How Snapchat and Messaging Apps are making social exclusive

You are sitting across from your best friend at the dinner table. Talking about anything and everything. Laughing about old memories and discussing the week’s happenings at work. The next morning you will remember a summary of what was said – the essence of the conversations and the most important parts; not every single world. Real life conversations happen right there and then, in the moment.

With Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and other traditional social media channels, your conversations are saved forever. Just look at Timehop and how you are thrown back in time to discover things that were said five years ago on the same day. In a sense, it’s not natural. And to add on to it; everyone that you are connected with on the different sites can also read every last word of conversations you had on your wall. It can still define you years later.

This can of course be a good thing for some content – like a well thought-through blog post or a beautiful photo that means something to you. But it’s not natural for every piece of conversation to be archived this way.


With Snapchat, things happen right there in the moment. A smiling selfie or a movie of the weird dude sitting next to you at the bus stop. Send it over to your friend and laugh about it. And the next day, you’ll remember the situation, but you won’t be able to revisit it in every last detail. You’ll remember it just as a real life meeting or situation.

In an attempt to explain what Snapchat is, Evan Spiegel, the photo messaging app’s co-founder and chief executive, says the following to The Telegraph in the article What is Snapchat? App’s founder explains social media phenomenon:

“Historically photographs have been used to save really important memories, major life moments, but today, with the advent of the mobile phone and the connected camera, pictures are being used for talking. Now photographs are really used for talking, that’s why people are taking and sending so many photos on Snapchat.”

In popular messaging apps like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, LINE, Kakao Talk, Viber and Skype, conversations our pulled from the big mass and seen only by the people actually involved in the conversation. You’re talking face-to-face as opposed to in public where everyone you know can see it. It’s been defined as dark social because the corporations can’t see what you are talking about our engage in your closed conversations. In the end it’s about the will for privacy.

In the article Why Apps for Messaging Are Trending for The New York Times, Marissa Campise, a partner at SoftBank Capital, the venture arm of Japanese telecom giant SoftBank, explains:

“It’s a much more intimate experience. Messaging apps are smaller and less visible than the public networks and far more engaged and trusted. It often feels like a more controlled, real-time replacement for email.”

Snapchat and messaging apps are making social media more exclusive. It’s for you, personally, that a message is created and sent. Just as if you had met with a friend or colleague over a cup of coffee.

Of course, brands are catching on, and everyone is looking for ways to engage with users even in the age of dark social. It’s a new field with unwritten rules, so there’s a lot of opportunity for the daring brand (not to forget daring thought leaders). For some inspiration, check out Fastcocreate and the article “How 12 Brands Used Snapchat“. And if you still don’t believe the importance of acknowledging the power of messaging apps, read on the stats in the Digiday article “Messaging apps: the darkest of dark social“.


photo credit: Marina bay girl via photopin (license)

Emelie Fågelstedt

Independent communications strategist supporting organizations with their digital business and communications strategy since 2010. Founder of digital agency Fågelstedt Kommunikation and co-founder of Svenska Nomader, Sweden's largest platform for digital nomads. Public speaker on tech, social media, e-commerce and the future of work.

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