Every movement begins with a moment.
A Look Back at the History of Snapchat
With all the advances Snapchat is making today, it’s hard to believe how it developed and the implications that came with its growing popularity. Let’s look back to 2011 at Stanford University, when one friend said to another, “I wish these photos I am sending to this girl would disappear.” While potentially questionable in a mother’s eyes, for Evan Spiegel this revelation led to a million-dollar idea. For a brief moment, Spiegel’s brainchild was known as Pictaboo, but shortly, the now-famous ghost icon with its bright yellow background was officially and forever tied to Snapchat.
Winter 2012: Snap!
Snapchat’s function was simple: take a picture, choose its lifespan and send it to a friend. Less than one year after its inception, over 100,000 people were snapping — and snapchatting — pictures every day. Snapchat’s growing audience led to an increased need for more bandwidth and funds for the three-person company, which soon received its first investment and a valuation of $4.25 million. The business side continued to develop, and finally, in Spring 2013, advertisers caught on.
Who Was Using Snapchat? (Source)
● Taco Bell took to the new platform to announce the Beefy Crunchy Burrito
● 16 Handles, a frozen yogurt company, used the platform to send coupons, as did KarmaLoop and GrubHub
● Acura released BTS footage of a prototype to the first 100 people to add its account
Fall 2013: Sharing Expands
With brands adopting the app and 60 million snaps being sent a day, there was a clear need to expand into more long-form content. Snapchat Stories launched, which not only extended the lifespan of users’ snaps, it allowed the platform to compete with a function all its competitors possessed — timelines. It didn’t go unnoticed by competitors either, as Facebook offered $3 million to the company that had yet to monetize. And cue the adoption of basically every brand.
Who Was Using Snapchat Stories?
● Taco Bell used the feature to create a story of two young brand ambassadors on a “TBell run”
● Rebecca Minkoff allowed followers to preview its collection during NYFW via Stories
● McDonald’s brought Lebron James to its story to announce the Bacon Clubhouse
Summer 2014: Geography Comes Into Play
Despite user data being compromised in a hack and Spiegel taking a sorry-not-sorry stance, the app continued to roll out more features. Text and video chat options were introduced to supplement traditional snap conversations, yet the bigger release was Our Stories — a feature that allows the app to access your location and gives you the option to submit your snaps to a collaborative story built from those around you. At this point in its growth, Snapchat was hungry to evolve into monetization, so its geographical pushes continued with Geofilters, which tagged images with a design that showed the user’s location. By the end of that summer, Snapchat was considered the third most popular social app and was valued at $10 million.
Who Was Using Snapchat Geofilters?
● At this point, all the major players were in the Snapchat mix: Audi, Free People, NBA, GE and Sour Patch Kids were all utilizing Snapchat Stories
● Paid Geofilters didn’t happen until July 2015, with McDonald’s being one of the first to have a branded one at its locations
Winter 2014-2015: Seeing Dollar Signs
Snapchat is getting closer to monetizing! Users could now send and receive money from friends. However, the big bucks came in January 2015, when Discover was launched, which gave media partners a spot on the interface with content refreshed daily. This content was also paired with three 10-second ad units spliced between editorial — all for the impressive price of $750,000. Not only was Snapchat now making money from advertisers — but with the introduction of User QR Codes to easily follow accounts — it was also encouraging brands to use the native functionality to connect to fans as well.
Who Was Using Snapchat Discover?
● Among the first on Discover: BMW on CNN’s channel, McDonald’s on Comedy Central’s, Ritz Crackers on the Food Network’s and T-Mobile on The Daily Mail’s channel (Source)
Fall 2015: #NoFilter No More
Snapchat’s latest feature that confused everyone: Best Friend Emojis so you can tell if you’re the best friend of your best friend! Back to its advertising abilities, Business Geofilters surfaced so companies could pay for their own branded Geofilters. Yet the feature that received the most user excitement came from the acquisition of a facial recognition app which gave users Lenses — or filters for your face — that transform you into a dog, an old man or even someone who ate too many rainbows.
Who Is Using Lenses and Geofilters?
● The Peanuts Movie was the very first Sponsored Lense, surrounding users with Snoopies and Woodstocks and flowing candy corn out of their mouths
● Almost a month later, Beats claimed the next Sponsored Lense, which it used to push its holiday campaign
● Branded Geofilters grew with brands like Nike, GE, MasterCard, BMW as well as several movies
Summer 2016: Revisiting What Worked
Despite this jump in the timeline, Snapchat’s growth continued to soar as big advertisers played with new ways to use Lenses and Geofilters. Discover was redesigned after having moved around the platform several times in an attempt to appease both media partners and users. In July, Memories were rolled out, a feature that allows you to save your snaps in the app and repost them to your Snapchat Story whenever you like.
Fall 2016: Spectating
In late September 2016, the company renamed itself Snap Inc. just before releasing its most recent endeavor, Spectacles. These $130, Snapchat-linked sunglasses house a tiny camera that allows you to record your POV in 10-second videos, which then post instantly to your story. Featuring a lens that's wider than other cameras, the content captured by Spectacles is described as “circular.” Although less publicized, this product is joined by new filter options for your surroundings, called World Lenses. This introduction of augmented reality (AR) will only open the door to new technology for the app, not to mention a strategy to monetize it.
The Future of Snapchat
Obviously the addition of new technologies and ways to advertise with them are an inevitable part of Snapchat’s future. With Spectacles coming into the market at a low cost and AR being incorporated into the UX, it is sure to lead to more success, even if only in the short term. The “camera company” is also sure to face competitors adopting new functions that mirror its bread and butter, as we saw with Instagram. But with its current value at $20 billion, what is clear is that there will be more features, more functions for advertising and a bright future for Snap Inc.
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