On March 2, Snap Inc., the parent company of the widely popular Snapchat app, closed their first day of public trading up 44%.
Since then, however, things have gone downhill.
After its first full week on the stock market, SNAP stock was down 18.5%. This week is also seeing a downward trend, now nearing $19 a share..
Not only is the company off to a rocky start in the stock market, but it’s posted year-over-year losses for 2015 and 2016—and it’s forecasted to do the same at the end of this year as well.
So, is the company with an estimated $25 billion valuation destined to go the way of Napster, Atari and Compaq? While it’s too early to tell if Snapchat will pull a complete disappearing act, the company certainly has some choppy waters ahead.
The trouble with Snapchat
Interest from investors is turning out to be as fleeting as the photos in the app itself. A recurring theme for the waning interest seems to lie in the ephemeral nature of the app—and its lack of appeal to older demographics.
When analyst Youssef Squali, managing director at Cantor Fitzgerald, was asked about Snapchat’s viability on Power Lunch, he noted Snapchat’s struggle to appeal to older demographics. “While it is great for the 13-to-24-year-old demos, I don’t think this is something that resonates with older audiences,” Squali explains. “So if this [Snapchat] is to become successful over time, if they are to become another Facebook, they definitely need to work the creativity out of their products to come up with solutions to cater to people who are not 13-24.”
Its inability to reach users outside of the Millennial age range might be one of the greatest factors in Snap’s undoing. If the company is to generate significant ad revenue, then they need to reach the pockets of older generations.
But how can Snapchat reach outside of their current target demographic? Simple: The company must find new ways to let users hold onto their pictures and videos.
The staying power of Facebook and Instagram
“It might be early days, but marketers are seeing little return when advertising on Snapchat. They also seem more interested in spending ad dollars on the company’s newfound rival: Instagram,” George Slefo explains in a recent AdAge article.
Meanwhile, Facebook’s newly launched Messenger Day poses yet another major threat to Snap Inc.
Not only are Facebook and Instagram able to mimic what Snapchat is doing well, but they also add a layer of staying power that appeals to older demographics. If younger Facebook or Instagram users want to post a story that disappears in 24 hours, they can choose to do so, but older users can also post and share photos and videos they want to keep and look back on. Snapchat is lacking this in-app functionality.
The lack of staying power in Snapchat might be the reason older generations aren’t hooked. Feelings of sentimentality and nostalgia tend to grow over our lifetimes. The desire to look back and re-live memories become a necessity. To older generations, the entire point of taking photos and videos is to hold onto fleeting moments—not to capture them for only 24 hours.
“We receive and professionally digitized more than 600 million photos [updated 7/2019], yet that staggering number is eclipsed by the 3 1/2 trillion still-analog format pictures to scan,” Mitch Goldstone, a 30-year photo industry executive and CEO of ScanMyPhotos.com, explains. “And the people who are sending us their print photos are primarily over the age of 45. This demographic doesn’t want to lose the past, they don’t want those moments to disappear, so they take the time to organize those old analog pictures and send them to us to digitize and preserve.”
How Snapchat can compete
If Snapchat is going to appeal to older generations and compete with Facebook and Instagram, then they need to come up with ways for users to keep, share, and store memories. They don’t need to completely turn away from disappearing photos and videos, but they do need to give users more options.
Another way Instagram and Facebook are beating Snapchat is their ability to easily upload and share photos of the past. Snapchat’s interface is intended for users to take photos of what’s happening right now, but older generations will want to share photos of the past as well. “Once old print photos are scanned and digitized, our customers love sharing their memories on Facebook,” explains Goldstone. “They always comment about how much their friends and relatives love seeing the old pictures on social—but this is something that is very much missing from Snapchat.”
With Goldstone’s 3 decades as a well-known photo industry and eCommerce executive, he is often asked to share advice on the trending industries. “While this past New York Times story — when asked how to help Kodak compete in a world of digital photography went overlooked — I hope this time Snap will listen,” encouraged Goldstone.
So, while Millennials and younger generations are focused on the here and now, older demographics tend to yearn for the past. But imagine the possibilities if Snapchat were to merge the two together—we’d see puppy-dog filters on vintage portraits or browse permanent collections of Stories that document every stage of life.
In order for Snapchat to succeed, it must find ways to connect the past and present. The company needs to develop new and creative ways to appeal to users of all ages—it’s the only way they’ll avoid pulling a permanent disappearing act.