Snapchat’s Appeal in Indonesia Remains Limited With Fewer Users Than Path

snapchat-social-media-1Snapchat gained quite a buzz in the advertising industry when its CEO Evan Spiegel pitched his video advertising format at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France, in June. With close to 100 million active users and two billion views each day, Spiegel believes that Snapchat’s style of vertical viewing is the future of mobile video.

At 25, an age that is right in the middle of his core user group, Spiegel’s understanding in his users advertising consumption behavior should be undeniably precise. His insight bears weight, albeit controversial.

In his interview with Venture Beat, he expressed an intense dislike towards targeted ads – an approach using the collection of users data to predict behaviors – and called it annoying. He went so far as emphasizing that it won’t be how Snapchat would do it, saying, “We care about not being creepy. That’s something that’s really important to us.”

Disregarding all that is commonly understood in online advertising is extremely risky and would invite many doubters but it does get advertisers to re-evaluate their mobile advertising strategy. Furthermore, Snapchat would earn the millennial’s “non mainstream” respect by being the platform daring enough to call spade a spade. Targeted advertising is intrusive and annoying and marketers should take notice.

Despite its success in the US and Europe however, Snapchat has yet to make its mark in Indonesia. Statistics show that Snapchat’s penetration in social-media-mad Indonesia is hardly impressive at only 3% of the country’s 75 million mobile internet users by the end of 2014, or 2.25 million people

This puts Indonesia on 18th place among Snapchat’s most popular markets, a far cry from being a top five market for Twitter and Facebook. The app is even less popular domestically than Path which struggled in the US but achieved prominence here, reaching more than 4 million people or 5.33% of mobile internet users.

Snapchat may have the attention of more than 60% of young American smartphone owners between the ages of 13 to 34, as Spiegel likes to boast, but in Indonesia, the appeal remains limited, at least for now.

“I don’t feel the need of it, it’s only for exchanging and commenting photos and videos. Besides it’s a heavy app, takes a lot of your smartphone,” said 19 year old Nabilla, a university student in Jakarta. She prefers to use Line instead. “Some of my friends are using Snapchat, but not a lot,” she added.

19 year old Elhaq Latief is already tired of the app. “I got bored of it”, he said. “I also got annoyed with people posting up to 400 second posts in it. I don’t have to open and see them, but still it’s annoying”, he added.

This sentiment was echoed by 25 year old freelancer Winson Chaivin. “In two weeks [of having downloaded the app] I hardly find anything interesting anymore”.

However Snapchat’s ephemeral characteristic is what entices its small percentage users in Indonesia. “It’s fun!”, said Desmonda Cathabel. The 18 year old student holds a positive view of the app. “You use it to share stupid things with your friends, without having the pressure to like or love them”.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Snapchat among Indonesians though. The app enjoyed a slight bump in June and Jakarta was featured as a City Story in which a series of snaps from Jakartans were featured and broadcast globally.

Photographer and stylist Dita Wistarini, who first used Snapchat last year but abandoned it before returning to the app in early June, only saw the appeal after she moved to New York from Kuwait. She uses it, “mostly to tell the story of my daily life in NYC. Maybe because it has a different vibe and because friends in Indonesia are curious about New York, they enjoy following me”.

“I share quick tips, favorite products, places to eat, etc. real time, through photos and videos. it feels as is, not made up”, she said. She also likes it because she can limit who she shares her snaps with.

Snapchat may have been around for several years but among Indonesians, its popularity remains far behind the other major social networks. This lack of adoption at this stage does not translate well for advertisers who are looking for a wide reach.

Until Snapchat in Indonesia becomes at least as prominent as Path is, it’s unlikely that the app is going to be a worthwhile channel or platform for local advertisers.

Spiegel may understand the behavior of his app’s audience well, but he needs to be able to overcome their notoriously short attention span, the very reason which makes the app very popular, and prevent Snapchat users from jumping off to the next hit app, before he could turn it into a compelling investment for brands.

Fonnyta Amran is a freelance writer, formerly a travel editor at Female Daily Network. With a passion in traveling and marketing, she previously held a marketing position with Hard Rock Cafe and also at the Singapore Tourism Board in charge of marketing and communication strategies for Indonesia as well as being the editor of STB’s portal,

Aulia Masna contributed to this story