Digital analysts have expressed their surprise at the explosion in popularity of video and messaging app Snapchat in the Middle East region. A global study by a leading research consultancy firm established that the proportion of internet users in the UAE who use Snapchat increased from 15% in 2014 to 53% this year.
These statistics significantly outpace the global trend of growth for Snapchat which has risen from 12% to 23% during the same timeframe. Analysts claim that Snapchat, an app which enables users to capture and share video and photo content which is only available to view for 24 hours before it is deleted, ties into the growing youth population in the Middle East which is searching for new ways to express themselves and be creative.
Some felt that restrictions imposed on Snapchat by the UAE government would have a detrimental effect on its popularity, but that hasn't transpired which has caught many digital experts by surprise.
Bhomik Chanda, Head of Media and Digital Solutions for the Mena region attributed the success of Snapchat to the fact that it was specifically designed for smartphone devices, unlike some other popular social media outlets. In addition to this, he claimed that the younger population in the Middle East is looking for spontaneity which the popular platform provides in abundance.
He said: "Snapchat has an appeal among the 13-34-year-old age groups, and that's why it is picking up really fast in the region. Especially in Saudi Arabia, given the fewer forms of entertainment there, Snapchat, unlike some other social media platforms before it, was made for your smartphone. And it's about being instant. So for instance, you're walking on the beach and you spot something fun, click it and at that very moment you can broadcast it instantly to your snapchat followers. That is the type of spontaneous and instantaneous platform young people want and Snapchat provides it for them."
Snapchat was developed by Stanford University students Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy in 2011, and they incredibly turned down an offer of $3billion from Facebook to buy them out. Facebook have taken inspiration from Snapchat and have tried to challenge them by developing a special effects camera option on Facebook Messenger which it launched recently. Other attempts to replicate Snapchat's success from other outlets have ultimately failed as it goes from strength-to-strength, particularly in this region.
Perhaps the biggest factor in its success was Snapchat's decision to focus on events in the region with its ‘Live Story' feature last year. Thousands of smartphone users joined the #mecca live story, posting their experiences from Mecca during Ramadan. Businesses are now looking at ways to utilize Snapchat for their benefit commercially, with marketing guru's declaring that using Snapchat is a smart way to attract attention to as brand and product. It looks inevitable that the Snapchat success will continue to expand in the Middle East.