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After a difficult period following the generalization of the “story” format, Snapchat is making a strong comeback in the audience race. It recorded excellent results in July 2019 and recruited 13 million new active users in the last quarter. Through original series, augmented experiences, face filters and homepage incentives, Snapchat is reinventing itself to the delight of 13–24 year-olds.
Sustained growth since April 2019
The platform’s advertising audience has grown by 19% since April 2019, reaching 369 million users in July (which represents an increase of 60 million users with constant rates of growth in all age groups), according to the figures announced by Snapchat.
App Annie’s figures also reveal a sharp increase in the number of times the app has been downloaded since April. The reasons for this success? According to App Annie, it is due to the launch of augmented reality filters, how the app has evolved on Android and, especially, the production of original series.
Increased production of original series
For the past year, Snapchat has been capitalizing on how Gen Z (which constitutes 90% of its audience in the United States) uses mobile and accordingly develops short series filmed in portrait format. In October 2018, the platform launched its “Snap Originals” offer with 12 vertical-format series and docuseries, including Endless Summer, Class of Lies and Vivian.
Nick Bell, former vice president of content, explained this video development strategy in an interview with Recode in October 2018:
“Mobile does not kill TV. The series we develop on Snapchat complement existing TV series and we reimagine them for the platform. Contrary to Facebook Watch, we are not competing directly against YouTube. We develop an offer that is exclusively mobile.”
Snapchat created a new visual language by placing emphasis on very short formats based on tight frames, quick editing, split screens and graphic enhancements to increase mobile audiences’ engagement rates. Each series is made up of ten or so episodes that each last between 3 and 5 minutes.
During the year, Snapchat reached coproduction agreements with Time Warner, NBCUniversal, A+E Networks, Walt Disney and the BBC to recruit new talent for the platform.
Thus, in July 2019, Snapchat’s original series offer was enhanced with the launch of Creator Shows, i.e., series that are filmed in portrait mode in the first person and showcase Gen Z stars. The themes addressed include lifestyle, beauty, fashion, dance, healthy eating, fitness and motivation.
The Creator Shows are part of an offer that is in addition to the existing original series that are three times more often viewed on a daily basis compared to the beginning of the year, as per the platform’s claims. Among these new shows figure Trend or End with Rickey Thompson, in which Rickey Thompson judges the latest fashion trends, Glow Up with Loren Gray, in which the Gen Z icon shares her beauty tips, and Keepin’ It Real with Keke Palmer, which gives enlightened advice in all sorts of situations.
Soon, an incentive homepage similar to Netflix’s
The original series’ presentation clips are currently stored in the app’s Discover section, but developers are at work on a dedicated section that will showcase original series recently viewed by the connected user. Each series will have its own presentation page and the presentation pages will be viewable through a carrousel.
Also, Snapchat, strongly inspired by Netflix, is currently working on a feature to enable users to binge-watch its original productions. Viewers will therefore have the possibility of binge-watching several episodes in a single viewing.
An experience enhanced by augmented reality
Certain original productions will offer an augmented experience thanks to the AR Tech software application. The portal template gives users the possibility to swipe the screen while viewing the series and put on immersive glasses to view the series in 3D.
Viewers can enter scenes and interact with the characters and objects. In the Class of Lies series, viewers can enter Devon’s and Missy’s room, explore the premises and become their own detectives. It’s an immersive experience that has received the seal of approval of many 12–24 year-olds.
Augmented reality also relies on face filters. Snapchat estimates that between 7 and 9 million users joined the platform to experience the fun of playing with these virtual masks.
Gen Z’s platform of choice has understood how its audience uses it. In the past months, Snapchat has been able to succeed in the game by testing new offers and demonstrating real agility despite fierce competition from the other social media.