8 ways to fix Snapchat

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8 ways to fix Snapchat

Snap’s cool factor is wearing off. It needs new ways to entertain teens and score ad dollars. That means challenging some of its deepest-held philosophies about who Snapchat is for and how it works. From changing its feed to seducing influencers to fighting Facebook, here’s what we think Snap needs to do.

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Add an Algorithmically Filtered Stories Feed

You mostly care about what your best friends are up to, so why not show them first for easy Stories viewing? Instagram and Twitter got big growth boosts from switching to an algorithmically filtered feed. Snapchat should add its own filtered feed in addition to the standard reverse chronological one, or at least offer an auto-populated “Favorites” section based on who you watch and message with most. That could make it easier for people to instantly watch all their best friends’ Stories when they open the app, and follow more accounts without losing track of their BFFs.

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Launch an Augmented Reality Developer Platform

Snap needs more dancing hotdogs than it can invent on its own. Rather than only building augmented reality selfie lenses and world lenses by itself, Snap should let outside developers submit funky AR masks and objects you can insert into your Snaps. Facebook has announced its own AR platform, which threatens to give it way more imaginary effects to play with than Snapchat has. Snap could still aggressively curate the submissions so only the best get in, but if it’s going to blanket your face and the physical world with AR experiences, it needs the help of an army of coders.

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Sell a 360 Camera

Snap wants to be a “camera company,” but it needs to sell cameras that appeal to everyone and can be used everywhere. A sunglasses camera like Spectacles is too intrusive for the mainstream after the Google Glass stigma. TechCrunch has just confirmed Snap has closed its $150 million to $200 million acquisition of Hover selfie drone maker Zero Robotics. But a selfie drone won’t fit in your pocket, Hover is too expensive at $500 for most Snap-happy teens, they’re crashable and there are privacy concerns. Snap has talked to 360 camera developers to explore selling its own, but it needs to go through with that. 360 cameras like the Giroptic iO are tiny enough for your pocket, fit onto your phone for simple use, are more affordable at $250 and could bring unique content to Snap Stories. Imagine all your friends crowding around to shoot a 360 video of everyone acting silly.

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Recruit Social Media Influencers and Creators

Snapchat is notorious for having prickly relationships with the web celebrities on its platform. It’s been reported that it doesn’t provide technical support if they’re locked out of accounts, account discovery to grow their audience, proper follower metrics so they can appeal to sponsors or channels for feedback about which features creators want. Those influencers are now bringing their audiences to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube instead. Snap needs to pull a 180 here, get friendly with creators and give them the analytics and promotion they need to keep filling the app with better content than what your friends shoot.

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Syndicate the Best Content to the Web

Snap has a growth problem thanks to competition from Instagram. It needs more people to realize just how good its curated Our Story collections and Discover content are. By featuring highlights on its website and allowing publishers and journalists to embed content on their properties, Snap could tease non-users with what they’re missing. Otherwise it’s too much work to set up an account and find this stuff. Embeds have proven to boost reach to unregistered users for Twitter and Facebook. Snap can still be native mobile app-first, but it needs to colonize the web to create new growth channels.

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Embrace Brands as Content Creators

Snap has long held that profiles are for people, Discover is for publishers and ads are for brands. But that last part disqualifies a critical source of content and revenue. Brands don’t want to parachute into a platform where they have no presence or experience. They want to build an audience, identify what resonates and then pay to amplify that content to new potential customers. This strategy has worked wonders for Facebook, where brands pay to promote the best posts from their Pages. Snap needs to accept that brands can be cool, and let users choose which they want to follow. By doing outreach, teaching them what works and giving them proper measurement of their Stories and followings opposed to just their ads, Snap could get lifestyle brands turning their big budgets into compelling Stories and well-designed marketing.

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Offer Account Discovery to Grow Audiences

It’s way too tough to find Snapchat accounts to follow. You have to know who you’re looking for and spell their account name right in its buried Add Friends search feature. Maybe Snap’s employees in LA live glamorous lives and all their friends’ Stories are interesting. But for most people around the world, their friends might be a bit boring, and they’re looking to follow influencers and brands they love. Snap could launch an account browser to let you skim through different categories by interest, popularity or who your friends follow. That could convince brands and creators that there are long-term growth opportunities if they invest in creating content now. And Snap could sell sponsored search results if businesses want to pay for growth.

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Fight Facebook Head-On

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel has joked about competition from Facebook, likening it to bumbling behemoth Yahoo. But the reality is that Instagram Stories contributed to an 82 percent drop in Snapchat’s user growth. Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have been candid that they fell behind on visual communication, recognized that Snap was pioneering the right path and are willing to aggressively copy Snapchat in order to win. Now Instagram and Snapchat Stories are at near feature-parity, and Instagram Stories has way more users. Spiegel has to develop a concrete plan to fight Facebook directly that goes beyond just being “creative.” He doesn’t need to spell it out for the world and tip-off Facebook. But for Snap to have the morale and public perception necessary to recruit and retain talent plus more users, it needs to look fierce, not dismissive of the threat.

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