Explosive growth on a platform does not (often) come with great marketing results for brands.
If brands love one thing, it's the ability to insert themselves into a space where an audience gathers. The assumption is that because people have gathered, it will be easier to get their attention (wrong). This is hardly ever the case (sadly). In the early days of digital marketing, brands would be completely confused why their advertising was not performing, when there was such a large and growing audience online. In fact, those who were around back then (can I get a show of hands?) remember the always-present debate with brands that went something like: "if all of these people are online and the advertising is so highly interactive, why don't our ads perform for us as well as our TV spots?" In fact, I still hear remnants of this argument with certain industries, to this day (just replace "tv spots" with some other kind of traditional advertising). For me, this debate would set my hair on fire (who am I kidding? I was bald back then too). Different platforms, different media, different user experiences, etc... etc... Still, the debate raged on. It was never an apple to apple comparison.
The debate about the efficacy on digital media channels intensified.
You would think that as the Internet took hold, that this sentiment would dissipate. You would be wrong. It moved from the Internet - as a whole - to specific channels. For years, I would listen to brand leaders complain that search advertising doesn't work for them. The same was said about email, banners/display advertising, and so on and so on. Once the formats become validated (it was hard to argue that search and email are not effective marketing channels), the discourse shifted to specific platforms. Facebook advertising doesn't work, YouTube is not as effective as TV, and so on and so on. In the past, my general feedback to marketers was always the same: [insert specific/popular platform name here] works great for advertising... you're not advertising effectively on this platform. Brands would (obviously) rather blame the channel and platform over their strategy, creative and execution. That's a human thing... that's a real thing. It's probably still true (in most cases). Brands struggle with understanding these channels and platforms. It is hard for them to figure out how to best connect and communicate with these audiences, that are no longer passively consuming a form of media and fine with the interruption of advertising messages.
Digital is a much different beast.
With that, there should be no surprise that these types of allegations still make headlines in this day and age. Two days ago, BloombergTechnology, posted an article titled, Facebook, Snapchat Deals Produce Meager Results for News Outlets. Here's what's going on...
"Media companies are frustrated that Facebook restricts the number and type of ads in Instant Articles, making it harder for them to make as much money as they can selling ads on their own websites, where they can better target readers... Some publishers have also started to put less emphasis on Facebook Live, in which media companies create live video that's hosted on the social media platform... While some outlets have started testing ads in Facebook Live videos, others express concern over Facebook's 'lack of success in creating large-scale audiences around live events,' Digital Content Next said. The group concluded that, for many publishers, Facebook Live 'has yet to scale or prove a revenue model.'... Several media companies have dedicated staff to create content for Snapchat, hoping to reach younger audiences that use it. Yet so far, Snapchat 'holds little to no short-term financial interest' for publishers."
It's (really) just the same old song and dance.
Whether it's a publisher trying to monetize content or a brand trying to sell more stuff by advertising or creating content on their own, one thing is clear: the ads and the content are not resonating with that intended audience. But that's not all. It could also mean that this is still early days. While there are lots and lots of users and usage on these channels, this branded content (publisher's content, brand's content and advertising) is simply not ready for this channel, as this channel still tries to figure out what - exactly - it is. Millions upon billions of snaps flapping through Snapchat doesn't automatically mean that a publisher has mastered the right content or ad for the flow... and the same should be said about advertisers.
Size of audience and growth does not guarantee brand success.
It may, in fact, simply be "too soon" for brands and publishers to try and inject themselves into these developing, emerging and growing channels. And, let's face it, if you own the channel (or you're the publisher or brand), this is not what you want to hear, because it means that the money has not found a clear, reliable and effective stream... yet (not sure this is true? Read this article from AdWeek: Snapchat Is Now Selling Ads Against Nielsen's TV-Like Ratings System). So, yes, it's new, it's exciting and everyone is talking about and using it. So, no, it may be too soon for ads, and your brand won't get the same results that it would get in another channel or platform. Don't blame that channel and platform.
Review the strategy, review the creative, review the analytics and appreciate that you may, simply, just be a little too early.