Snapcode from SnapchatLast year, I wrote about my experience of getting to 500,000 public story views on Snapchat. While fully acknowledging that I am not Snap’s target demographic, it’s been interesting to watch the rise, dip and potential rise again of this company. This is a critical time for the social media platform, as new networks like TikTok are gaining a lot of steam globally, especially in higher ed.

Today, I write to let you know that earlier this summer, I crossed the million public story views milestone. On my Snapchat. I know, it’s nutty.

It’s strange to think people around the world have watched 40 days worth of my content. My content? It’s not terribly interesting. It’s a lot of food shots taken while I’m travelling and vinyl I’ve been listening to lately.

Snapchat Screenshot

Observations on a million Snapchat views

First, Snapchat isn’t dead. While it’s certainly not aimed at me and people my age, it’s still used heavily by its younger users. My oldest is nearly 18 years old, and most of the time his phone is open to Snapchat or Instagram. It’s a big communication tool for one to one and group chats.

Second, the analytics available to power users haven’t changed all the much. I wrote about Snap’s analytics tools when they first launched last year and the tool hasn’t evolved. The stats are still top level, and while they’re interesting (location, interest), they aren’t much more than superficial. There isn’t much in the way of actionable intel here to work with or make decisions with. Snap tells me I’m popular in Greater London as well as my public Snaps are 7x more popular than average amongst people who are fans of cricket. I dig cricket, but I’ve never posted a Snap or story about cricket. There’s a lot of room for improvement here.

Third, consistency is key when it comes to views. When I was posting regularly, often daily, I would get more views, often to the tune of 7-10k views per story.  I haven’t posted much this year, and that number hovers between one and two thousand views per post. If you want to grow your public views, post a lot and regularly.

Finally, Snap will still not give you a total number of views. Maybe if you’re a big brand that has a high ad spent, you can see those types of analytic data, but I can’t. I’d love to know how many people follow me, instead Snap just tells me who recent followers are. That’s disappointing.

I hope Snap rebounds and keeps adding new and interesting features. They certainly are doing great work around their lens and filters and just this week they announced a new version of their Spectacles wearable.

Snapcode from SnapchatSnapchat certainly hasn’t been getting the press that Instagram and Facebook has lately. When Snap is covered, it’s been about falling stock prices. It’s about how they bungled their redesign and alienated users. It’s fair criticism. Snap didn’t do a great job communicating to users.  It’s had to roll back some of the design elements to appease users. It also seems they’ve lost ground on the stories feature to Instagram lately, which is a shame as Snap really pushed stories first.

I’ve written before about how I made my Snap stories public, and about Snapchat’s analytics tools they launched earlier this year. Since then, I’ve been randomly posting to my public feed. I haven’t had a plan or motive with my posts. In fact, it’s been mostly an afterthought in terms of my social usage this year. I’ve enjoyed the interactions and tools on Instagram (follow me here) over Snapchat, but I’ve got a much larger audience on Snapchat.

I was pleasantly surprised to see this weekend that my public story views went over the 500,000 mark. The fact that my stories have been viewed a half a million times is crazy. People around the world have spent over 33,200 minutes watching my stories. That’s over 550 hours. Crazy.

Snapchat Analytics

Screenshot of my public story analytics

Observations on half a million views

What have I learned from reaching this milestone?

First, Snapchat isn’t dead. Have they fallen behind Instagram, especially on the stories side? Yes. But all’s not lost. In watching what social platforms my 16-year-old son uses, his main method of communication and sharing is Snapchat.

Snapchat needs to catch up where it’s fallen behind on stories. It needs to integrate new features like Instagram’s “ask a question” story feature. I plan to write more about the “ask a question” feature, but Snap should get something like that into it’s story as soon as they can.

Second, as I dig into the analytic data, I see that people who do view my story view all of the story. On my days, my story view percentage is 100%, and rarely dips below 95%.

Keep in mind, these people are mostly strangers, so the fact they follow all my posts shows users on the platform are engaged and watch stories. I don’t know if brand stories with lots of ads get the same sort of engagement.

Even when go without a post for a week or so, the viewership is still there and the numbers are consistent.

Finally, Snapchat needs to give users a way to discover other users easier. Instagram does a good job of this, but Snap doesn’t. I know Snapchat’s core functionality is between two people, but if they want to grow they need better user and  brand account search features. Easier search means more viewers means more ad dollars.

Now that I’ve reached this milestone, I wonder how fast I can get to a million views? Will it be before the end of 2018? I’ll post again when I reach that mark.

TL/Dr; Yes.

I’ve written about how I’ve somehow managed to get followed by thousands of people I don’t know on Snapchat here. It’s true – my public snaps are viewed between 6 and 8 thousand times each. I’m not exactly sure why this is happening, but it gives me the opportunity to do some experiments with the platform that having a very small following wouldn’t allow.

One of the main things that’s been missing from public snaps is the ability to easily share a link or other call to action. Yes, you can type out a URL as text on a snap, but no user is going to do that. They want to click, or in Snap’s case, swipe up.

Snapchat recently added the ability to add a URL to a particular snap. This is huge for brands, who, to this point,  haven’t had a good way to drive users to any sort of landing page or other shopping/action page using Snapchat. This is a challenge Instagram continues to wrestle with.

Adding a URL for a snap is easy, though the caveat is you can’t have it open, at least that I could find, in a browser other than Snapchat’s built-in OS browser. You can’t, say, open your app or launch a new browser. The user does not have the opportunity to leave the Snapchat app.

My experience putting a URL in a snap

I wrote a post last week about being locked out of Facebook for a time. For the snap itself,  I took a photo of my Facebook page with a link to the blog post itself. It was posted it and I opened up Google Analytics’ live view and waited to see what happened.

In the spirit of honesty, the blog post didn’t exactly light the world on fire before I put it on Snapchat. It had a dozen views the first day (I should work on promoting posts better, lol.)

For the 24 hours my snap was live on my public story, I received a good deal of traffic. Here’s a graph from Google Analytics. Guess what day the snap was live.

Google Analytics Graph of page traffic generated by my Snapchat public story post

I will say that going from 12 pageviews to 310 is a pretty solid increase in engagement. When you consider the audience is mostly random strangers who do not share my interest in higher education marketing and technology, I think that’s pretty good. The bounce rate for the page tells a different story. It was 89% on Thursday, July 7, the day I posted the snap. Brands will hopefully get a bounce rate that’s much better since their fans are most likely not random strangers but people with a connection to the brand. 350 of the visitors were new to my site, and 4 had been there before. Thank you, returning users.

The traffic was constant during the first few hours of the snap going up. At times, there were 10 active users on the page. There were 19 at its maximum while I was monitoring it. Here an additional graph from WP.com stats:

Please don’t laugh at the small traffic this blog gets. 🙂

Going Forward

This is a good move by Snap to allow URLs.  Brands and users should point out to users the need to swipe up to view additional content until users become accustomed to that action.