- Snapchat is starting to warm up to the group of internet celebrities and so-called influencers that it has long ignored. The app is starting to verify more of these influencers in recent weeks, giving them access to special features that normal users don’t have. The shift in strategy comes as Snapchat’s user growth has slowed in the face of fierce competition from Facebook-owned Instagram, which has worked closely with celebrities and users with large followings for years.
Earlier this year, Cyrene Quiamco received a surprise invitation to visit Snap Inc.’s headquarters in Venice Beach, California.
With more than 100,000 followers, Quiamco is part of a small group of Snapchat power users who have built sizeable audiences and made thousands of dollars promoting brands on their accounts.
An early Snapchat user who first started partnering with brands in 2014, Quiamco – who goes by “CyreneQ” in the app – had tried for years to contact Snap employees and have them fix her problems with the app, which frequently crashed due to the sheer number of messages she received.
While her bugs persisted, she watched Snapchat proactively reach out to household names using the app, like DJ Khaled and Kylie Jenner. In November 2015, Snapchat started verifying top celebrities in the app, giving them access to special features and emoji versions of the coveted blue check marks found on other social apps.
Quiamco watched as many of her “influencer” peers, realizing that they may never be verified, stopped posting regularly to Snapchat and took the audiences they had built elsewhere.
Then one day in March, seemingly out of the blue, Snap asked her to come visit its Venice Beach offices. During her visit, Quiamco was given a Snapchat-branded backpack filled with company swag, and she met with folks from Snap’s partnership team. Not long after that, she was sent a pair of Spectacles and verified in the app.
“I was like, ‘Wow, they actually acknowledged me, they’re the ones reaching out to me,'” Quiamco told Business Insider of her first meeting with Snap, adding that she’s had more discussions with the company since.
Expanding Snapchat’s ‘Official Stories’
While internet celebrities like Quiamco have thrived and earned sizeable incomes from posting videos to platforms like YouTube and Instagram, Snapchat has historically kept them at arm’s length.
Snap executives have maintained that they want to cultivate a social network for close friends. View counts aren’t broadcasted in Snapchat, and the app has never shown users how many followers they have.
But in recent weeks, Snap’s attitude towards influencers like Quiamco has changed. The company has been reaching out to internet celebs like famous YouTubers and former Vine stars, verifying them and asking them for feedback about how to improve the app.
A Snap spokesperson told Business Insider that the company has been intentionally deliberate about expanding its verified “Official Stories” program, and is planning to verify more of its top users in the coming months.
Aside from a dedicated emoji next to your name, being verified on Snapchat comes with a list of exclusive perks: a collab mode that lets multiple phones post to the same account without having to log in, account promotion in search and the app’s crowdsourced “Our Stories” feature for events, the ability to create geofilters for free, and an emergency contact for problems with the app. Verified users can also get important information, like their follower count, from Snap.
Snap is also working on more features for verified accounts, including better analytics and more prominent placement in search, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company has already verified a handful of non-people accounts, like The White House and Major League Soccer.
The expansion of Official Stories comes as Snapchat’s user growth has slowed in the face of fierce competition from Facebook-owned Instagram, which has worked closely with celebrities and users with large followings for years. Facebook will soon release a standalone app to make it easier for creators to see video analytics and interact with their fans.
“I think it’s exciting to see that Snapchat is recognizing the celebrities being created on their own platform,” said Nick Cicero, CEO of analytics firm Delmondo. “It’s a sign that they understand that homegrown stars like Ross Smith, CyreneQ and Shonduras can emerge on their own platform and then turn into bonafide celebs.”
While many Snapchat power users like Quiamco have spread their efforts onto additional platforms like YouTube, Quiamco doesn’t think it’s too late for Snap to finally kick-start its relationships with influencers.
“Even though people left Snapchat, they’re not completely off it,” she said. “They’re posting sometimes and keeping the door open.”