Marketers are Wrong About the Significance of Instagram’s New Face Filters

Among other things, today’s Instagram update includes a “Rewind” camera, hashtag stickers, and the largely anticipated (and apparent final nail in the Snap-coffin) “face filters”.

Over the past few months, marketers have been predicting this. They’ve been saying things like, “Face filters are it. Once Instagram gets a handle on that, Snapchat is done for”. I’m not making this up. Most marketers believe that puking rainbows, puppy ears, and golden laurels really are the secret sauce to Snapchat’s success, and they’re saying this for several reasons.

They’re saying this because they think social media is a commodity.

Did YouTube disappear three years ago when Facebook doubled down on video content? What about when Facebook launched Marketplace last year — did Craigslist or Gumtree take a major hit? Of course not. This is because a platform is more than the sum of its features.

They’re saying this because they don’t see the big picture.

They were turned on to Snapchat Q1 2016 when Gary Vaynerchuk first started raving about the platform. They read one blog post after another on how Snapchat was going to be the next big thing in social media. Then after downloading the app they promptly decided it was too confusing and waited for others to figure it out for them (and most of them still don’t know how it works).

My point here is not to shame these people. It’s to point out that many of these non-practitioners first formed an opinion about the platform before even posting a story. Most of what they know has been told to them by others who also don’t have any first-hand experience. This means that most discussions on what Snapchat is, or why it is or isn’t valuable has become less like an honest debate and more like a game of telephone.

They’re saying this because they’re forgetful.

Snapchat consistently saw over 100 million daily active users long before 2016’s influx of fair-weather users. Most of this “fair-weather” crowd only moved to Snapchat in the first place in order to build a new audience there. When Instagram turned around and offered the same content medium on a platform where these users already had an audience, they were quick to reverse course — and you can hardly blame them. But then, they were never Snapchat’s core audience anyway.

Most of all, they’re saying this because they don’t understand the power of brand.

Snapchat have a dedicated, diehard user base. These users jumped on years ago, before Snapchat became a bullseye for marketers. These users signed up to have fun and connect with their friends in an authentic way. For this reason they will always prefer Snapchat over any other platform—even one that is a bit-for-bit carbon copy.

If you’re not quite with me, consider how many people tend to favor one cup of coffee over another even if the liquid inside is exactly the same.

They do this because they have a strong emotional connection to that brand. There are memories, feelings, and experiences that they associate with that brand, whenever they come into contact with it. It also says something about who they are. Are they rich? Are they poor? Are they cool? Are they thrifty? Are they informed?

It’s for these same reasons that a feature or set of features doesn’t really matter when it comes to something that is so deeply ingrained in people’s lives. It’s why these users aren’t going anywhere, and neither is Snapchat.

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