The Breakout App of SXSW 2016: Snapchat???

A photo posted by Jessica Malnik (@jmalnik) on

Before SXSW every year, all the tech media sites and A-list bloggers talk about what will be the breakout app or site. It started after Twitter debuted and stole the show at SXSW in 2007. Then, Foursquare did this in 2009.

In 2012, all the talk was about Highlight. Highlight was essentially Foursquare on steroids and invaded any semblance of privacy that you think you have left online, Then, of course last year, there was Meerkat. The latter two apps haven’t exactly fared as well as Twitter and Foursquare.

After having a few days to decompress after SXSW, I think Snapchat had a breakout moment this year. That might sound strange to many of you because,

  • They didn’t have a grand debut. (Heck, they have been around for a few years and now gets more than 4 billion video views per day.)
  • They didn’t have an official presence at SXSW.
  • They didn’t launch a game-changing new feature days before or during SXSW.
  • They didn’t even throw a massive party.
  • Yet, it seemed like everyone was using and talking about Snapchat this year. Many of whom had downloaded the app for the very first time.

All the Tech A-Listers were using it 
When people like Gary Vaynerchuk and Robert Scoble start actively talking about and using Snapchat to highlight what they are up to at SXSW, it has a trickle down effect where a lot more people start to pay attention. Many people who had downloaded Snapchat previously but had ignored it until now (thinking it was just for young kids and selfies), started to use it. Many more downloaded it for the first time.

The crazy number of custom SXSW geofilters  
Geofilters are a super fun, quirky feature in Snapchat. It’s fun as hell to discover all the specific filters in the city that you live in or are visiting. With the recent announcement that you can create and submit custom geofilters article on Snapchat, it meant that SXSW this year was ground zero for custom, branded geofilters. (Note: If you are interested, here’s a great article on how you can create and buy custom geofilters.)

Snapchat4 snapchat3

These were just a couple of the geofilters that were floating around downtown Austin. The one on the left was created by Snapchatter- Shaun Ayala and the one on the right was an official SXSW geofilter.

Tons of chatter about Snapchat in SXSW panels and on the streets. 
Snapchat was referenced a ton in panels this year – both official SXSW panels and in unofficial panels that brands throw outside of the official SXSW activities.  One of the unofficial events included an afternoon of panels about Snapchat. This included everything from Snapchat 101 topics, to creative storytelling to hearing tips and experiences from some of the top Snapchat influencers. Some of these influencers get more than 100,000 views on their Snapchat stories. That’s also where both of the geofilter photos above were taken.

Snapchat is becoming the de facto app for many. 
In the intro to this post, I shared a mind-boggling stat. Snapchat gets more than 4 billion daily video views each day. You would also be hard-pressed to find a college student that isn’t on the app. The reality is the app is starting to mature and age up with more 20, 30 and 40-somethings joining the app. Before you know it, those college students who on the app today will be 25.

Speaking from my own experience, I found myself using Snapchat as much if not more than Twitter this year. It was very useful to make plans and connect with people who were at SXSW as well as to find out the latest must-see activities and happenings. This was something in years’ past that I previously used Twitter for. This year I got just as much of the info from Snapchat as I did Twitter. I don’t think I was alone in this. Walking through downtown last week, it was hard to go more than a few minutes without seeing someone either talking about Snapchat or actively using it.