Snapchat's copycats aren't killing the company -- it's killing itself

Snap has a big problem, and it’s not named Facebook.

Since its initial public offering in March, Snap has mostly traded below its $US17 initial price. Some investors have worried that the company’s struggles have been compounded by Facebook’s tendency to copy major features of Snapchat into its own platforms. But Lloyd Walmsley, an analyst at Deutsche Bank, doesn’t think this is the case.

“Impressively, Instagram Stories had no discernable effect on engagement with Snapchat among surveyed daily active users, with 86% of respondents indicating they use Snapchat ‘about the same’ or ‘more’ because of the platform,” said Walmsley, addressing a survey of 525 regular Snapchat users he performed.

Walmsley found that Snap’s young user base is as enthusiastic about the app as ever. They don’t see themselves slowing their near-daily usage of the app, and 60% said they had even increased their usage of the app in the last nine months, bucking the notion that Instagram has been drawing Snap’s users away from the platform.

This suggests that the problems lie internally. Snap is having trouble monetizing its fervent user base. In a story for the Daily Beast, Taylor Lorenz showed that Snap users simply aren’t utilising the parts of its app that make money. Sending messages to friends has remained Snap’s biggest use case, and its efforts to monetise through branded content and publisher relationships has not quite hit the mark, according to Walmsley.

Snap’s Discover section represents about 35% of ad revenues, says Walmsley, but he notes that the section’s user approval rating dropped 20% from his previous survey. Engagement in the Discover section also fell 11% this time around.

Walmsley rates Snap a hold and is cautiously optimistic. If the company is ever able to convert the high enthusiasm and engagement into revenue, it could carve out a big niche in the social media space. Until then, Walmsley has a $US13 price target and is waiting on the sidelines.

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