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The ongoing battle between Snapchat and TikTok

Could Snapchat’s continued focus on engendering genuine connections give it the edge on TikTok, as the latter over pushes ecommerce?

Is Snapchat beating TikTok?

Recently, we’ve seen two of the biggest social media platforms, TikTok and Snapchat, take radically different approaches to expanding their user bases and ensuring growth for 2024.

TikTok’s launch of an in-app shop last year indicated a pivot toward online commerce and user-based marketplaces, where creators earn commission by recommending products and advertising experiences.

Snapchat has instead opted to focus on ‘authenticity’ within its platform. In a campaign launched back in February, the brand attempted to align itself as an alternative to other social media companies.

This strategy emphasised Snapchat’s community features. Where competition for likes and followers is a driving force for platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and even YouTube, Snapchat prioritises close networks of friends and more ‘genuine’ connections. 

Given Gen Z’s appetite for more meaningful connection online and the brief success of BeReal several years ago, it’s no surprise that legacy platforms are beginning to value close connection and community more.

Perception matters

Perception matters a lot for any social media platform. Ask any Gen Z what they think of Facebook, and they’ll likely tell you it’s full of Boomers, ads, and trashy content. 

The question for TikTok is whether it can have its cake and eat it, too. Can it continue to be seen as the go-to place for discovering trends, viewing funny videos, and following video-based niches whilst simultaneously turning into a massive global marketplace? If it pushes TikTok Shop too heavily, its perception may quickly flip.

Snapchat isn’t the only network to sense the danger. Instagram removed its Shop tab last year, and the Meta-owned app is likely hoping the commercialisation of TikTok will drive users to Instagram Reels instead. Meanwhile, the proportion of teens using Snapchat has been rising steadily since early last decade.

Snapchat vs TikTok

Snapchat’s recent campaign places emphasis on safeguarding, particularly when it comes to teen users. At a time when social media giants are up against more and more legal cases for endangering teens, this makes for a refreshing display of responsibility.

Of course, TikTok still currently has more monthly users than Snapchat, and its owner, ByteDance, may decide that a potential drop in users is worth the increase in revenue from the commission it gets from TikTok Shop. 

However, its user growth is slowing, and it will be interesting to see how its push for commercialisation performs compared to Snapchat’s doubling down on community.

For Snapchat, the way ahead is clear: ‘We all need more connection. We just don’t need social media to do it.’ How exactly this message connects with new and existing users remains to be seen.