Sarvasv Kulpati

@sarvasvkulpati

If You Are Making A Startup For Young People, Don’t Pay Attention To The Product

The special way Snapchat won over all of us millennials

Snapchat is arguably one of the most prevalently used apps by young people — teenagers to people in their early twenties(I would know, I’m 15)

People are OBSESSED with the app. It’s the de-facto way of communication and letting people know what’s happening, be it that concert you just went to or the latest TV show you’re bingeing.

158 million people use Snapchat every day, and on average, open the app 18 times a day.

So, what led to such massive success?

Of course, I am no expert, and I can only speculate. However, when thinking about it, I did notice one key factor — that the app itself was probably the least important contributor.

Let me elaborate.

After reading dozens of articles over the past year about making products on medium by esteemed writers like Bram Kanstein, Ali Mese, Josiah Humphrey and Jon Westenberg — Growth Marketing ↗️, I have realised that it became successful even though (or maybe because) it broke all the rules.

Let’s start with UI and UX,

Conventional wisdom says design for ease of use, where all user interactions should be extremely obvious. But this clearly isn’t the case with Snapchat.

How is anyone supposed to know that three circles means stories, or that swiping down will reveal a Snaptag, or that swiping up reveals your saved photos, or that holding the stories icon will autoplay all stories?

Let’s move on to features.

Snapchat was the first app to come up with disappearing photos, and the concept of stories, but these features have been copied and placed into nearly all of Facebook’s products.

Companies seem to be encouraged to have some sort of viral loop built into them to acquire more users. The first example that comes to my mind is Dropbox, which gave extra space for every new invite.

Snapchat does not have a viral user acquisition feature built into it. There is no section to discover users in the snapchat app, if you have to, you must search manually.

Finally, look how companies like Facebook and Uber aggressively try and dominate markets. Snapchat does none of that.

So if the UI is confusing, the UX takes time to get used to, the features are interesting but replicated across all Facebook products, and it doesn’t follow the conventional strategy for acquiring new users, how is it so popular?

I would say everything other than the app itself.

To someone who uses the app, it automatically brings about the image of something fun, interesting and inviting. Since it doesn’t aggressively market itself, it feels genuine. Unlike Facebook, which is infamous for hoarding user data, Snapchat does not store or share any of its data with advertisers.

Surely, Facebook can, and has, copied tons of Snapchat’s features. But that doesn’t make a difference. No one I know uses Instagram as the new Snapchat. Because Snapchat has that aura of fun that Facebook’s products don’t.

From what I have understood from this, it is the community of people who use a product and the way that they use a product that defines how good it is.

If it was only the features, Facebook would have easily won over Snapchat’s users by now.

Of course, features do matter, but it seems like unless they are supported by everything else, they don’t mean much.

So if you are making a product for young people, don’t just make it useful — make it fun, make a community that is cool.

Now, as I was writing this, Snapchat’s earnings were sent through, and it wasn’t a happy scene. They are planning on redesigning the app for ease of use. But I could argue that if taken specifically for young people, Snapchat is winning.

It has our attention, and will continue to do so.

Thanks for reading,

Sarvasv

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