For Snapchat users, the last few weeks have been wild. The platform recently launched a redesign that is, frankly, bad. The app now separates the social media part of the app from brands’ stories. Not a bad idea in theory, but in doing so, Snapchat also consolidated the regular snap stories and individual snap messages into the same section, making it virtually impossible to decipher between a snapchat that is meant just for you, or for everyone who follows that user. In short, it’s messy as hell in there.
The Snapchat queen herself, Kylie Jenner, who has re-emerged into our digital consciousness after giving birth, tweeted on Wednesday that she, too, is struggling with the update.
sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me... ugh this is so sad.
— Kylie Jenner (@KylieJenner) February 21, 2018
Seems like a fairly banal tweet, right? Wrong! Jenner was in hiding for the last seven months, and for the first time in her short, but impactful life, we didn’t see a lot of her on social media. Now that she’s given birth, Jenner is back and we’re all hungry for anything and everything she does. Her rise from little sister of Kim Kardashian to makeup mogul was made possible largely by Snapchat. In a lot of ways Snapchat helped make her, and she helped make Snapchat.
Cut to Thursday. The Snap (SNAP) stock closed down six percent after the tweet went out. That plunge wiped about $1.3 billion off the company's market value. One. Point. Three. Billion. Dollars.
Not only is that an inconceivable plunge, but the impact via one tweet from a woman who still isn’t able to legally drink is fascinating, but not surprising. Like I said, Snapchat is responsible, in part, for elevating Kylie Jenner’s brand. She used the application to reach her fans, and in doing so, her fans became witnesses/consumers to her beauty evolution. That insight into her life was arguably the biggest marketing tool to help launch her Kylie Lip Kits, which made Kylie the most profitable of the Kardashian/Jenner crew.
And in turn, Kylie helped solidify Snapchat as the social media tool of millennials and Generation Z—a necessary and ubiquitous communication tool. Which leads me to believe that Kylie knew exactly what she was doing when she cooly tweeted her disdain with the app update. Kylie is well-aware of her impact; she’s a powerful, savvy, and smart business woman. And she knows that for her to continue to do that, the tools for her to reach her fans, like Snapchat, need to be affective and usable for her audience.
With the internet at large upset at the update— “RIP Snapchat” memes and tweets have made the rounds for the last few weeks—Kylie loses one of her biggest tools to access her fans, and subsequently, her customers. To put it bluntly, if she can’t access her fans, she loses money. If Snapchat is going to take that away from her, she, too, can take from them. And she did exactly that when she tweeted just how over the app she is. She wields that power, and power she wielded in a well-under-character-limit tweet.
The irony of this whole thing is that Snapchat stated that they made the update to make the app more user-friendly for an older crowd. Snapchat is kidding themselves if they think older people, en masse, are using their app. Their audience is the Kylie Jenner subset of the world. Snapchat’s charm was always that it was a bit bizarre to navigate, but younger folk seemed to use it with ease. They liked that it was theirs, and now we're seeing just how wide the impact of fucking with that can be.
Social media has changed the world in obvious ways, but now we're seeing some of the ways in which a seemingly small social media event can have a major ripple effect far beyond our thumbs and screens. In the wake of Parkland, teenagers have made their presences known in the political landscape with stunning speed and ferocity. As of this writing, six major corporations have cut ties with the NRA as a result of social-based protests.
If we're being reductive, we could simply say this is all a lesson in knowing your audience. But maybe there's a bigger lesson. Maybe it's time corporate America learned to play by the rules of the people who keep it running.