At the Goldman Sachs Internet and Technology Conference yesterday, Snap (NYSE:SNAP) CEO Evan Spiegel had some interesting views regarding the backlash among Snapchat users over the recent overhaul. The new design separates social content from professional media content, while attempting to make the app's interface more approachable for new and older users.
Beyond just the interface, Spiegel notes that the company has been working to develop many underlying technological pieces, including its algorithmic inbox that tries to predict which messages will be most relevant to users. At its core, Snapchat is a photo/video messaging app, underscoring the importance of communication to the platform. While the change has not yet resonated with users, Spiegel believes that the backlash actually validates the redesign.
Here's the exchange with analyst Heath Terry, according to a transcript provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence:
Terry: And how are you seeing your community sort of react to the redesign in the way that they're using the platform, the time that they're spending with it?
Spiegel: We're excited about what we're seeing so far. And I think the best part of is that it's beginning -- even the kind of the complaints we're seeing reinforce the philosophy. So for example, one of the complaints we got was, "Well, I used to feel like this celebrity was my friend, and now they don't feel like my friend anymore." And we're, like, "Exactly, they're not your friends."
Terry: They were never your friend. Kim Kardashian was never your friend.
Spiegel: And so -- not your friend. Maybe your friend. I don't know. But still for us, even some of the frustrations we're seeing really validate those changes. And It'll take time for people to adjust, but for me, having used it now for a couple of months, I feel way more attached to an investment of service than I ever have.
Users are just going to have to acclimate. The old Snapchat is not coming back.
When to ignore your users
While I'm generally bearish on Snap, it's worth acknowledging that social media users are highly resistant to platform changes, and that Spiegel may have a point here. Consider Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), which for years remained averse to any change that sparked backlash among a vocal minority of users.
Twitter finally began to roll out meaningful product improvements, which have translated into gains in engagement (although not necessarily monetization). The company should have ignored its users years ago, and Snap could be making the right move in ignoring its own. We'll have to see what kind of user metrics and financial results Snap posts in the coming quarters.