Snapchat’s Redesign Could Show A Culture Shift for Social Media

Even after 1.2 million users signed a petition, Snap doubled down on the changes made to Snapchat — a major update that totally restructures the face of it. Because it was such a huge update that influenced the user experience and design of it all, there is always expected pushback, particularly from longstanding users who have become accustomed to a certain usability.

However, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says the flak only bolsters what they’re about:

“We’re excited about what we’re seeing so far. Even the complaints we’re seeing reinforce the philosophy. The frustrations we’re seeing really validate those changes.”

Here’s the major changes of the update most contentious for frustrated Snapchat users:

  • Stories from friends (the Friends tab) and stories from brands/celebrities (the Discover tab) are fully separated in two swipes
  • Stories are sorted in the order the app thinks you want to communicate, revamping the Best Friends badge system
  • The Discover tab includes subscriptions and curated (meaning Snap-picked) stories

The first thing I notice is a clear, deliberate separation of people you know and people you follow — brands, celebrities, comedians, YouTubers, you name it.

Facebook is also moving in the direction of having this clear separation as well. Social media has always used brand and celebrity interaction as a way to spread usage of platforms: status updates of your favorite actors appeared alongside your friends’ updates. However, it’s also the consumption of news that is affected; publishers will be hit the hardest when it comes to sharing news on Facebook if they do not continue innovating and promoting high-quality content as social media banishes clickbait and video view-grabs as a whole.

What we’re seeing is a clear cultural shift in the social media sphere. There is a shifting focus to make you feel smaller and more part of the world around you, rather than a platform to make you feel like the biggest thing in the world — which, frankly, is what was so subconsciously appealing of social media in the first place. It is not so much of a deliberate ego hit as it is an acknowledgment that trust, verification, locality, and so many other factors go into what is important to you rather than what’s popular at the moment.

This ties into another facet of Snapchat’s changes: the usage of artificial intelligence — more aptly machine learning — to determine what is important to the world around you. The app, over time, will learn what you like watching and who you communicate with most. I surmise it doesn’t stop there. I’m sure the app also determines these behaviors based on days, times, and locations as well. If you only send Snaps to your colleague while you’re at work between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., the app will probably give you that coworker’s Bitmoji at the top of the list during those hours while you’re at your office.

With Facebook returning the power to local news in its feeds and Snapchat localizing your experience, we will probably see more social media platforms go in the direction of joining the world around you through its tools rather than escape from reality. Let’s see if that ends up the case.

Questions to Ask

  1. What does separating branded content from the rest of the users say about how we use social media?
  2. Who would this separation most affect?
  3. Should publications and brands adapt to this new separation by establishing a more traditional style of relationship between readers and organization? Or should these companies push against the tide and continue a “friend-like” relationship? What do you think the future will be like?
  4. Have users gotten used to the relationship with brands, celebrities, and publications to a point that Snapchat’s major update will flock users elsewhere, or will they learn and adapt the new style?

2 Comments Snapchat’s Redesign Could Show A Culture Shift for Social Media

  1. Crystal W. February 22, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Seems like separating the branded content will be returning social media to its original purpose: people being social online with other people VS. with brand “voices”/ a constant stream of advertising. Brands have gotten quite good at seeming less like constant ads and more like a welcomed friend on timelines tho. It will be interesting to see which category online personalities end up truly falling into since while they have built brands around themselves, they are technically still a person’s page, channel, etc. When does a person’s personal brand go from being their own page vs. being seen as branded content/a brand period. Will that be determined by level of popularity, followers, views, etc.? I guess the end goal is more of the Facebook that required you to know a person’s college email address (or however that went) in order to connect— while giving the option of a separate feed for seeing the content of those personalities and brands that are not directly connected to you. I hope that brands and publications will return to the more traditional relationship. Our feeds have become cluttered with brands, publications, and personalities taking advantage of the freedom to come across as just another friend in someone’s feed to the point that quite often they simply take over the timeline/app. I recently watched a Cal Newport Tedx talk on why he doesn’t use social media. Part of his reason was that it is simply unnecessary. At its current rate, I agree that its losing its personal social element in favor of being platforms for selling brands and for people to become “famous.” I’m looking forward to seeing more of a separation between the people and the brands. I also read that Facebook’s plan will mean original content from your friends will be more prominent than viral content from brands, people hoping to get famous, and “pages.” I hope that this will cut down on the wide spread of misinformation that is currently running rampant on the network.

    1. Alexandra Pusateri February 22, 2018 at 1:21 pm

      Great points, Crystal! And you raise some great questions. I wonder if Facebook’s limiting of friends to 5,000 makes a difference in determining when someone becomes “branded content” rather than just their personal profile. However, since you can have followers on your personal profile, those lines blur quickly when you compare branded content pages versus profiles. I could see Facebook releasing more features for pages like they have over recent years (e.g. having call-to-action buttons, job listings, deals) to entice branded content or influencers to stay on pages.

      And you nailed your last point. Hopefully, the separation and focus on high-quality content would be a great deterrence for anything like the fiasco of the 2016 election. Facebook’s coming down hard on clickbait, so coming at it from multiple angles would be the smart move.

      Amazing comment!


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