Why Twitter is much better at competing with Facebook than Snapchat

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Here’s my view on why Snapchat is royally screwed in its war with Facebook, much more so than any other social network:

Snapchat is the only major platform other than Facebook that focuses on personal connections between users. Sure, you can follow thought leaders, brands, and news outlets on Facebook, but, for the most part, you’re going there to see content from friends and family. Same can be said for Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

Snapchat, too, is primarily used for interactions between personal connections. As the data in this article from the Daily Beast indicates, a small minority of its user base uses its Discover tab, which is populated with content from media organizations. People are mainly using it to share content with their friends, primarily through private messaging.

This means that Facebook can instantly render any new Snapchat tool redundant by simply copying it. It has the larger user base, so if I’m trying to determine whether I should post a story to Instagram or Snapchat, I’m going to go with the one that will be seen by more people. If I want to start a group chat, and only three out of the five people I want to chat with are on Snapchat, whereas all five are on Facebook Messenger, well then I’m going to go with the latter.

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Platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are more immune from this kind of competition simply because they have different use cases from Facebook. Twitter, for instance, is more of a thought leader platform. Sure, I follow a few people I know on it, but the overwhelming majority of accounts I follow are people I’ve never met in person.This has created a completely different dynamic for the platform in which there’s tons of content I would post to Twitter that I would never bother posting to Facebook.

This doesn’t mean that Facebook can’t copy Twitter (it has, plenty of times.) It’s just that Facebook copying Twitter isn’t as devastating to Twitter because the two apps are still used for largely different reasons.

Honestly, I don’t see how Snapchat gets out of this mess any other way than by diversifying its app portfolio. Facebook wasn’t just content with having the largest social network; it’s aggressively acquired companies and moved into new categories, including messaging and VR. Google, though it still makes most of its money in search, has its hands in over a dozen categories and has a half dozen products with more than a billion users.

Snapchat, because of its IPO, still has enough of a war chest that it can start acquiring early stage companies. It should do so before it’s too late and Facebook renders it obsolete.

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Simon Owens is a tech and media journalist living in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Email him at simonowens@gmail.com. For a full bio, go here.

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Tech and media journalist. Email me: simonowens@gmail.com

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