Once again, Snap has displayed its capacity for tapping into the zeitgeist, and launching industry-leading creative options. And underlining this, a new report on OneZero says that Snapchat downloads more than doubled in the wake of the launch of these new Lens tools.
"Snapchat was downloaded across the platforms an estimated 41.5 million times worldwide in May, more than twice the number of downloads from the previous month (16.8 million) and in May of last year (17.6 million), according to third-party data."
It's amazing to consider the impact a popular Lens or two can have - and while these downloads won't necessarily convert into daily or monthly active users, the first step is obviously getting the apps on people's devices in the first place. Could this be the spark that Snapchat needs to re-ignite user growth?
That also pales in comparison to Instagram (500 million DAU for Stories alone), which may not necessarily be a fair comparison, given Instagram's broader worldwide reach. But it is the yardstick against which Snap will continually be measured, even among those who acknowledge that a) Facebook and Google, and their associated apps, will likely never be matched in total user count, and b) User engagement is a far better measure for comparison.
On the latter front, Snapchat does okay - various reports have shown that Snapchat users spend around the same amount of time, if not more, in Snapchat as Instagram users do on platform. Snapchat has been trying to pitch this as a key benefit - while it can't compete on scale, it can connect brands with an engaged, active audience. Twitter, too, is now looking to shift the narrative away from audience size, and more towards active participation. As noted, these smaller players are never going to challenge the larger ones on reach, so if they can change market perception, that will help them drive more positive growth.
But jumps in user counts like this will no doubt help. In the case of the baby and gender-swap Lenses, Snap will no doubt be keen to focus on its capacity to come up with traction-generating tools, which connect with their audience, and are of interest beyond Snap. It was, of course, Snap's initial Lenses that sparked real interest in the app, and despite Facebook's rising challenge on the same, Snap has still been able to stay a step ahead, beating Facebook on the one front that it has consistently been able to do so - innovation.
Facebook, for all its Stories focus and tools, has not been able to create one of those real, attention-grabbing digital masks or filters. As the numbers here show, The Social Network would love to crack that code, as it would get more users across to Facebook Stories, but - at least at this stage - the company's development team is simply not as in tune with its audience, and/or lacks the creativity that Snap's team has.
That's a key tick in Snap's favor. Again, it remains to be seen how many of those new downloads go on to become regular users. But Snap, once again, can hold its head high as the leader in the AR space - even without the same resources as the web giants.