Social media’s current and vastly trending platform, Snapchat, uses private image messaging and public media application as its niche to the market. Trending data for Snapchat suggests it’s the leading competitor to the most popular social media next to Facebook and Instagram.
Many surveys suggest Snapchat is not only a growing contender, but is surely becoming the most popular social media platform for teens. Snapchat has about 60 million total installs, of those about 16.5 million people use the platform daily. Of that base about 72% has been found to be users between the ages of 12 and 24.
Despite the obvious moral violations associated with alcohol and other explicit drugs marketing to youth, marketers continue to try and reach them, except now instead of attention being turned toward commercials, magazines or what is referred to as traditional media, the growing popularity of social media makes it an invaluable platform.
With millions of dollars’ worth of revenue to be had by Snapchat, where does the line for advertising get drawn?
Teens being the primary Snapchat users will watch a recorded 7 billion video clips a day and Snapchat is currently looking at creating a new interface to give marketers more control and to connect more services via easier ad integration.
Snap Chat’s advertising policy states, “Advertisers must be honest about the products or services their ads promote; they must avoid content that misleads or offends,” and “Advertisers are responsible for ensuring that their ads are suitable for Snapchatters ages 13+ (or the age to which the ads are targeted).”
These excerpts outlined in their policy would suggest that Snapchat is taking the appropriate measures to ensure that its user base, primarily teens, are being protected from explicit ads and content.
Furthermore, all ads are subjected to Snapchat’s review and approval. Some of the prohibited ads include, adult products, cigarettes (including e-cigarettes), illegal or recreational drugs or drug paraphernalia and any illegal conduct, product or enterprise.
So what’s the problem?
Looking beyond the traditional ads which may periodically pop up on users Snapchat accounts, the most alarming element is with the Snapchat Discover feature. The Discover feature allows for publishing companies such as Daily Mail, BuzzFeed, Vice, People, and CNN to post Snapchat specific content for its readers.
Many of the publications are harmless in their content and maintain the same standards allocated to Snapchat traditional advertising policies. However, there are several which seem to not hold up to these standards.
Stories such as, “I Took LSD, Coke, and Edibles on the Job to see how they’d Affect my Work” and “How to tell if your Drugs Have Gone Bad,” don’t strike me as appropriate stories for youth.
Many parents may not be aware of the fact that Snapchat is allowing companies to publish content which is offensive and highly inappropriate to youth. Snapchat says it’s a matter of editorial freedoms, meaning they are not held accountable for the content published on Discover, rather the individual companies are to be held accountable.
As true as it is the responsibility of the publisher to its content, shouldn’t Snapchat be held accountable for content in which it has its hands in approving and making editorial alterations? Snapchat wouldn’t be able to accurately use the argument that they are not responsible for content and that they only provide the platform, when in fact they do alternate and modify content.
The reality is teens are on Snapchat and they use Discover and yet they have no shield of defense against stories that they may come across while using this increasingly popular social media platform.
There not only is a question of purchasing persuasion to youth by marketers, but also of social norming of youth. As youth become more and more accustom to these stories revolved around casual drug and alcohol use, science says this will have a profound effect on their individual behaviors and what they consider appropriate or necessary.