A new update for Snapchat that just rolled out adds an option to create Snapchat Stories, a new type of sharing for the temporary social network which allows users to build chains of shared content that can be viewed an unlimited number of times over a 24-hour period. The Stories are shared to all your friends at once, and each piece of content added itself lasts for a full day before disappearing.
This is probably the sort of ‘timeline’ equivalent Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel hinted at when he was discussing Snapchat’s future on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF in September. It manages to build a more lasting narrative, which provides much better opportunities for brand use in terms of doing things like advertisements, offers and marketing campaigns, too.
To introduce the new Stories feature, Snapchat has also debuted a number of new commercials that advertise the feature, in partnership with bands and musicians. These represent an effort on the part of the company to do more direct marketing, something it hasn’t really embraced in the past.
In terms of the mechanics of how the feature actually works, you take a Snapchat photo or video the way you normally would for sharing with specific friends, and then you tap a new icon at the bottom that looks like a stack of pages with a star in front. This brings up a dialog that asks if you’d like to “Add to Your Story,” describing what that entails. There’s an option to dismiss these notices forever once you get the concept, too. You can also choose whether to make your Stories visible only to your approved friends list (selected by default), or to everyone.
Altogether, while these definitely offer new tools that Snapchat users could find valuable (while keeping the basic Snapchat style temporary sharing intact, you’ll note), this push definitely seems aimed at turning the startup into something resembling a more viable longterm business. Already, businesses were using Snapchat to push out coupons that expire almost instantly and must be collected and redeemed in rapid succession – the 24 hour clock on Stories content sets the stage to give them something more to hang their hats on, thanks especially to the public visibility option.
A timeline is a core component of any app that wants to turn social activity into marketing revenue opportunities, or at least it has been thus far. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all allow users to post content that contributes to a feed, which brands can also do themselves via accounts and product pages. Snapchat’s feature works a little differently; you have to seek out a Story to see its content, since there’s no general feed in the ephemeral network’s model, but they could also spin that as a selling point for brands, since they don’t have to vie for user attention with pictures of cats and babies and other brands. Sure, fewer people might see content posted to a brand account they have to seek out specifically, but those few will be far more likely to convert into sales.
This also sets up the possibility for group Stories in the future. It’s easy to imagine Snapchat making it possible for users to collaborate on the new feature, building Stories that contain content sourced from multiple people. That would open up the opportunity for the inclusion of brand content in shared timelines, too.