There are various reasons why teenagers and younger age groups are flocking to social applications like Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. Some of these reasons can be attributed to the bandwagon effect, but certainly this is not why users stick around and actively use these applications.
As a teenager myself, and as someone who’s grown up with the internet my entire life (a.k.a. a Digital Native), the points I make in this blog post are based on observations of my friends behaviors as well as my own. I also have experience in the software field, working at a small consulting firm near Seattle. Both of these allow me to make distinctions from both ends: a producer and a consumer. With that in mind, lets dig in.
1. Frictionless Functionality
There are optional in between steps such as adding text, annotating the photo with a unique hairstyle, or swiping to select a filter. But the bare bones functionality is in essence 2 steps and a total of 3 clicks. Simple is an understatement.
Snapchat’s onboarding is also great. Just an email, username, password, and your birthday and you have a new user. No creepy hungry Facebook monster!
2. Anonymous Again (Kind-Of)
Have you heard of Facebook stalking? Did I mention Facebook stalking? I should also mention Facebook stalking. I’m not even talking about the normal definition of the term. Recent updates have rendered Facebook an information craving machine: your hometown, schools you went to, what kind of food you like. It’s almost as if they’re trying to create a digital version of you… Oh wait.
The only thing personal you relinquish to Snapchat is your phone number, email address, and your location if you choose. Your location is used for cool features like geofilters.
3. Everywhere and Tiny
Snapchat and Instagram are built from the beginning for mobile. Sites like Twitter and Facebook had to adapt for smartphones as they came about. Snapchat in particular is also very lightweight. There aren’t any ads bloating your screen, no feed, and no extra information being asked of you.
All of their updates so far have added true value to the app. These include Stories, screenshot notifications, Geofilters, Discover (which is an amazingly creative way to monetize, by the way), as well as a unique QR code-esque way to add new friends.
So far I see myself using every single one of those features for an enhanced experience (Discover is an exception; I use other outlets for news updates but it’s pretty cool nonetheless).
Lets face it, posting to a virtual wall where everyone else is posting content is very unnatural. It’s a much less intimate transaction for the author and the reader than, for example, messaging them directly or sending them a photo.
However, let it be said that Facebook messenger is the king direct and group messenging. They’ve done it better than anyone else so far, and their mobile application is gorgeous.
So what about Instagram?
Instagram is different from Snapchat and Facebook, in that your circle of friends is much wider. Unless you switch your feed to private, anyone may gander at your self portraits or nature photos. For aspiring photographers, this is an amazing way to connect with other people, organize meetups, and make new friends. I’ve personally attended Instagram meetups before and they’re fantastic.
Snapchat, on the other hand, is primarily for your direct circle of friends. You might meet someone at an Instagram meetup, for example, get their number, and add them on Snapchat later for a casual ongoing conversation.
Also, the ways to communicate with someone remotely has increased by one; there’s text messaging, voice calling, and now seamless text + picture/video messaging. Snapchat has made constant communication with someone more casual and fun than cold hard text messages.
5. Game-ification – It’s there!
Snapchat lacks the game system of likes and shares that Facebook thrives on, but it’s still addicting. Why?
This inherent user need is substituted by the temporary nature of Snaps. Part of the game is seeing what someone sent you in the time allowed (a max of 10 seconds), and then responding in a time short enough that you remember what they sent you.
Stories also have a large effect on user activity. Stories disappear to your friends after 24 hours, so recording the important exciting bits of your current day is critical, and very addicting.
This also makes Snapchat, for many, their primary camera application. They can Snap, save the picture to their photo library for local use, and then send the Snap to their friends, but not in reverse.
◉ Wrap Up
Mobile applications like Snapchat and Instagram are changing the game. They’re built portable, used on the go, and compliment the daily lives of users without becoming an unnatural distraction like old chunky desktop applications. Moreover, they have a low learning curve (Snapchat maybe an exception for the older generation) and they just work.