Like a dystopian episode of Black Mirror, social media has completely taken over our lives. An enormous amount of time is spent on social networking sites and it is no wonder that brands clamor here to reach consumers. A few years ago, this only meant Facebook for us Bangladeshis. Today, however, the newest prodigy of the digital landscape, Snapchat, is causing quite a bit of stir.
Snapchat, since its inception in 2011, has taken shape into a global phenomenon. With its primary offering being its innovative technology, the millennials found the rawness and honesty they crave. Because a strong mobile infrastructure is one of the requisites, emerging nations have always been unchartered territory for this camera-first app. The smartphone market is still growing here, although rapidly. Facebook has already dominated a substantial chunk of mindshare. However, as Bangladesh strides towards digitization and perhaps an unprecedented access to internet, Snapchat too is growing in appeal. In a country where 60% of the people are below 30, where does Snapchat stand?
When Snapchat launched, it brought upon an era of endless possibilities. Temporary, fun and customizable being some of the popular app’s strengths- brands targeting a young audience knew where to reach them. Snapchat quickly rose to become Facebook’s first real competitor with a global user base of 150 million.
But in developing countries like Bangladesh, apps running on video content is just not as feasible except for a select few. This is where Facebook is trying its hardest to strengthen its foothold. It recognizes the threat that the teen-favorite app is posing for its grip on the 2 billion daily users and has been taking numerous initiatives to neutralize it.
Facebook’s early attempts to create a stand-alone Snapchat competitor app may have flopped, as we have seen with Poke and Slingshot. But its dogged experimental approach is gradually leading to Snapchat’s user growth stalling.
Facebook Messenger, for instance, has launched Messenger Day- a ditto clone of Snapchat Stories while Instagram Stories has already been met with wide acclaim. In an additional branding move in 2016, the company has introduced Facebook Flash in Brazil- a lite version of yet another Snapchat clone. Because Facebook just can’t seem to manage to dethrone Snapchat in North America- where 80% of the youth actively use it- the social networking giant is clearly one-eying emerging markets.
Not having experienced the Snapchat phenomena at its fullest, the user base from developing nations have not yet pledged their loyalty to it. And this is what Facebook is banking on. The “Snapchat-did-it-first” bias does not exist here. Users are still mostly strapped for data and storage space. Snapchat’s glitchy interface and battery drainage does not help at all.
While 68 million of Bangladesh’s 163 million have access to regular internet, high bandwidth consumption is still a rarity here. You may wonder if Snapchat has any strategy up its sleeve to counter this.
Snapchat founder, Evan Spiegel, had allegedly once commented that Snapchat is not interested in expanding to poorer countries and this, of course, includes Bangladesh. While he has vehemently denied this statement, actions speak louder. The camera application did not substantially diversify product offerings.
Snapchat Spectacles, their hyped venture towards augmented reality, does not do anything for brand reach in this part of the world. Snapchat’s primary revenue is from advertisement. Here, the advertisement industry is still in an embryonic stage and grappling with the rise of digital media. Granted, digital ad spending is experiencing a meteoric growth in Bangladesh- an average rate of 15%. But the niche market that Snapchat caters to here is hardly a significant part of it.
Bangladeshi brands, even the most high profile ones, are yet to adopt the Snapchat marketing strategy. However, the newer crop of brands, targeting the trendy and tech-savvy, have a different story to tell. Noir, Newton’s Archive, Urban Truth are some of the names which are leveraging Snapchat to increase brand engagement with its active consumer base.
Social media influencers like Raba Khan and Salman Muqtadir have jumped on the bandwagon too. Reaching brands and influencers, though, is not the primary reason why most Bangladeshi users availed the app. Staying up-to-date, communicating with friends from a plethora of fun options and limited reach are some of the major reasons for joining. Facebook customer engagement, however, is definitely more preferred by mass brands for its sheer volume of reach.
With Bangladesh being one of the fastest growing media markets, the proverbial race has only begun. The country is just revving up its digital engine. Mobile infrastructure, access to high speed internet and video content is expected to experience rapid growth. The market here will inevitably mature and become important revenue drivers.
The legion of clones of Snapchat, ready to saturate the market, will make Snapchat work to retain their crown. If this teen-favorite app intends to be a long-term name in the game, they are going to have to fight for it.