"…anything bootstrapped that gets significant attention and momentum is destined to be bought or simply cloned." - Rene Ritchie (iMore)
Whether you like Facebook’s Poke or not, it’s impressive to see how quickly they were able to release a Snapchat clone. Although it hasn’t reached the popularity of Snapchat (currently sitting at #4 in the U.S. free App Store chart above Poke’s #39 rank), it begs the question: “how long will Snapchat remain on top?”
Snapchat’s biggest threat isn’t Poke but its ability to keep users committed beyond the honeymoon.
By definition, Snapchat is ephemeral. This is both what made it popular (among other things) but also it’s biggest weakness. With one-click downloads and free being the standard, consumers are more fickle than ever.
With millions of users, Snapchat has reached scale, but the network effect isn’t good enough. Using Nir Eyal’s Desire Engine, Snapchat has built a strong engagement loop but it’s missing the commitment component.
As with most successful social products, users gain greater value and become more invested as they contribute to the service. Each photo shared on Instagram is added to a personal collection of photos - a central log of past memories. Favorited music on Spotify creates an archeology of loved songs. Each app installed on an iPhone increases its utility and entertainment value.
So what can Snapchat do to increase commitment? Here’s a brain dump of ideas:
- Save the Snaps - With user’s permission, Snapchat could save photos and videos. While this goes against Snapchat’s temporary intention, users that choose to (optionally) save these snaps, have a breadth of moments to view and “re-snap” with their friends.
- Measure and Celebrate Progress - Although I admit this is a bit superficial, surfacing the number of snaps shared between two individuals and celebrating milestones (“Congrats on your 100th snap!”) provides a measure of progression not unlike Draw Something or Foursquare.
- Build a Following - Give users the ability to discover (and follow) other people (celebrities included) with similar interests. Like Twitter, users build valuable following, driven by vanity and utility, that makes it harder to abandon the larger it grows.