With more than 100,000 followers on Snapchat, graphic designer Cyrene Quiamco (known as CyreneQ on social) has run influencer campaigns on the platform for brands like Walmart, Samsung and Burger King since November 2014. Yet app parent Snap hasn’t been known for cultivating influencers. CyreneQ rarely received guidance from the company on how she could grow her following and views.
But on Wednesday, Quiamco received an email from Snapchat saying the company wanted to set up an Official Stories account for her, which is similar to a verified account on Instagram and Twitter. That means her profile will be featured when Snap users search for “art,” for instance, or in curated Live Stories.
“I’m so excited,” said Quiamco. “Snapchat has never verified creators or influencers before — only celebrity accounts. It’s a huge move from Snap, since it really didn’t show interest in creators a few months ago.”
Snapchat introduced Official Stories in 2015, but the feature was reserved mostly for public figures like Rihanna and Kylie Jenner, agency executives said. Now, the platform is extending Official Stories to influencers.
“Snapchat-only stars have expressed irritation with its neglect of them for a while now and have been leaving in droves for Instagram Stories,” said Marie Cravens, influencer and partnerships manager for We Are Social. “Snapchat is finally trying to woo them back and show [its] appreciation.”
Official Stories accounts come with benefits. They feature a emoji symbol selected by the account holder and receive customized filters for special occasions. Perhaps most importantly, Official Stories accounts will be more visible in search results, as discoverability is a big hurdle for both brands and social stars on Snapchat, according to Quiamco.
Snap confirmed it is expanding Official Stories and will include more “top creators” in the coming months. The company wouldn’t specify how it defines “top creators.”
It’s been a tough year for Snap, with Facebook-owned Instagram looming. In its first quarterly earnings in May, Snap reported a total loss of $2.2 billion and lower than expected user growth.
Gil Eyal, CEO of influencer marketing platform Hypr, thinks Snapchat needs to make a quick shift after two “terrible” quarters. He said there has been a huge decline in influencer marketing on Snapchat from his agency clients over the past year, with the majority shifting to Instagram, because of Snapchat’s lack of analytics and negative news about the platform.
“After completely abandoning influencers under the belief that they will stay because of the platform’s cool factor, Snap is understanding that Facebook stole its thunder,” said Eyal. “Remember Vine? It made the same mistakes, alienating its influencers instead of embracing them.”
Tom Buontempo, president of agency Attention, said he thinks Snapchat is wooing influencers to boost its stagnant user growth through benefits like Official Stories. And with more content from social stars, more advertising opportunities will emerge on Snapchat.
“Snapchat didn’t realize how fast Instagram brought Stories on board, and creators were moving to that platform,” he said. “Snapchat really needs to change its relationship with content creators to keep its audience engaged. After all, advertisers go where the audience is.”
Agency executives think it might be too late for Snapchat to build trust with content creators, as many already started building a large presence elsewhere. They also predict Snap will give influencers more analytics tools along with Official Stories.
“At this point, [social stars] have begun moving on. With the amount of monetization opportunities and the relationships that the Facebook and Instagram ecosystem is creating, it’s hard [for Snap] to compete,” said Marco Hansell, founder and CEO of influencer marketing platform Speakr.
Snapchat seems to be making progress in how it collaborates with social stars. Quiamco had a Skype conference call with about five executives on Snapchat’s partnership and product planning team two weeks ago, discussing what features she would need as a Snap creator. The Snap team also suggested it should host such meetings more often.
“I’m really happy that Snapchat is changing 180 degrees,” said Quiamco. “They asked about the community and were interested in knowing what would make our Snapchat experience better. They also mentioned that they were talking to other creators, not just me.”