Snapchat: Leveraging the Crowd for Location- and Event-Based Content

Snapchat’s innovative “Live Story” feature has made a huge step in solving a problem that to date has plagued other social media apps: tons of users post pictures and videos that in theory would have broad public appeal, yet no app has compiled and featured all of this content in a way that was easily discoverable and digestible.

Snapchat was one of the first social media apps to build a core product leveraging the growing desire for private, temporal sharing.  Yet as the app evolved and grew over the past several years, the company added a feature called “Live Stories”, a curated collection of community-generated content around specific locations and events that is publicly viewable for 24 hours.  In the company’s own words, “The end result is a Story told from a community perspective with lots of different points view.”

With this innovative feature Snapchat has made a huge step in solving a problem that to date has plagued other social media apps and sites: tons of users post pictures and videos that in theory would have broad public appeal, yet no app has compiled and featured all of this content in a way that was easily discoverable and digestible.  Take, for example, a music festival like Coachella.  It’s likely safe to assume that over the course of the weekend that are hundreds of thousands if not millions of pieces of user-generated content uploaded to social media sites from fans on the ground.  Yet for those who are unable to attend, there was no convenient way to consume all of this crowdsourced media and get a real-time taste of what was happening at the event.  Beyond music festivals, this Live Story model has obvious uses with a multitude of other situations, from sports games and concerts to large community events and college campuses.

The app has smartly included a gamification element to incentivize participation, whereby users who post to a certain story can see the number of people who have viewed that post.  The number of views is then added to that user’s publicly-viewable “Snap Score”, which many take pride in as it demonstrates their overall dedication to the app and cleverness of their posts.  Additionally, the app features a trophy case where users earn rewards for taking specific actions or reaching certain milestones.

A team of editors reviews all submitted stories and chooses only the best to include in a given story.  While in theory Live Stories could scale to thousands of locations and events, this team of editors is likely the largest challenge to the further rollout of Live Stories.  Since each piece of crowdsourced contented needs to be reviewed and vetted, the company must balance the number of editors required as the product grows with how wide a net they ideally could cast.

Value capture here is quite novel, as the company can work with both event organizers to monetize featured placement of event coverage, as well as advertisers who are keen to target viewers of event-specific content.  And indeed in the time since Snapchat has introduced live stories, both Twitter and Instagram have recognized the value of this model and have introduced similar features on their own platforms.  


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Student comments on Snapchat: Leveraging the Crowd for Location- and Event-Based Content

  1. Interesting post, about an app that definitely represents a new generation of “live social medias”, attracting younger generations than the millennial one, initial target of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and its contemporary neighbors. The “live stories” feature of Snapchat rightfully tackles one of the main issues of crowdsourcing, consisting in delivering a comprehensive and synthetic yet representative content to the user when so much content is available – similar to the issue Facebook faces in the organization of the user’s homepage, when the user has 2,000 + something friends). A key question remains value capture from all this traffic generated on the app, something Snapchat is apparently still trying to figure out.

    1. Snapchat is on track to do a terrific job with value capture. Its proposition is unique on the market: we have the undivided attention of the viewer while he or she is watching our content. This is based on the ephemerality of the content: when you are watching a snap or when you are watching on the channels, that is it – you won’t be able to watch it again. No other medium is able to guarantee something similar.

      Snapchat has been able to constantly increase the quality of the media channels hosting content on their platform. Today you don’t see only ‘new media channels’ like Refinery 29, Vice, or Buzzfeed, but also names with a stronger tradition like Sky and and National Geographic.

      My expectation is that we will see more and more native advertising through these channels and that brands will be willing to pay a premium to be there thanks to the guaranteed attention to the message they are trying to deliver. And snapchat won’t struggle to get a slice of that pie.

  2. Good post! It is really interesting how the gamification systems give incentives to consumers to participate into these activities and therefore create a better platform from everyone (direct network effects). Users take hours of their time creating and uploading content for a “badge” or other in-app status that differentiates them from other users. I wonder if there is a psychological explanation to these behavior in the digital era.

  3. Very interesting article. I’m not a SnapChat user and had no idea that this feature was available. I agree that the gamification creates value for the users by improving their perceived status, but I still wonder how long it will be before the next cool, new app steals the crowds away. In the long run, I’m not sure how any of these competitors will be able to create a truly sticky application.

  4. Interesting post. I definitely believe that Snapchat remains one of the most interesting, innovative, perplexing and divisive companies out there today. Since I’m not a core user of their product I definitely have “dumb” questions about the app’s value beyond a messaging platform, but most of that is likely because I was simply too old for the networking effects to really take hold with my group of friends.

    One question with relation to the live events – do you know if there is any data on how long someone watches the stream of live events? Generally when I pull open a stream that the Snapchat team has curated from an event (like a concert or the Super Bowl) I find the stream entertaining for a couple of posts before getting bored and moving on. Again, that could just be because I’m not a core user, I just wonder how valuable this feature is if people don’t really continue to watch it beyond a couple a seconds.

  5. Thanks for the great post. Twitter has been crowdsourcing news and info on live events for long before Snapchat arrived. However, it has struggled to make the content accessible to mass users and grow its user base. The way Snapchat has made the information accessible and useful through a curated, video and picture-based way is really interesting. In fact, Twitter seems to think so too – Twitter’s new Moments feature will curate its crowd-sourced data to make it more accessible and useful for average users.

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