Can Snapchat’s New Feature Benefit Brands?

You get an epic Snapchat from a friend, captioned with a question. But alas, there’s nothing snap-worthy around you. You could take an awkward picture of the growing mound of clothing on your floor or send a captioned blank snap (finger on the lens). Thankfully, there’s now a sufficiently less sketchy solution. Snapchat just launched two new features on its platform that allow users to send messages and share video streams with their friends.

The chat feature, which was presumably launched to compete with Facebook’s acquisition of messaging giant WhatsApp and Vine’s newly launched messaging service, allows users to swipe right from their Snapchat feed and “text” their friends.
The feature stays true to the essence of Snapchat—the conversation self-clears once both parties have seen the messages or exited the screen.

“Until today, we felt that Snapchat was missing an important part of conversation: presence. There’s nothing like knowing you have the full attention of your friend while you’re chatting,” Snapchat’s recent blog post claims.

Its second new feature is an innovative solution to this problem. Users can chat with any number of friends simultaneously, but can only share video streams with friends who are “here.” The notion of being “here” is decidedly different from that of being “online.” You appear online to everyone on your list, but you’re only “here” when you’re actively within a conversation screen. This facilitates a highly personalized, intimate, one-on-one interaction.

This feature isn’t aimed at competing with video conferencing platforms like Skype or mobile video options like FaceTime. It encourages a completely different kind of sharing. It isn’t a conversation as much as it is the sharing of a moment in which two users are “here” together. You’re feeling not saying, experiencing not conversing.

For instance, it’s your best friend’s 21st birthday and you want to be there when she pops a bottle of champagne and blows out her candles. A friend at the event could share a video stream with you live, instead of capturing it and sending it to you post facto. The sender also doesn’t have to contend with recording or picking the perfect moment and can switch seamlessly between both cameras.

While this is great news for users, it isn’t as much of a coup for brands, given that it would be impossible for a brand to really leverage this feature in its current form. They can’t possibly be “here” with thousands of loyal customers and potential consumers simultaneously.

However, the tech-cycle seems to begin this way, more often than not. Companies roll out features to excite and attract consumers, not brands. It is once they develop a solid user base that they begin to optimize it for advertisers in order to monetize (e.g. Instagram ads). While Snapchat hasn’t gone the monetization route as yet, it added a broadcast element to its platform in October with its “stories” feature. If Snapchat combines its new video streaming capability with a similar broadcast feature in the future, video streaming could become an innovative new way for brands to stay relevant and interesting in the market.

What’s also important to note, however, is the shift in attitude this development will foster. It encourages hyper “real”, live interaction hinged on the sharing of an experience. Whether it’s explainer videos for cutting edge products, viral campaign spots, or hilarious behind-the-scenes shorts that showcase company culture, video advertising has taken the digital industry by storm due to its unparalleled ability to convey the essence of a brand to consumers.

However, sometimes producing a video requires a financial undertaking and a significant amount of time and effort. Sharing or entering a moment through video streaming requires none of these things and most importantly, allows the brand to retain a sense of complete, unedited authenticity.

Imagine having “live” sessions available for your users to click into and experience with your brand. Your customers could click in for a behind the scenes look at your company, interact with your celebrity brand ambassador as part of a promotional campaign, or even “attend” the launch of your product and see people interacting with it live.

Watch this space for where “Here” actually goes!

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