The Future of Video: Snapchat vs. Twitter vs. Facebook

It appears a battle is brewing between Snapchat, Twitter, and the Facebook family of apps. The battle will be for eyeballs on video content on these platforms.

Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel re-enforced some statistics about his Snapchat platform at yesterday’s Morgan Stanley’s investor conference saying the service had right billion video views per day and more impressively, users spent an average of 25-30 minutes on Snapchat per day.

Facebook’s average time spent was, at one point, 12-13 minutes per day but has now slightly decreased and is no longer reported or tracked publicly. Our primary research indicates usage of Facebook is tied directly to length of time being on the platform. Usage is most heavy by those onboarding most recently and usage declines over time for those who have been on the platform for more than a few years. This is a problem well understood by Facebook which is why they have purchased companion platform apps in an attempt to collectively increase user time with the Facebook assets. Even with Facebook’s auto-play videos and Instagram’s shorter form video support, the 25-30 minutes per day on Snapchat average is among the industry best for a social platform.

With Facebook and Twitter maturing, and Snapchat needing to grow beyond the 13-24 year old demographic, it seems video is the strategy all believe will earn their way to consumers’ hearts. The kind of video which wins is up for debate.

It seems both Facebook and Twitter believe live streaming video is their next logical step. Twitter unveiled this strategy in their 10-k filing. They believe live video naturally extends the nature of Twitter and is a core focus area for growth.

Facebook released their live streaming feature but I’ve yet to see any of my friends actually use it. Perhaps this statistic gives us a clue to the state of live streaming. Look at usage of Meerkat (a live streaming app) and Periscope (Twitter’s own live streaming app) and the percent of people in our data set who said they used either app last month.

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As you can see, live streaming apps have yet to enter the consciousness of the mainstream consumer. Now, with well over 70% of our global panel saying they use Facebook (on any device) compared to the measly percentages of Periscope and Meerkat, we can wonder if Facebook is better positioned than any of the competition for live video. Or maybe we reason, live video is not actually going to be a thing.

Snapchat, on the other hand, takes a story-centric approach, which at times feels live but is often not. For a comparison, I went back and forth between how Snapchat was handling the Oscars as a channel and comparing it with how Twitter was handling the Oscars as a channel in Moments. Snapchat’s implementation was far superior as it felt live but with minimal production.

Similarly, over the weekend, another event showcased the live element of current events but, in this instance, Twitter was the better implementation. Saturday night featured one of the best regular season basketball games, possibly ever, but definitely in the last decade, between my beloved Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Near the end of the game, Steph Curry made a game-winning three-pointer 38 feet from the basket. The Twitterverse blew up after this happened but there was nothing on Snapchat to see — no reactions and no video because of the lack of a live community or platform.

The last point worth making is this is largely a demographic trend. Younger users are the ones driving all three of these companies to cater to a younger demographic. Not only are these younger consumer groups the future, they are also very influential when it comes to household spending or even their own spending. One could argue as these companies cater more to younger people, the experience gets worse for the older generations who may then go elsewhere. But I’d bet that is a gamble these companies are willing to take.

As I reflect on this, I’m intrigued at the competition emerging but not entirely excited about all the different options we are going to be presented with to experience content in this new form. If good experiences emerge around a live event on all three of these platforms, which will consumers choose? Or will they just bounce back and forth between them to soak it all in? As video becomes the main hook driving usage and retention, it is clear it will be a highly competitive battle for eyeballs and time share. And I do wrestle with whether or not this is a winner take all scenario around video.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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