The news has broken this week that Snapchat’s daily usage has surpassed that of Twitter. The picture and video messaging app has joined the likes of Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook and Messenger in the top five social apps, with some 150 million daily users, while the 140-character giant has seen growth grind to a halt. Twitter is still more popular than Snapchat in terms of news consumption - though Snapchat’s medium doesn’t lend itself badly to the bitesized news format - but its plethora of features are appealing to a generation for whom messaging and media are intertwined.
And, in what constitutes an exciting move for the messaging app, Snapchat has quietly acquired Seene, a startup looking to make 3D selfies commonplace. The startup’s technology utilizes the user’s smartphone camera to create a 3D rendering of anything - a face, a room, a landscape - and the image can then be tilted with the swipe of a finger. It’s a clear look to the future for the messaging app, with 3D and VR set to dramatically change media consumption, and even in its current form, Seene would make an undoubtedly popular new Snapchat feature. A report from TechCrunch, which cites anonymous sources, claims that the deal was made ‘a couple of months ago’, and the fee is reported to be low.
Whether you put it down to the ever-reducing attention span of the modern consumer or Snapchat’s medium more specifically, its product necessitates freshness, with users gladly using new features no matter how gimmicky. The constant changing of its incredibly popular lenses - of which the first option is ordinarily sponsored - shows that, to keep users engaged, new is always better. Geofilters have been around for a while on Snapchat - location-based overlays users can add to their content - but these too are for sale to brands, albeit at a relatively insignificant fee. In fact, according to the International Business Times, lenses cost between $500,000 and $750,000 depending on the day, with Gatorade’s Super Bowl lense receiving more than 100 million views.
The potential for further monetization of Snapchat’s services is huge. According to Vanity Fair, Snapchat ‘expects to generate revenues of between $500 million and $1 billion…a massive increase over the $59 million in revenue Snapchat earned last year, when the company first began to monetize.’ And the integration of 3D or VR capabilities could lead to even greater engagement with brands over the medium, making it an even more enticing prospect for those with the biggest marketing budgets. TechCrunch highlights the possibility of ‘ads that people want to touch’, a level of engagement not made possible by video or picture, with marketing moving further into ‘experiences’ rather than simple brand representation.
A report from CNET in March stated that Snapchat has been ‘secretly hiring wearable technology experts’ in a bid to create their own gadget. The report states that Snapchat could be producing its own smart glasses to rival the flop that has been Google Glass. The four-year-old company reportedly has a team of ‘over a dozen scientists and software engineers specializing in computer vision and machine learning.’ Essentially, Snapchat is looking to future-proof itself by expanding its services. Apps tend to have a limit to their monetization potential and, for Snapchat to continue its staggering growth, it needs to find new revenue streams. It raised a huge $1.8 billion in the past five months, and now has a valuation of $18 billion - if it can create a successful consumer product that utilizes the potential of its 3D, VR and augmented reality capabilities, those figures could balloon even further.