Snapchat, PR & the Great Update Debate

It’s been almost a month since Snapchat released an update to its app that has left teens, celebrities and Bitmojis everywhere up in arms. But how does the photo-messaging company balance the need to change and evolve in the tech space, while also battling the public relations nightmares that sometimes come with it?

The driving force behind the great update debate is simple: competition. Snapchat has to stay appealing and relevant if it’s going to go up against its competitors, like the new Instagram story feature. People have to feel like the product they’re using is engaging and tangible, and many have felt Snapchat has missed the mark with its newest move.

In response to a Change.org petition that has gained over one million supporters calling for the reversal of the latest update, the company acknowledged its users’ concerns, but showed no signs of changing its position.

We hear you, and appreciate that you took the time to let us know how you feel,” the company said. “We completely understand the new Snapchat has felt uncomfortable for many.”

Part of the discomfort within the app revolves around the redesigned “friends” page. It places stories next to the ability to snap your friends. Snapchat replaced where stories were originally located with what they call the “discover” tab. Here, the platform’s more prominent faces have their work curated, alongside content from news organizations.

Kylie Jenner, one of those prominent celebrity Snapchatters, fed the fire surrounding the update conversation. Posting to Twitter, she asked her followers if they even open the app anymore in the wake of the update. Like-minded Snapchat veterans also began to share their disdain with the update over social media.

The company’s stock fell, and while critics do relent that Snapchat’s shares were likely to decline prior to Jenner’s and other’s comments, they certainly did not help. It actually created a messy public relations situation that Snapchat has had a hard time handling.  

Snapchat defends the update, saying it will make the platform more fluid and attractive, and also bring new users to the app. They say it will allow users to better communicate with their friends, while bringing them individualized, curated content. Yet, long-time Snapchatters continue to air out their concerns over social media that their experience has been damaged.

Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s Co-founder and CEO, said that the update is something that needed to happen, and that over time more experienced users will adopt the new model. And that’s likely true. Often times in public relations it might be necessary to lose a few yards in the short-term to make massive gains later on, and that seems to be Snapchat’s strategy.

The app is far from a finished product, and will certainly not function in the same manner one, to two, to three years from now. Yes, there are certainly Snapchatters who deleted the app after the update, and took to Instagram never to return. But as long as Snapchat can keep a sizable portion of their old user base engaged, while continuing to be attractive to new users, then the great update debate may soon fade away, until the next time.

This blog post was written by Account Associate Will Bleier.

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