Snapchat went from 20 million photos a day to 6 billion video views in three years

Snapchat has confirmed that it nets 6 billion video views a day — a number that brings it within striking distance of giants like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter — and advertisers are taking note.

“It’s amazing to think about that Snapchat is this new emerging thing and getting as many video views as Facebook,” said Warren Zenna, evp and managing director at Mobext, a mobile ad buying are of Havas Media Group.

Three years ago, before it even had a video option, Snapchat handled 20 million photos a day.

The Los Angeles-based company confirmed the 6 billion daily view count this weekend for the Financial Times, just days after Facebook announced 8 billion video views a day. Facebook has 1.5 billion users on desktop and mobile, and the official number from Snapchat is 100 million daily users, although the monthly number is likely double that.

Snapchat wasn’t always video-focused, but it is an even more natural fit for the format than Facebook or Twitter.The friends who send messages to each other often do so in video form rather than text, which is also an option.

Those personal messages are not tied to advertising, and there is no pre-roll video, so it’s not as easy to turn all those views into money, compared to Twitter or YouTube.

Still, Snapchat at such an early point in its development is putting up impressive user numbers that brands are watching closely, Zenna said.

“It actually shows there’s a way to diversify the video market,” Zenna said. “Landing with video on Facebook and Snapchat, brand get a good cross section of the market with younger and older people.”

Of course, Snapchat has usurped the crown as the focal point of youthful Internet usage. Facebook’s user base has aged consistently, but it also owns Instagram.

It’s clear that Snapchat is having an impact on the development of rivals, and Twitter recently launched Moments and Instagram launched a live video channel on Halloween. Both of these features were reminiscent of Snapchat’s Live Stories.

Snapchat’s media partners run Discover channels, where they post videos and other daily content, and Live Stories, where they post video montages from special events like fashion runway shows or sports stadiums.

Individual Live Stories, which appear in a special feed above Snapchat users’ recent messages from friends, get between 10 million and 15 million views a day. Snapchat Discover media channels can get more than 3 million visitors, according to Cosmopolitan, a partner that recently shared the numbers.

Still, with 12 Discover channels and a handful of Live Stories daily, it is clear that the vast majority of views come from messages among friends.

Brands are not letting those views go wholly unsponsored.

Just last week, Sprite, owned by Coca-Cola, ran a campaign that relied on Snapchat celebrities to share messages with their friends and followers. Fifteen of these popular Snapchat people generated 2.3 million views in just two days, the company said.

Harris Markowitz, who launched a Snapchat production company called A Cereal Production, said that Snapchat’s view count could be even more impressive than Facebook’s, in some respects. On Facebook, videos autoplay, starting without users actively opting to see them, he said.

“On the other hand, on Snapchat, each video viewed is intentional and lean-in,” Markowitz said by e-mail. “Crazy.”