When I was a sophomore in college leaving for spring break, I left with a pang of sadness. By that point in my college career, I had finally gathered a group of very tight knit friends. Since we were in college, we did everything together. We ate together, we studied together, we took many of the same classes, and yes, many of my friends even slept with each other…but that’s a different story. While I was excited at the prospect of having no homework for a couple of weeks, my heart sank and being deprived of this company for so long. We were not letter writers. After all, we were 19 years old and hung up on drama instead of stationery.
My friends and I tried a few different ways to keep in touch. Some of us emailed. I was a big fan of group emails (I’m sure everyone was secretly a big fan of those). Then, towards the latter years of my college life, maybe even my senior year, ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger took over. We could talk to either in real time! No long distance phone calls, no spooky chat rooms where random horny strangers could barge in (that was always awkward), just plain real-time conversation. Even without emojis it was amazing. Even with dial-up it was amazing.
Snapchat: The Next Generation
There has been much evolution in the world of communication over the last twenty years. More than I am aware of, no doubt. In my own personal life with my friends and family, we have moved through AOL IM, Yahoo Messenger, Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Facebook messages, Facetime, and Skype.
Snapchat gets alternately bashed and worshipped by my marketing peers. It gets bashed because “it’s for teenagers,” as if that’s inherently a terrible thing. It gets worshipped because there are an awful lot of people using it, and let’s face it, those teenagers are going to be purchasing things in the not too distant future. They’re going to be looking for jobs. They’re going to be our future bosses. We eat them up while also insinuating they’re kind of dumb.
I looked into Snapchat to see what all of the hubub is about. I am still working on figuring out how a B2B company would be able to experience success with it, but as a communication channel, we are missing the real magic that Snapchat offers.
This platform allows people to send video messages to each other. Indeed, Snapchat pushes you to update with videos versus simple text or images. This combines the best about all of the other platforms I mentioned. You can get a video message, watch it at your convenience, and then you can send a video message back. You can see the person talking, you can share experiences with facial expressions, but you don’t have to do it in the span of one “call” or one video session. THAT is brilliant, and we are not appreciating that magic nearly enough.
Remember Long Distance Bills?
When I first went to college, back when dinosaurs were roaming the earth and ferns were the size of trees, I had to rely primarily on long distance calls to reach my family and friends. Emails worked, but there certainly was no such thing as wireless. You had to sit at a desk and type and if you were lucky your internet connection stayed on from the time you started typing till the time you were done. Do you remember with dial up how you would hear the connection sound but then it would stop and you’d have to try 2-3 more times to get it going?
This is all stuff that today’s teenagers have never had to deal with. I remember when I was in grad school I saw a toddler playing a computer game, and I thought, “Maaan. That’s a sign of the future.” Well, here we are, and in this world, young people can bring their friends with them via a tiny boxy phone, sharing video messages, hearing tones of voice, seeing facial expressions and body language, and doing it all for free.
Marketers are Missing the Magic
None of this is what marketers are talking about. Marketers are about demographics, “dark content” that can’t be optimized or search, how brands can use Snapchat “stories,” and more. Marketers are missing why Snapchat is so popular. I would bet a million bucks most people who love the platform would say that it’s because they can connect in a one-on-one manner with their connections, for free, via video, and they can trade messages whenever they want. What can marketers learn from that? Maybe that instead of trying to blast out messages or run Snapchat ads, the trick is to try to make your brand feel like it’s just another friend. Somehow allow for that one-on-one connection. Somehow, make it personal. Really personal.
I think Snapchat is great. Will I recommend it to the B2B companies I am working with right now? Probably not. But as a communication tool, it’s really a marvel. Take a minute to enjoy it. Unlike most great things in life, it’s 100% free. For now.
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jessycat_techie/8558562108/ via Creative Commons