Is 2020 the year of organic Snapchat strategy?

SWAN of the Week, Number 159
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TL; DR: Snapchat may have just dropped its biggest news in 9 years. It’s time to start thinking about cross-platform content strategy on Snapchat. It just leveled up. 

Here’s why…

“Brands can be friendly, but they’re not your friends.”

This is a quote from Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel I heard first-hand as he explained why he didn’t want brands to have user-level profiles on Snapchat in the early days.

Many of us longtime social strategists pushed back – knowing that MySpace, Facebook and Twitter also didn’t want (or weren’t prepared for) brands to make profiles and behave like everyday people. But brands are gonna brand.

And eventually they came around to introduce things like Brand Pages, Business Pages, and Verified Accounts, respectively. Because brands are gonna brand.

When my team built weekly organic content and pulled off the first Snapchat from outer space for Jack Links, Snapchat didn’t care about it whatsoever. When my team introduced Snapchat Spectacles to pro sports with the Minnesota Wild, Snapchat didn’t care about it either.

At the time, Snap didn’t want brands driving followers, sharing content, or doing engagement-grabbing stunts. They wanted us to advertise and certainly not make organic content. The result is high quality, attention grabbing ads and highly-produced content series on Snapchat with a high amount of distinction between user content and brand content. The paid ads work pretty well, actually. So few brands continued prioritizing complementary organic content strategy on Snap, because it wasn’t designed for it AND users didn’t go there to follow brands.

But this week that approach is drastically changing with Snap’s launch of Brand Profiles

Brand Profiles offer a permanent home for brands on Snapchat, built around their unique investments in the app – starting with AR Lenses, native commerce stores, and content highlights.

Four main components of a Brand Profile:

  1. AR Lenses: Brands can save and showcase Lenses on their profile, allowing any Snapchatter to discover and/or revisit a brand’s unique AR experiences.
  2. Native Store: Profiles may include a Native Store experience that enables Snapchatters to seamlessly browse and purchase items directly within the Snapchat app powered by Shopify.
  3. Highlights: With Highlights, brands can showcase collections of their best Public Snaps, Stories, photos, and videos right on their profile — permanently!
  4. Story posts: With their Public Story, brands can share what’s happening in their world with Snapchatters everywhere — from behind the scenes to daily activities — your Story is your daily point of view.

This shift by Snapchat seems to be significant – perhaps in direct response to TikTok’s embrace of brand profiles and the popularity of Instagram Stories. Brands usually copy from Snap, but we’re starting to see it go the other way. Snapchat just introduced TT-inspired vertical scrolling, for example.

If your brand advertises on Snap or is relevant to Snap’s audiences, this announcement portends you should immediately start considering building follower acquisition, engagement-based filters, shopping, and organic Snapchat Stories into your enterprise marketing, media, social and content strategy — whether or not you’re currently utilizing Snapchat in your marketing mix.

There are new questions to answer, however. Things like: the mix of paid/earned/owned, the unique aesthetic and role of Snapchat, content quality and cross-posting content opportunities, targeting, measurement, the ROI of yet another place for organic content, and more. 

Lots more to learn while this in in beta. Time to watch those initial brands closely and start having the internal conversations about where Snap is going to fit in your marketing mix for the rest of 2020 and into next year.

Because brands are your friends. Whether you like it or not.

See you on the internet!


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You heard about Quibi, but did you try it?

SWAN of the Week, Number 146
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“Quibi is like if the gas station TV cost money.”


Screen time is all the time right now.

TV viewing is up. Streaming is up. Social network time is up.

So it would seem like the perfect time to launch Quibi, the nearly $2 billion-funded, mobile-only, Netflix-style app featuring six to 10-minute shows and series.

Quibi, short for “quick bites,” has been inundating the world with ads and teasers for months and months now. And it finally launched this week.

Except I downloaded it and promptly forgot about it.

Not a single one of my friends texted or posted about it this week. My feeds didn’t have a single mention about the platform or its shows. I finally remembered I had it on Wednesday and forced myself to purchase (you have to agree to payment post-trial before trying) and watch some episodes.

The mobile-first gimmick here is that all content is short-form and formatted for both vertical and horizonal screen flips. It’s truly a one-trick pony, and after the first few attempts to see how it works, you pretty much just watch horizontally like a normal show.

Even the ads are dynamic to how you hold your phone. I got served an ad for Lays potato chips that definitely let me flip my phone, and but I’m not sure it was very well targeted.

On Quibi, ads can’t be skipped, similar to Hulu or Pluto. But unlike Instagram and Facebook, they can’t be shared either. I got a hilarious ad for Old El Paso using YouTuber Parry Gripp’s “Raining Tacos,” but it wasn’t shareable or findable after it ran. Bummer!

The discovery UX for the initial slate of shows is pretty terrible. Unlike Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, IGTV, etc., there doesn’t seem to be any deep categorization, algorithms, recommendation, or discoverability features. Users get overwhelmed easily when there’s too much to watch. Tell us what content we will like!

From my experience, the content itself is… okay.

The Punk’d reboot with Chance the Rapper was agonizing and unfinishable. The Most Dangerous Game series was the slowest 7 minutes of television I’ve ever watched. Made it through two full episodes – dropping obvious foreshadowing hints in agonizing detail like a primetime TV drama – before giving up. The Report by NBC News is Snapchat-style news broadcast news, but you can’t share them or stream outside the platform to non-paying users, which seems strange for news.

But the Will Forte and Kaitlin Olson comedy show Flipped is fantastic. It’s almost like Funny or Die knows a thing or two about making short form, mobile-first content that pops. None of the rest of the programming doesn’t appeal to me, which either means I’m lame or Quibi’s recommendation engine and discovery is severely lacking. Probably both.  

I’m generally a fan of innovation in mobile, content and advertising. I’m also a huge social-sharer and want to screenshot, share and chat about entertainment content. Not being able to screenshot or record content seems extremely counterintuitive for the way content spreads today (h/t @ira).

On first review, Quibi is a social-less mobile-first content viewing experience, which seems very strange for a product launched in 2020. The launch content isn’t great, and I kept finding myself wanting to jump out of the shows to multitask or do anything than hang out inside Quibi. It’s reminiscent to the feeling you get sampling AppleTV, which also has a terrible user experience (muddling primary content with subscription and rentals) and yawn-worthy content. In fact, I forgot I had AppleTV completely.

Instead, I’m back to scrolling TikTok for hours each night, texting the best short-form content to friends, and enjoying its discovery algorithm that serves me content it knows I’ll love.

TikTok: 1.
Quibi: 0.

But Quibi does have almost $2 billion in investment, loads of famous directors in the queue, and a long runway to work out some of these mobile bugs.

You may not have tried Quibi yet, but you will be hearing more about it for quite a while.

See you on the internet!

PS: I send out an email every single Friday with stuff like this. You can sign up below! For example, here is this week’s Social Pulse round-up of digital, social and culture trends.

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