Snapchat Search: The Low-Down

Snapchat recently brought out a killer new update “search”.

The core idea behind this new - albeit long awaited feature - provides quick access to existing contacts, but you can also use it to find other users.

When you tap in the search bar on the Camera screen, Snapchat will bring up a screen with the search field at the top. Enter a name of a user, contact, or someone you'd like to quickly find. If you haven't added the person, you'll be given the option to add him or her. This is a big move in finding new friends but also to search for Discover Stories and brands.

Social media has been lukewarm to this news with some people describing it as “pretty useful”, to some calling it “ugly". Below is my two pence on the move.

The good:

The obvious plus about this move is that it makes it easy to find your friends. Snapchat for all its great capabilities in design and lenses has typically been stymied by the lack of flexibility in being able to find friends. As opposed to platforms such as Facebook where finding friends is incredibly easy, or on Instagram where one can find recommended pages linked with their interests or from their contact book, Snapchat could be described as a silo form of networking in which one got no help at all in finding new users.

The rationale for this search bar benefits Snapchat in two ways:

  1. Further stickiness to the app. The value of a social network to a user is often correlated directly with the number of connections they have on that network. This makes sense: if one has invested a lot of time into creating a community - even if it's just of their closest friends - then the opportunity cost of leaving the platform becomes greater, thus increasing the likelihood of them staying. By making search a prominent feature of their app (it’s now part of the first thing you see opening the app), it seems Snapchat have realised the need for increased stickiness.

  2. Greater ecosystem to brands - Snapchat is increasingly getting closer to IPO and there is a greater need right now to provide an ecosystem for brands through better data auditing and audience insights. The introduction of this search feature will do one big thing for Snapchat's relationship with brands by reducing the need for users, brands, and marketers to reach out to their audience off-platform. Previously, for brands to grow their own audiences on Snapchat, they would have to move their audiences from other social networks to Snapchat. Now, with the search feature, brands can natively build their own audiences on Snapchat doing collaborations with engaged communities on there and directly asking the audiences to search for them in the search engine. This makes building a community on Snapchat easier, thus causing brands to tip more money into the platform, rather than treating it as the experimentation phase it currently is.

The Not-So-Good

The relative difficulty of navigation of Snapchat in some counter intuitive way actually led to it being seen as the cool kid platform - the whole idea being that if its hard for the 'old guys' to figure out, maybe this will thwart them from joining. By making it easy to find users, the barrier to entry from a functionality perspective has been reduced making it more accessible to an older audience. For Snapchat, this bodes well. As a company that's about to go public, there is a need to be able to display revenue potential by showing businesses it can be more than a niche audience (13 - 24) and cater towards greater audiences, to above the 25 year olds.

As a summary, this is a great move by Snapchat towards becoming a more open community for both consumers and brands.

For consumers, it provides a quicker way to increase connections and therefore, retention, whilst for brands, its a large step towards growing branded Snapchat audiences much quicker and not having to promote their Snapchat content elsewhere before being able to grow.

It appears we’re going to be seeing more of these moves towards a more open community for consumers and brands. As they gear towards their IPO, this can only bode well for all parties involved.