What Snapchat Can Teach Us about Social Behavior, the Adoption Curve, and Market Value

Social Media Marketing


I used to think I would never join Snapchat. Maybe I had reservations because I thought people used it for risqué purposes, or maybe I just thought turning down a $3 billion offer from Facebook was crazy. But my friends had been telling me to join for months, and three weeks ago, I finally did.

So I wondered: why, after months, did I finally adopt the app? And, because I’m in marketing, I also wondered what my adoption behavior could teach marketers.

How My Behavior Indicates That I’m still in High School

I may no longer be in high school, but my behavior begs to differ. The main reason I wanted to join Snapchat was that my friends were using it, and they wanted me to use it too. My curiosity and need for inclusion overcame my personal aversion.

Many companies have used the need for inclusion to encourage adoption – by making themselves exclusive. Even though Google+ has yet to replace Facebook, their exclusive invites had everyone wanting one. Google made inclusion into their network a prized possession.

Know Where You Stand on the Adoption Curve

On the standard adoption curve, there are “innovators” and “early adopters” – I don’t consider myself either of those. I consider myself part of the “early majority”. I won’t be the first person to adopt something, but when a product reaches a level of familiarity, and adopting will make me feel socially included, then you can bet I’ll join.

Marketers also need to figure out where their products will fall on the adoption curve. The Segway had rave reviews from early adopters, but it never became a household product because it was too complicated/innovative for the late-adopting majority. Evaluate how innovative or difficult to use your products are. Ask yourself: could you grandmother adopt it with ease?

Once you’ve determined where on the adoption curve your product lies, you can figure out the best way to market to the appropriate group. If you’re marketing to innovators, you may want to highlight features that no other company has. If you’re marketing to the majority, your marketing message should be about familiarity and inclusion – you should highlight how popular and intuitive your product is.

Why Do Your Customers Value Your Product?

Before I adopted Snapchat, I thought it was useless – I never saw any value in it. I literally scoffed at my friends who had it. Now they just laugh at me for Snapchatting every day – in the last three weeks, I’ve sent over 400 Snapchats (karma).

Facebook’s $3 billion dollar valuation may have seemed ludicrous to most people, but having joined Snapchat, I can see its value: Snapchat allows people to connect in a way other apps don’t – through ephemeral moments. Facebook and Instagram are about making moments last forever, whereas Snapchat is the exact opposite. The captured moments are deleted by the app as soon as you watch them. Because there’s no need to curate and filter a temporary picture, Snapchat lets people connect socially on another level – a more authentic one.

Ask yourself: what do your customers value about your products? Surveys are an inexpensive way of determining the perceived value of your product, but my favorite way is through observation.

Through observation, you can see what parts of the product your customers use, and how they use it. We recently ran a post about getting a 360-degree view of our customers, so that we can understand how they use marketing automation. I’ve actually had our product managers simply sit behind me and watch me while I work in Marketo (don’t worry, this isn’t an everyday occurrence). You can do this for your own products by watching people use it, examining activity logs, and by applying strong metrics and analytics to your marketing campaigns. What messages do people respond to? What features are clicked or opened the most? Are people using your product in a way you hadn’t intended?

Arm and Hammer, for example, realized that people were using baking soda for baking, but also to absorb odors in the fridge. They now produce and market two versions of their product – one for each purpose. As Snapchat attempts to grow its user base, the company will need to know how their current users are using their product, and then emphasize that value in their marketing.

At the End of the Day, Will it Pay?

It’s one thing to create a valuable product; it’s another thing to actually earn a profit. Snapchat has learned to leverage social behaviors to create a valuable, widely adopted product, but we still don’t know how the company will earn revenue.  Will they start showing ads in between Snapchats? Will they use a rewards system? Snapchat, like any profitable organization, will need to monetize their product without jeopardizing its value. Or will the company, like its product, simply delete itself?