Social Search: Can Snapchat Win Where Facebook Lost?

Now that the Snap, Inc. IPO has died down, social media practitioners are watching every move that the company makes. And by move, we mean product updates to help the company finally make some money with advertisers. Enter Snap search — a roll out feature within the app that will allow users to find public stories relevant to their interests and give branded content more exposure to high-intent users.

It’s important to note that this is not the first time a social network tried its hand at monetization through search. Facebook took every approach to give advertisers the upper hand. From more localized business pages, to dynamic advertising capabilities and even native ad content through search queries. But this time around with Snapchat, this simple update just might stick.

Advertising Opportunities

The concept of public content and brand discovery enables advertisers on Snapchat to cling to more automated means of content dispersion like and machine learning. We can anticipate that the search functionality on the brands’ side will allow them the ability to categorize content specific to interests and then boost it to reach users with search intent. And while this update has not rolled out across the entire Snapchat user base, users will likely be taught how to use Snap search in order to really ramp up the social search engine.

Where Facebook Failed

Snapchat isn’t the first and won’t be the last social platform to adopt search-centric capabilities. However when we consider past efforts to make smart, personalized search engines like Facebook, we see one single issue — user penetration. Facebook has both the data and resources to create a smart and sophisticated search engine. And to an extent, today’s engine on the network helps users surface content that they need. However, the lack of user understanding of all the tips and tricks leaves a huge gap for actually surfacing  content posted by advertisers. Regardless of whether it is in a local context, or specific to a product or service, the network lacks a strategy to instruct its entire user base in utilizing search to its potential.

Where Snapchat Might Succeed

Consider this: Snapchat serves 200 million users for an average of 30 minutes a day. These users are highly engaged, adopt new updates quickly, and take the time to delve into the app’s niche functions. With features like Discover, the possibilities of content exploration were in its infancy. Now that Snap is delivering full access to public brand stories, this growing audience and its high level of interest will finally have a place to become even more active on.
With such a saturated focus on adaptive Snapchat Audiences and the app’s strides to resemble, it’s only a matter of time until paid search comes in full force. This great level of power for brands on this channel and the high level of user interest  creates a great opportunity to expand into paid search, keyword targeting and social/search campaigns within the app.

But at this initial roll out point, may the most agile network win.