Carthago delenda est: The Logic Behind Facebook’s Snapchat Dupes

March 13th, 2017 by | No Comments

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Yes, Facebook is ripping off Snapchat. While it’s not innovative of Facebook to copy another platform’s ideas and products, the logic behind the method is solid. It reflects a clear focus that’s not driven by ego or innovation, but by Facebook’s ongoing need to solidify its position in the current business landscape.

Losing the cool factor

Facebook’s fixation with Snapchat started in 2013, when the former lost its ‘cool factor’ and thus the attention of younger users. By the last quarter of 2013, Facebook had 1.2 billion monthly active users, which meant that the social network was on its way to becoming ubiquitous. Everyone was using Facebook, including your parents and grandparents. This inevitably made the platform less cool; you could no longer post your club pics from last Friday night without fear of being questioned by your parents or boss. At the same time, it became common to see updates from your relatives in amongst those from your friends.

In addition, Facebook’s News Feed was also becoming oversaturated; not only were you seeing more updates from your friends, but now there were also more ads and marketing content from brand pages. To counter this, Facebook launched its new News Feed algorithm, which meant that the platform already had some level of control over the content that users were seeing.

These combined factors led to younger users seeking alternatives such as Instagram (which Facebook also owned at this point), while messaging apps were also seeing a rise in usage, underscoring users’ desire for more privacy.

Just as the resistance to open social networking was growing, Snapchat appeared on the scene. Although the platform originally launched in 2011, Snapchat grew in popularity between late 2012 and mid-2014, gaining over 49 million users. With Snapchat, the younger crowd had a new platform all to themselves, one that was built to cater directly to their interests. Discovery on the app was nearly non-existent, and the interface wasn’t as intuitive or straightforward as other platforms. These factors, along with controversies related to disappearing content and sexting, boosted the app’s notoriety and further increased Snapchat’s appeal to the youth.

Given the surrounding context and market landscape, along with Snapchat’s knack for innovation, it’s easy to see why the app became so popular. Snapchat was at the right place, had the right product, at the right time—and Facebook immediately recognized it as a threat.

Sounds familiar?

Having superseded MySpace as the original, foremost social network, Facebook knew that it too can lose everything if they weren’t paying attention. To solidify its market share and continue building a sustainable business, Facebook had to quickly compete with potential competitors.

Zuckerberg enforced the same game plan with Snapchat as it had with Instagram, having seen the app’s rising popularity, especially within the demographic where Facebook was seeing lower numbers. Zuckerberg met with Snapchat founders in 2012, telling them that his social network would duplicate their app and reach more users. A few months after its app, Poke, failed, Zuckerberg met with Snapchat’s founders again and offered them $3 billion to buy them out. They refused.

With this history, it’s easy to see why Facebook has been launching the Snapchat clones that users have been seeing lately. It’s not trying to hide them either; but what’s the alternative? Should Facebook let Snapchat eat into its market share and accept a decreasing number of users? Not if it can fight it.

Crunch time

The basic logic behind Facebook’s Snapchat dupes comes down to numbers. Snapchat recently reported that around 25 percent of its 158 million users post their stories every day. If you want to see a similar usage rate for the same function in a similar app, such as Stories in Instagram, which has 600 million users, you’ll need 150 million people who use the feature.

More than just a mere estimate, that’s the exact number that Instagram reported early this year; there are now 150 million people using Instagram Stories every day. With this result, the logic behind Facebook’s Snapchat clones makes perfect sense. Yes, a lot of people will be turned off by these duplicates and Facebook will be criticized for ripping off Snapchat yet again. But if just 25 percent of Facebook’s billion plus audience end up using it daily, that’s a great deal more engagement for the social network.

If you’re against Facebook for launching its Snapchat clones, it’s business, nothing personal—it’s about the 25 percent of users who will use the dupes anyway, and who will be subsequently less likely to go over to Snapchat as a result. This move might not be original or innovative, but it works well enough to justify Facebook for doing it.

About the author:
Jehan S. Ismael is a full-time writer and editor for a leading Internet Marketing firm. She has a love-hate relationship with food, likes to listen to rock and rap music, and enjoys reading books by self-absorbed writers like J.D. Salinger and Anthony Bourdain.

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