Snap to Store: The Great Assimilation

How Snapchat compromised its core value

Please help me square this circle: Snap now lets advertisers track its users… so how is Snap’s privacy policy – once an ideological pillar for the company – any different than any of its tech/social rivals?

To be clear, I have no moral qualms with the actual “Snap to Store” product that Snapchat’s developed for its major brand advertisers. (See the link above for a summary.) There’s a real gap in advertisers’ ROI data because they can’t track a user from impression to point-of-sale. This helps fill that gap. I’ve lauded Foursquare’s similar attempt to crossover from bits to atoms, and this new Snap release probably has an even better chance to succeed – which I’ll discuss at another time.

In addition, there’s nothing wrong with assimilation. Sometimes things are the way they are for a reason. Ad-based revenue is a tough business, and maybe digital ads do require more data (not less), which requires more user tracking.

No, in this case, my complaint about assimilation has nothing to do with Snap optimizing its business model. Nor does it concern the morality of tracking users. It does have a lot to do with Snap vacating its own moat, on its own accord. It’s a strategic error that disenfranchises its users.

This is the wrong strategy considering how the competition has been outright copying Snap’s features. Although Facebook is chipping away, Snap still owns the privacy niche. Snap should be focused on eviscerating everyone who trespasses on its turf. Instead, Snap has mobilized its army to join the World War — fighting for marketshare in user-tracking ads, leaving their homeland vulnerable.

When Facebook’s apps copy all of your core features, you don’t then concede your biggest value proposition and start fighting on your competitor’s turf. Privacy was an underserved niche in the social networking ecosystem before you, Snap. You were able to modularize the unassailable incumbent, Facebook, by carving-out that niche. Don’t now create the same opportunity for someone else to occupy your moat!

Diffusion of innovations

Privacy was the raison d’être that motivated Snapchat’s early adoptors. Yes, Snap’s now attempting to tap the majority, and yes, that requires a different approach. However, that approach is product strategy: usability, accessibility, etc. What we’re talking about here is not as much product strategy as it is a value proposition. For example, as Snap makes a marketing push into international and emerging markets, what is its value proposition at this point? What is its competitive advantage? Differentiation? Before “Snap to Store,” I could’ve pitched Snapchat to a Japanese guy next to me on the bus in Tokyo. Now… not so much.

The slow, quiet erosion of Snap’s hardline championing of privacy is unsavory. It’s like they rode the populist “privacy” wave in their campaign; then they mailed-in their self-professed values after the election; then sold-out after inauguration. 🤔😳

Remember the uproar when Facebook made “Public” posts the default option for sharing? FB wasn’t nearly as outspoken a privacy fundamentalist as Snap has been. In fact, on the contrary, FB’s mission statement was ringing with cries for “open” and “connected.” Snap campaigned on a much different slogan, touting “ephemerality” and “privacy.” Their rhetoric has not prepared users for this new era of data-tracking.

So, what do you stand for now, Snap? Work harder to let your users know, because users don’t read version update notes; they don’t watch your marketing website or blog; and they don’t follow your press releases. If users find the “opt-out” on their own – having not heard about it from you first – then you’ve forfeited your homeland.

Today’s media doesn’t meet consumers’ wants and needs, so here’s a better way to listen, watch, and read: Annotote

Annotote = Summarization + Annotation + Network

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away...” 👉

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away...” 👉