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lo-res_f7p6j3-sTraditionally social networking sites work to form close relationships with famous and influential people, to help boost their membership and revenue. Many popular services even offer personalized, one-on-one training for celebrities, politicians, and people of influence to help them create maximum impact with their posts, pictures, or videos. Furthermore, social networking platforms frequently prioritize celebrity posts, to help fans find and follow their favorite stars.

But one social networking platform is bucking this trend: Snapchat. The popular image messaging website eschews giving celebrities or well-known names any special privileges. Instead, it explicitly treats them like any other user. One-on-one service is not available, influential users cannot pay to promote their posts, and the platform does not provide any special reporting to allow users to monitor how other people have reacted to or interacted with their posts. Snapchat’s terms of service even specifically prohibit users from using the platform to sell products—a tactic embraced by many celebrities who get paid to help boost brand sales by selling sponsored product placements or mentions in their social media posts.

The policy leaves many modern celebrities frustrated; they have grown accustomed to special service. Furthermore, they argue that the policies make it difficult for them to connect with their fans. The lack of personalized data analysis also prevents administrative tasks, such as account verification, by the famous names.

But Snapchat maintains its strong belief that the policy is critical to ensuring that its users receive an authentic experience. It also seems to be good for the company’s bottom line; without a means to pay celebrities to use their products, many brands and companies contract directly with Snapchat to buy advertising. In turn, Snapchat imposes strict quality controls with regard to the placements of advertising, enabling it to charge a premium for the best spots, including up to $600,000 for a day-long, national feature.

Moreover, some celebrities embrace the Snapchat model. When they are prohibited from advertising themselves widely, celebrities know that fans would need to expend special effort to find and interact with them. The resulting experience does appear more genuine; any posts on Snapchat reveal what the celebrity actually is doing at any particular moment, instead of a staged activity or event that might have occurred weeks or months in the past. These distinctions prompt influential users to sense that Snapchat offers a more meaningful connection with fans.

Whether celebrities continue to use Snapchat as an overall extension of their brand remains to be seen; as long as other users continue to value the experience and service provided though, Snapchat is sure to remain a notable—and genuine—presence in the social media space.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Should Snapchat maintain its policies, or should it follow most other social media sites in granting special offerings to celebrity users?
  2. Do you follow any celebrities on Snapchat? If so, how did you find them? If not, why?

Source: Katie Benner and Sapna Maheshwari, “Snapchat Plays Hard to Get with Celebrities and Influencers,” The New York Times, December 18, 2016

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