Snapchat, Hidden Data, and the Danger of External Platforms

A story recently broke on the DAU numbers for Snapchat. The Daily Beast got hold of 5 months of metrics on Snapchat's product features, and as a result, were able to get a glimpse at how the app is actually performing. Which is a nice alternative to the rather stagemanaged show you normally get.

The results, whilst hardly awful, aren't exactly the rosey picture of growth the app needs, especially at a time when every major competitor is able to rapidly copy and then out-deliver them on product features. The core product continues to do even, steady numbers, but new products tend to fall flat.

Snapchat Data Lorenz by catherine_fenlon from Scribd

Whilst there's obvious value in advertising and marketing with external platforms, and certainly some advertisers have seen a level of return on Snapchat, one has to wonder about its long term viability. Its Spectacles product never took off, according to the data leaked here the Maps product doesn't seem to be doing well, and during the week, whilst kids are at school and adults at work, usage falls off a cliff.

And that's before we get to the really thorny issue.

The Dangers of External Platforms

The problem has been nicely shown with the ever declining metrics seen on Facebook unless you pay money, the issues with YouTube and their inconsistencies on copyright and channel rules, and other similar stories elsewhere. It's simply this:

If you rely on an external platform for your content to go out and get consumed on, you're at the mercy of what that platform decides to do.

Facebook's metrics reporting has been historically problematic to say the least. That's before we get into ad fraud, ads appearing in places brands would rather they didn't, and ads going to audiences they aren't legally allowed to.

If you want consistent, reliable, and legal results, you need to own the platform. You need the audience to come to you, where you are. There's nothing wrong with advertising on other platforms, as long as its audience is a good fit, the metrics are solid, and where there are reporting tools that allow you to get the numbers you need to attribute value.

But don't assume everything is rosey. Question your suppliers, double check where you're appearing, and make sure you've got a plan for if it's not the rosey picture you imagined.

Your audience is watching.

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