Brand Strategy / 08.19.2019

Pinterest & Snapchat shift to a more authentic social media experience

Social media platforms can feel like a dime-a-dozen these days: between Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Tumblr, Tik Tok, Twitter, Linkedin, WeChat, WhatsApp and many more, studies show that 77% of internet users worldwide use a social network at least once per month. As marketers, deciding where to invest the most time and advertising dollars to reach consumers requires our close attention to shifting user attitudes and engagement trends for each platform.

There have been several dominating themes this year when it comes to social media trends. In addition to growing public concern over privacy and misinformation, one of the main issues driving decisions about where to spend time and money is a deeper understanding of social media’s impact on mental health. With the growing usage of platforms like Instagram, psychologists and therapists have noticed massive increases in anxiety and depression. And in response, competitors like Pinterest and Snapchat have attempted to carve out a niche for themselves by making changes to the way they position their platforms to both users and marketers.

After noticing an increase in stress-related searches, Pinterest recently rolled out a new set of “emotional well-being activities” that will automatically appear when a user searches for phrases that indicate anxiety or depression. Pinterest calls the new experience “compassionate search.”

Pinterest Compassionate Search
“Each practice offers people an interactive way to try to improve their mood––from tools to help someone relax to self-compassion exercises,” says Pinterest Product Manager Annie Ta. The exercises within compassionate search were developed in partnership with Brainstorm, a mental health innovation lab at Stanford’s School of Medicine. Once a user clicks into compassionate search, a grid will appear with a variety of options meant to “refocus your attention” or “recognize your strengths.” Some even come with guided audio meditations.

We’ve seen many brands in recent months emphasize the importance of mental health. However, Pinterest is the first social media network to proactively add features that aim to soothe users in distress. At a time when most platforms are focused on keeping users infinitely scrolling or autoplaying videos for as long as possible, Pinterest appears to be embracing wellbeing over addictive and potentially harmful design.

Meanwhile, as Instagram battles increasing negative sentiment about the degrading impact that quantifying “likes” and “followers” can have on its users’ mental health, Snapchat quickly moved to position itself as a more authentic place to connect with others. In celebration of International Friendship Day, the platform launched its first-ever global ad campaign, promoting itself as an app where real friends can connect.

Snapchat real friends campaign Snapchat real friends campaign

If that sounds to you like a direct jab at Instagram’s “popularity test” reputation, you’re correct. Snap aimed to convert disgruntled users by kicking off its campaign on Instagram, partnering with dozens of influencers to post quotes about friendship using the hashtag #realfriends. Each quote was placed against a backdrop of Snap’s iconic bright yellow colors and ghost logo, paired with witty, “brought to you by Snapchat” captions. And to reach those that have already sworn off the negativity of social media, the ad campaign expanded to billboards, TV commercials, and print ads that will be running in multiple countries.

As you establish a social media strategy for your brand, be sure to consider the unique and changing role that each platform plays in the lives and minds of its users. These strategic product and positioning shifts from Pinterest and Snapchat are only the first half of the story; the true test will be how users react and begin to change their daily habits.

Portrait of Clara Shannon
Clara Shannon

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