We can go ahead and just air that question out loud. It’s okay to ask.
By now most folks are aware that Snapchat is a bit of a wildcard in the arena of media. Five years ago it was the up and comer. Two years ago it was threatening to be the future of social media. One year ago it was the Facebook Ad killer — and none of that has actually panned out. But the platform continues to hold solid ground while anyone that isn’t a daily user continues to scratch their head.
Snapchat has 170 million daily users at last count. That’s their flagship statistic. By comparison using late 2017's figures, Facebook has 1.3 billion, Instagram has 500 million, and Twitter has 330 million. And when you know that Snapchat’s audience of daily users is almost entirely between the ages of 13 and 30  you have an audience platform that can't be ignored. And now we can begin to understand the hype.
However, what is the platform doing to deliver on that value and monetize that opportunity? We aren’t sure. The data on how users are using Snapchat is extremely limited as of now, but in the meantime, Snapchat can tout the daily users and the valuable makeup of that audience to advertisers.
Putting the advertising value in perspective, Instagram’s Story feature alone has more users than Snapchat has total users, that’s 180 million. The makeup of that audience leans older but the volume and behaviors of Insta’s audience makes it more practical as a “planned, bought and measured” ad platform. The ad units available through Facebook and Instagram are more versatile and more adaptable to different objectives as well.
We call it a social media community. And social advertising is a commodity, but Snapchat is  really more of a messaging application. First and foremost it's a space for young people to send video and images to each other in privacy. But are these young people interacting with the publisher content in the Discover section of the app? Are they engaging with the ads in a meaningful way? According to a recent article on The Daily Beast, the data is not made available by Snapchat, but the simplest answer is “not much.”
So what exactly is the value of Snapchat? It’s what the kids are doing. And that’s cool. It’s setting new trends and inventing new rules. It was the first to favor vertical video and gave the world face filters. If a brand can do something organic and innovative and it gets noticed, then it can help your brand gain some favorable press, and it’s definitely fertile territory for cool points in the industry.
The data is still out on whether the ad product matters with the audience and whether the audience is who they say they are.
At this point, among a variety of very effective pay-and-measure ad channels, it’s still a variable. We believe it’s absolutely a worthwhile experiment for brands that are committed to the channel and able to optimize on performance. It’s definitely a testable variable that’s well positioned to generate word of mouth (and industry PR) for a brand that’s authentically participating in the culture of the community.
 
Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media