Will 2017 be a banner year for Snapchat, or will the social media-turned-camera company fall short of expectations? We asked some experts to weigh in.
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It’s been a busy few months for Snapchat’s recently-rebranded parent company, Snap Inc., which has made a strategic positioning shift from a social media (software) company to a camera (hardware) company. Let’s quickly recap.In September, Snap Inc. announced that its focus moving forward would be on hardware. Look on the corporate website and you’ll see their bold new stance: “Snap Inc. is a camera company. We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate.”On the heels of that announcement, Snap entered the holiday season guns blazing, with a marketing effort around Spectacles. Snap’s debut product was made available in scarce quantities in just a few markets around the country. At $130 per pair, the moderately-priced sunglasses flew out of vending machines, some reselling on eBay for up to $1,000. (Today, you can get a pair for about $200.)Weeks later, a former employee filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that Snapchat had lied about its growth figures. The legal troubles arrive at an inopportune time for Snap, which is rumored to be pursuing an IPO in 2017. In late 2016, Snapchat reported that it had reached the 150 million user milestone, surpassing Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.Most recently, Snap announced it would be moving its international headquarters to London–a surprising pick given that many tech companies opt to centralize their global operations in countries with lower tax rates, such as Ireland or Luxembourg. Some experts speculate that the move was intended to help shore up the brand’s reputation prior to going public.So, what can we expect from Snapchat in 2017? We asked around to hear what the industry had to say.Robert Lang, CEO, Socialbakers“From the lens of an IPO, the future of Snap is bittersweet. With an IPO underway, the platform will be an even more serious competitor to the established platforms, since the company will have some serious funds to back new initiatives and growth. At the same time, life as a public company will bring more detailed scrutiny on its relationship with advertisers and lack of transparency around advertising data, which could prove an obstacle as they try to repeat impressive growth in 2016.”Cassandra Schwartz, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Rival IQ“As more and more brands incorporate Snapchat into their social media marketing mix, they’ll need a better solution for measuring engagement and reporting on the success of their efforts. There’s evidence that Snap has already made strides in this area as major brands have invested in Lenses and the Discover channel. In 2017, we expect that Snapchat will double down on measurement and analytics capabilities empowering brands and media companies to further their growth using Snapchat.”Ali Mirian, SVP, Product, Collective Bias“There will be an inevitable converging to the mean. Just like Instagram launched a Snapchat-like Stories experience, Snapchat must compete for airspace as a media company in order to attract advertisers. Users came for the ephemeral snaps, but they’ll stay for the ecosystem of high quality curated content. Snapchat will look and feel more like a media property, just as other social platforms have positioned themselves.”Kate Talbot, author of Oh Snap! You Can use Snapchat for Business“With their expected IPO, Snap Inc. will have the ability to expand immensely. With increased cash flow, Snap can acquire innovative technologies within the e-commerce, augmented reality, and personalized advertising space to create a robust product that will expand beyond the millennial audience.”Mack Flavelle, Instigator, Axiom Zen“Snap started positioning themselves as a camera company this year, but that’s underselling it. They want to be a lifestyle brand. In 2017 that means hardware, software, and content. We’ll see a larger retail play, with more stores opening to sell more tangible products, as well as progressive iteration towards building the number one media consumption channel in the world.”Aristotle Eliopoulos, Social Media Specialist, 9thCo“Amid all the rumours surrounding Snapchat in 2017, the big thing we can rely on is Snap’s Spectacles pushing the company into a consumer product territory. This product is important because while the social media property of Snap Inc. will still exist, the glasses are the first wearable tech that allows casual, non-complicated hands-free video capture.”Kelly Gentile, Senior Social Strategist, Brokaw, Inc.“I think retail will be a big change we see in 2017 for Snapchat. Right now, Snapchat ads take you to a website to buy, or you can screenshot an offer to bring in store, but I think we should expect to see a much quicker and easier consumer experience. You might be served a retailer’s ad, and order through the Snapchat platform without ever leaving to the retailer’s website.”Ulrik Bo Larsen, CEO and Founder, Falcon.io“Snap Inc. sits on a treasure trove of eyeballs and data with Snapchat, and that won’t change post-IPO. However, there’s a lot of Snapchat envy going around, so the company will have to continue to stay ahead of its competitors in 2017. Facebook, for example, is almost ripping off parts of the platform verbatim, and turning both Instagram—but also Messenger with the addition of “My Day”—into Snapchat clones, in what seems like a very strong defensive play.”Kimberly Price, Senior Social Content Strategist, Merkley + Partners“I think 2017 will be the year that Snapchat will finally grow up. First, Snapchat will be an unexpected driver of innovation within the field of news media and journalism—at a time when they need it most. Second, Snapchat will start building out its data collection and analysis, but in a way that serves its users rather than its advertisers—think stats that reveal the pulse of (secret) consumer opinion. Third, Snapchat will get transactional, combining augmented reality and Venmo-like capabilities to facilitate an exchange of cash and goods both person-to-person and merchant-to-person.”Jim Rudden, CMO, Spredfast“Snap will release ad creation tools and more standardized ad formats for outsiders to easily upload via API. Their acquisition of Flite and investment in their ads API reveal an ambition to make it easier to make ads for Snapchat and scale up the number of campaigns.”Gregory Yates, Chief Marketing Officer, RICG“Snapchat Stories and Discover will continue to grow—especially in the era of branded content. We may see pure brand channels from brands, co-created content from brands/users, in addition to brands creating content for the media companies already with Discover channels. [Moreover,] Snapchat filters offer a prime platform to collect and utilize biometric data, primarily facial action coding, and other machine learning to better understand audiences’ emotional states that can be used for advertiser targeting of the right content and at the right time.”Nick Johnson, Head of Platform, Applico and author of Modern Monopolies“I expect Snapchat will have trouble scaling, especially on the revenue side. Once [Snap Inc.] goes public, it is also bound for a rocky start. Snapchat today looks a lot more like Twitter when it went public than Facebook when it went public—and that’s not a good sign. Even Facebook had trouble as a public company before it was able to scale up revenue growth.”Stephen Boidock, Director of Marketing & Business Development, Drumroll“Look for Snapchat to continue to explore in-app commerce opportunities. Back in 2014, it introduced Snapcash as a way to get users to connect their credit cards to the app, and have been struggling to find ways to get people to spend money in the experience. Last year, it tried to monetize content access and replays, which was promptly killed a few months later. In 2017, it should turn its attention to advertisers and let users purchase promoted products without ever leaving the app.”Victor Wong, CEO of Thunder“Snap Inc.’s recent business announcements indicate that the company is on a mission to reinvent itself. Similar to what we’ve seen with Uber and Tesla, Snap is making moves as a technology company by expanding into new territories. With the launch of Spectacles, their recent acquisition of augmented-reality startup, Cimagine Media, and product updates to their ‘snaplytics’ for advertisers, I expect 2017 to be the year that we see the company truly transform itself into a more diverse media-tech business.”Whitney Curry, Director of Social & Campaigns, Zillow“Hello, hardware: Spectacles were just the start of it. Look for Snap to develop new hardware designed to expand users’ native content creation capabilities. Secondly, we’ll see changes to the organic newsfeed. Users’ ‘Recent Updates’ will be disrupted with auto play stories, in-stream ads, and algorithmic based story prioritization.”Phillip Alexeev, Head of Growth, Sketchfab, Inc.“I have a feeling that Snapchat will invest further into augmented reality with more acquisitions and integrations in 2017. Another heavy area where they will invest will be the relationship between their Spectacles and their app. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a live real-time link between the Specs and the app, providing in-app context for things that are seen in the Spectacles.”Galia Reichenstein, General Manager, US, Taptica“Selling ad space directly in Snapchat stories, which feels more like a personal feed than a message, will become Snapchat’s greatest source of revenue in 2017 since there will be more inventory to sell and Snapchat receives 100 percent of that revenue. Snapchat’s CEO has been vocal with his criticism of using personal data for targeting ads, so as the platform becomes more revenue generating friendly, we should expect to see Snapchat carve out a new direction in ad targeting from what has become the standard formula in the space.”Theresa Moore, VP of Platform & Partnerships, Pixability“Though still smaller than Google and Facebook, Snapchat is growing 8x faster in mobile ad revenue, and I believe 2017 could hold an IPO for Snap Inc. The company also has the potential to buy or develop lifestyle and video-related companies that help drive its mission to reinvent the camera. Snap dominates with the coveted young audience, and there’s a market to model out much like Alphabet by creating a diversified portfolio of companies under its umbrella.”Molly Soat, Editor-in-Chief, American Marketing Association“As Snapchat continues to grow and evolve in 2017, so will its user base of brands that are engaging with consumers through the app. Snapchat will be more about building brands as thought leaders with an authentic personality and less about advertising.”Matthew Myers, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Tidal Labs“Snapchat has room to grow in the ad space in 2017. It’s likely that they will expand upon their signature sponsored geo-filter capabilities by allowing users (or select influencers) more interactive experiences such as special rewards, offers, or event access. By doing this, Snapchat will generate valuable branded content and leverages user engagement and affinity. While influencers already utilize the live platform to generate media and product hype; Snapchat has hinted at a way to tie back to brands through their upcoming e-commerce and payments feature.”In November at Social Media Week in Chicago, we heard from Social Media Influencer and Senior Strategist at Havas Chicago, Anna Russett, discuss “How Snapchat is Redefining Traditional Media.” She explained how Snapchat was able to get young kids excited about the app and ephemeral messaging while other platforms were struggling to figure themselves out.
Katie Perry (Contributor, Social Media Week)