Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Andre Burnett | Whatsapp and Snapchat: What they mean for digital marketers

Published:Friday | March 3, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Andre Burnett
This Wednesday, February 19, 2014 photo, shows the WhatsApp and Facebook app icons on an iPhone.
In this Thursday, October 24, 2013, file photo, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel poses for a photo in Los Angeles.

My original title for this piece was: Facebook trying to grab Snapchat's core features has created a media network that marketers can now utilise, and Snapchat is going to become HBO.

But, I decided not to aggravate the business editor this week.

I'll fill in the backstory as concisely as possible so we can get to the core of this exciting development.

Facebook realised that Snapchat - an app that people thought was really for young people to send 'intimate' photos and videos to each other - had created a format that was really putting a dent in its quest to become the largest advertising platform in the world. Snapshot developed a killer-app called Stories.

After trying at least 15 different ways to compete, Facebook offered US$3 billion for Snapchat, which promptly scoffed at them knowing that they would be worth 10 times that much soon. Facebook went away feeling rejected, but at some point somebody at their office appeared to have pointed out that copying Snapchat would probably be a lot cheaper than US$3 billion. When Facebook-owned Instagram released their 'Stories' update - they didn't even bother to call it something else - their head of product, Kevin Weil, referred to it as "built on a format that Snapchat invented".

So, skip to February 2017 and Facebook has now managed to integrate its Stories into all of the platforms it owns.

That more or less explains why your WhatsApp is now filled with people saying and doing random stuff.

So, what does this all mean for marketers in the digital space? You've probably noticed that 'social media marketing' isn't a buzzword anymore and has since been replaced by 'digital media marketing'. That's because, at the core, there isn't much difference from the traditional media we grew up on, except the mode of delivery and the cost to produce the content we consume.

Between Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat, they've managed to capture a major chunk of the time that we spend awake, and where there is concentrated attention there must be advertising or data gathering, otherwise the platforms wouldn't be free.

A friend of mine, who works at Yello, was explaining his usage of Instagram versus Snapchat. He said he felt like Snapchat was where he could be a little more relaxed, while Instagram was where he posted pictures or videos that "met the standard".

Essentially, it seems as if the 'likes' and 'comments' cause a kind of 'social media performance anxiety' that isn't quite there with Snapchat. So Snapchat grew rapidly, but seems to have a hard time converting new users, who probably just stopped at Instagram and never bothered to try Snapchat.

And now, WhatsApp's 1.2 billion users have been introduced to this feature without ever having to leave WhatsApp.

That's a big problem for Snapchat, which always had a hard time facilitating marketers in the first place because of its ephemeral nature; their next innovation has always been centred around content being created specifically for their platform. That means 'TV' shows that you watch via Snapchat, concerts and anything else that would appear on regular TV.

WhatsApp introducing Snap-chat's core feature means that Snapchat will become premium digital media with revenue being limited by the number of daily users, because the non-committed will really just stick with what Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp can offer.

To relate it, here's a synopsis:

- Facebook: ABC, CBS, NBC

- Instagram: AMC, FX, Bravo

- Snapchat: HBO, Starz, Showtime

That means, for marketers in Jamaica especially, the bulk of the advertising spend will be directed towards Facebook's suite, which is why a number of my concept developers already have strategies on how to utilise the new WhatsApp feature.

When was the last time you met somebody who didn't have WhatsApp on their phone?

A couple of my older associates still say 'WhatsUp', but notwithstanding, the digital marketing landscape has shifted with that one appropriated format.


Andre Burnett runs Muse, a brand company.