Selfies might be the social currency of our generation, but the companies based around them still kind of need cash.
Shots, a selfie app made famous by high-profile celebrity supporters like Justin Bieber, just raised another $4 million in funding led by DCM Ventures, adding on to its $8.5 million Series A from this past April. The company has raised $15.2 million to date.
For how simple the app is to use, Shots is definitely one of the more intriguing social media apps out there.
On one hand, Shots is founded on the premise of uploading selfies, a “phenomenon” often associated by olds with our generation’s “rampant narcissism.” But Shots is also differentiating itself as the app that reclaims the selfie as a means of self-expression rather than a sort of corporate self-branding.
Shots takes pride in the fact that it’s about the photos and videos more than it is about the reactions to them. You can follow friends or celebs like Bieber, but during actual usage of the app you’re not stuck with “like” envy as the app doesn’t allow you to see other users’ follower or like counts.
Shots was founded in 2013 by John Shahidi and his brother Sam, largely with the mission of creating an anti-bullying social network. One of the first features to get ditched in this process of creating a safer space was commenting.
Per a Medium post from John:
Your social status doesn’t matter inside Shots. It’s about expressing your feelings in a picture, which is why we don’t allow comments. We never want our users hurt, harmed or bullied by what they read about themselves on social media — it’s about signaling what you’re feeling inside.
I’ve read a lot of these idealistic change-the-world descriptions regarding apps, and my bullshit-o-meter was pretty hyped here, but after actually chatting with Shahidi, it’s clear that he stands by this mission.
The entire app hones in on this kind of positivity that is in some way made more genuine by the high profile figures that use the app.
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Shots tries to play with less of a “my life is dope and I do dope shit” philosophy towards social media.
“When you look at [celebrities’] Shots feeds, what you’ll notice is that they’re using that app personally,” Shahidi told me. “Since you can’t upload from the camera roll or use special effects, you really feel like you’re getting a very personal look at their lives.”
Shots’ community has grown to hold onto a rather interesting corner of the Internet, largely due to the following that Bieber has amassed.
Judging by interactions on Shots’ Twitter account, a large quantity of the app’s users seem to be Beliebers looking to get closer insight into the life of the celebrity they adore.
Indeed, most of the people active on Shots really are teenage girls. Shahidi told me that over 75% of Shots’ users are female and the average age of a user is only 16.
That makes for a kind of weird philosophical dynamic on the app. With teenage users flocking to obsess and elevate celebrity icons in their most human moments, the app often can’t avoid feeding the celebrity obsession beast that contradicts its mission. Still, the grittier, less-manicured presentations of celebrity that Shots puts forth are probably healthier for onlookers than the “I’m for sale” culture that apps like Instagram perpetuate.
For all of the philosophy that Shots sells, when you strip away the Instagram-style main feed, you’re left with an app that operates very similarly to the Stories feature within Snapchat, a company that is markedly less idealistic but still does away with public follower counts and commenting, key selling points of Shots. What Snapchat lacks though, is a central community that builds off of that culture.
Shots users are continuing to grow more engaged inside their community, though its user base is perhaps smaller than one would expect from an app with such high-profile supporters. Shots last released user numbers this past April when they clocked their engagement at 5 million users with around half of users checking the app on a daily basis.
Shahidi acknowledges that Shots’ core philosophies might have limited its short-term growth in some ways that apps like Instagram haven’t had to deal with, but he also believes that Shots’ key to success is in creating an experience for its community that just can’t be found elsewhere.
“When you think about it, social networks are about digital friendships and the best friendships are the ones that really take time to build,” Shahidi said.