snapchat

A teenager wrote about how teens use social media and it’s fascinating. It’s based off his experiences and observations of peers, so perhaps the sample size is limited, but it’s well written and insightful in connecting human psyche to products. It’s worth a read, and if you’d like the TL:DR here it is…

  • Nobody really shares on Facebook, but it’s weird to not be on it
  • Everyone is on Instagram — it’s a high quality experience
  • Few understand Twitter
  • Teens like Snapchat because they can be themselves, they don’t really care about privacy or security
  • Tumblr is about anonymity
  • Yik Yak is great for schools and maybe not elsewhere
  • Women use Pinterest

One thing I do wonder about is the premise of the article — the fascination the tech punditry have about teenagers, their behavior and what products they use. Knowing what teens like is good data of course, because they tend to be early adopters and can signal what everyone else will eventually use; moreover, they’ll grow older and eventually comprise the mass market.

However, their importance in the grand scheme of things is a little exaggerated. Teen obsession doesn’t always translate into to adult obsession. Off the top of my head: Pokémon, One Direction, Cancun and existential angst.

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My strategy professor from business school once said that if you left your company’s strategic plan on the bus and a competitor discovered it…and you were then screwed, it was a bad strategic plan. I completely agree.

A great strategy is one that’s unique to your company. For Apple, it’s a commitment to simple designs that cater to the every-person, and to deliver integrated, vertical experiences even if that means basic feature sets. Everyone knows this, but only Apple can be Apple. Only Apple has a large, loyal fan base that absolutely trusts Apple’s product taste and are willing to always pay for it. Only Apple can attract the best talent without needing to pay top dollar for them. Apple’s war chest means they’re able to tightly control their supply chain so competitors have a hard time matching its product quality and profit margins.

Elements of Snapchat’s strategic plan were leaked in the recent hack of Sony Pictures, and so I was surprised to read a very emotional reply from the CEO of Snapchat, Evan Spiegel.

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I was a guest on the Tech-Know show on Channel News Asia earlier today and asked to comment about privacy in social networks, and specifically, about an app called Peep. Peep is like a structured group chat, and kinda like Path.

The big point I made on the show is that while private social networks like Peep are a huge trend, it’s one that’s been happening for a while. For most of us, chat apps are our private social networks, and why Facebook acquired Whatsapp for $19 billion.

So for apps like Peep to add value, they have to demonstrate what they can do better above and beyond chat apps.

It’s a tough hurdle, and I’m not sure Peep clears it.

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A couple days ago, we referenced a comScore study on mobile apps. Since then, more articles about its findings are surfacing. Quartz has an overview of the top 25 most used apps by US consumers. Highlights:

  • Facebook is unsurprisingly the #1 most used app
  • Pandora is surprisingly #5…no Spotify
  • Google is the top mobile app publisher
  • Facebook Messenger is the top messaging app, ahead of Snapchat, Skype and Kik…no Whatsapp, no Google Hangouts
  • No games made the overall top 25

The study also breaks down popularity by age segment, which The Atlantic graciously provided. Highlights:

  • Facebook, Youtube and Pandora are universally popular
  • The younger, the more popular is Instagram
  • Older folk use Facebook Messenger more than Snapchat or Kik
  • Email didn’t make the top 10 for 18-24 year olds

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Facebook is in the press lately because the company is forcing users to communicate with friends through a separate Messenger app instead of the main Facebook app. The former is #1 on the app store but people are rebelling by slamming it with 1-star reviews. Privacy is also a common rallying cry, the accusation being that the app is too aggressive with permissions.

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Nobody likes to be forced to do anything, so it’s not surprising to see people react negatively. Many are still wary about online privacy, even as it is an increasingly illusory concept.

We think those knee jerk reactions are overblown. Facebook Messenger is a decent product and it’s no more aggressive in its privacy policies as other messaging apps.

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Instagram is testing their new app Bolt in Singapore, New Zealand and South Africa for iOS and Android, and I got my grubby hands on it.  Bolt is one-tap photo messaging, like a simpler Snapchat.  And you know what…I kinda like it, though I don’t know how defensible it would be as a business.

It’s attractive and single-minded.  There’s no confusion to the app’s purpose.  One tap to send a photo or video might not seem much different than say, Snapchat’s three taps, but surprisingly it’s increased the number of messages I usually send.  Maybe that’s because testing Bolt is top-of-mind, but I don’t think so.

One tap messaging feels so effortless — it’s easier than typing a text and yet can say so much more.  Sending dozens of photos and videos throughout the day to let someone know how things are going doesn’t feel like work.  With Bolt, it feels natural.

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“You have to be in mobile,” venture capitalists will instruct you.  “We have to be in mobile,” tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo will echo.  Obviously, it’s because we’re living in a mobile-first world.

Yet, becoming the next Instagram or Snapchat is insanely difficult and increasingly so.  A hit app is a rarer unicorn than a hit website.  Why?  Unlike websites, apps aren’t linked to each other; you can’t click on a link to discover a new app, you have to purposefully search and download it from the app store.  Then you have to learn how to use the app before finally getting some value out of it.  Some apps — especially on Android but even from bluebloods like Facebook — behave badly and mistreat your phone’s battery or privacy settings.

The result of the above is that, according to Nielsen, most people use only 30 apps on their phone.  What are the chances your mobile app can make a person’s top 30?  Let’s break down how difficult a threshold that truly is.  What are the 30 apps you’d typically use?

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