By Adam Fraser
Snapchat has just announced a major overhaul of its user experience.
As Evan Spiegel stated in a 60-second video to mark the launch; “the new Snapchat separates the social from the media. This means that the Chats and Stories from your friends are on the left side of Snapchat, and the Stories from publishers, creators, and the community are on the right.”
Beyond the utility benefits in terms of a cleaner look and feel, and simpler user experience, Snapchat is acknowledging a key universal truth around consumers use of social media – that it’s primarily to connect to friends and family they care about. As Ad Age summarised, with this change “Brands are being kicked out of the friend zone”.
Facebook – in its own frustrating, meandering way – is ultimately getting to the same conclusion, where organic reach dies, peer to peer messages are given priority in the stream and brands and publishers have to pay to be seen. In a similar vein, this is why Google moved all business newsletters and offers to the “promotions” tab in your Gmail and out of your main email feed.
Connecting to a brand is rarely – if ever – the primary reason to jump on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter. However, there are times when you absolutely will want to talk to a brand on social media – often related to a customer service query or issue – and it is at this precise moment it is critical a brand is listening and available. It may be three times in a week then nothing for 6 months. It could be monthly. It could be when you are flying/buying/renewing/choosing/pondering. It is unpredictable, but your behaviour – announcing a problem, discussing an unmet need, asking a question – will make clear that this is the time a brand should join a conversation.
This is the more mundane, yet absolutely critical, stuff which can materially impact the customer experience. When is the shop open? Do you have that in size 12? What ingredients are in this food item? How long will delivery take? Where is my delivery? Was this made in Australia?
Consumers don’t want irrelevant interruption from brands (the growth in ad blockers and Netflix are two illustrations of this), but they do want brands to be there – on a medium of their choice, at a time of their choosing – when they need to speak to them. It’s reversing the mindset from “shouting out” to “listening and helping”.
Think of a helpful brand as the butler available at your service when you call him (but silent in the corner when you don’t) rather than the annoying uncle who joins in every single conversation you are having.
Do you really want a “relationship” with your fast food, shampoo, toilet paper or laundry detergent brand? Highly likely no. But do you want those same brands to be available to answer questions and receive feedback in the most convenient manner possible? A resounding yes.
The changes made over time by the major social networks are finally putting the ‘brand as friend’ concept to bed.