Some Wall Street analysts seem to think Facebook has clearly won the war to attract users, while others believe Snap still has a fighting chance. Snap has been on Facebook's radar for several years now, but the competition didn't really begin in earnest until Facebook launched Instagram Stories in August.
It wasn't long before Instagram Stories began to impact Snapchat's triple-digit user growth, eventually surpassing its growth rate. Wall Street took notice and, since then, Snap has had a tough time bouncing back and overcoming the perception that Facebook could lead to its demise.
Not everyone seems to have lost hope, however. BTIG Research analyst Rich Greenfield said in a note to clients on Wednesday that Snap has actually seen a steady rise in how much time users are spending on the app, to higher levels than its rival Instagram experiencing. Greenfield estimates that the average Snapchat user is spending about 33 minutes on the app per day, compared to Instagram Stories, where users are spending around 27 minutes on the platform. Snap's time spent is also growing at a healthy clip from the end of 2016, when users were spending roughly 27 minutes and 30 seconds on the app daily.
"Hard not to believe that Snapchat would be even bigger DAU-wise if Instagram Stories had never launched, in addition to more time spent per user and in turn, more rapid revenue growth," Greenfield explained. "Yet, both Snapchat and Instagram Stories appear capable of co-existence and growth. Will that change is another question."
Snap's stock has experienced a rare reprieve this month after losing almost half of its value since going public in March. Shares were sliding 0.9% to $14.82 on Thursday morning, but are up 9.2% in August vs. a 0.1% decrease in the S&P 500.
Still, other analysts haven't been so forgiving about the threat from Facebook. Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter, for example, believes Facebook and its Stories-like products serve as the biggest assault on Snapchat's user growth, as well as its ability to see meaningful revenue acceleration and achieve profitability. Unless Snap can move beyond its core audience of 35 years and younger, it's unlikely to see its user growth rebound to levels like it did before, said Pachter, who started coverage of Snap's stock on Thursday with a Neutral rating and a $12 price target.
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"While Snapchat's audience is clearly more niche than Facebook's, and may represent a unique demographic, if Facebook can introduce Snapchat look-alike products that don't require the user to learn a new interface or transfer a group of friends, it could hamper Snapchat's user growth in upcoming periods," Pachter wrote.
Facebook is making an impact on Snapchat in more ways than one, but daily active user levels are the best indicator. Instagram Stories has attracted more than 250 million daily users in just 10 months, while Snap stands at 173 million daily active users.
Snap has been trying to keep users on its platform by developing original shows and offering content that's exclusive to the app. So far, original content like "Good Luck America" and "Stay Tuned," NBC News' daily news show, have been well received. But even those efforts aren't safe from Facebook, as the company just launched the Watch tab, a section of the site dedicated to video and original content. Monness, Crespi, Hardt analyst James Cakmak said Facebook's Watch tab could eventually threaten to steal viewers from Snapchat.
"Snap's advantage has been a better pulse on mobile video versus all peers, since the company deviated away from the standard plug-and-play, and rather pursued mobile-only produced content," Cakmak wrote in a note to clients on Thursday. "At this time, however, Facebook is not asleep at the wheel; Facebook Watch is investing five to seven-figure episodes with premium content providers."
Snap's pipeline of original content is a good start, but Cakmak said he's unsure if its content library is being built out at a pace needed to truly combat Facebook, and as a result, generate upside to monetization.
Nick Bell, Snap's vice president of content, spoke to the company's competition with Facebook at a media event, where he said it's "not true" that Instagram is eating into Snap's engagement levels.
"You can copy buttons, you can copy features, you can copy functionality, but you can't really copy philosophy," Bell said. "The reason why we create products, and the thinking that goes into how we create [these] products is very different."