from publishers, creators and the community”. Discover isn’t new...
... But UX of it is. And you don’t have to be Miranda Kerr to see the similarity it bears to Facebook in that it’s now a more visual feed that will be personalised by an algorithm. In an ironic turn of events Snapchat has effectively copied Facebook.
The Discover update is bit out of left field and begs the question “why do this?”. Snapchat’s decision to divide content between friends and the Discover section’s brands and media outlets is a bold one – and most importantly one not to be lightly adopted by the behemoth that is Facebook and its properties. About a month before this announcement from Snapchat, Facebook began testing (and has since started rolling out) a separate Discover-like feed called Explore that gives users a feed of content similar to what they and their friends engage with. While it is a separate feed it’s a far cry from splitting feeds of content posted by friends vs. everything else.
It’ll be interesting to see how – if at all – Facebook responds. All in all it’s looking like a win-win for Snapchat. They’ve been able to make an update that can’t be easily imitated for once and they’ve been able to start cherry picking Facebook features.