The evolution of Snapchat: Not just for sexting anymore

Undoubtedly, you’re familiar with Snapchat. You’ve heard the infamous app’s name furtively whispered by your children and anxiously discussed by parents. Now you may start hearing about it in boardroom strategy discussions, too.

This obscure social messaging app entered the mainstream consciousness in 2011 as a way to share multimedia moments (images and videos called “snaps”) that disappeared after 10 seconds. It immediately became known as a tool for privately sending inappropriate material to a user-controlled group of recipients – “sexting.”

Since then, Snapchat has evolved into a legitimate publishing and advertising medium. Although that process hasn’t been seamless, the company’s growth has attracted interest from investors and mobile app users. In fact, Snapchat’s owners are so bullish on its long-term prospects that they have twice rejected buyout offers from Facebook – the second of which was reportedly in the $3 billion range.

Like Facebook, Snapchat monetized its operations by introducing advertising. Marketers can pay for their videos and ads to appear in users’ lists of incoming snaps and “stories.” With an estimated 100 million active daily users, this has immense potential for the right business or brand. Snapchat has also started establishing lucrative media partnerships through its “discover” feature. Publishers like CNN, ESPN and the Food Network infuse their content into the user experience – and provide another avenue for advertisers. Additionally, Snapchat has jumped into the news business itself. The company has hired longtime CNN political reporter Peter Hamby to bolster its political coverage and is recruiting “political junkies and news aficionados” to help cover the 2016 elections.

While this ambitious evolution from fledgling messaging app to online publishing powerhouse is not yet complete, it is safe to say that – unlike the racy photos it became famous for – Snapchat won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

-Katie Klein-Murphy is social media marketing manager at Milwaukee-based Boelter + Lincoln.

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