Editor's pick: Originally published Jan. 15.
Runner-up social media networks, like Instagram and Tumblr, are struggling to find ways to make money. Ad dollars are tight and subscription fees even tighter. Recently, a Reuters report claimed Snapchat was looking into providing its mostly Millennial base of users with investment advice -- in the form of robo-advisory services -- in an effort to monetize.
Robo-advisors, such as Betterment and Wealthfront, with their machine-made investment strategies, are gaining popularity. Perhaps Snapchat sees an opportunity to gain a foothold into the future investment portfolios of its 100 million young users.
Will my money disappear too?
O.K., maybe you’re not all-in with a company that specializes in making your photos disappear managing your money. Your money might disappear too, right? But remember, Snapchat’s not all that reliable in making your snaps vanish anyway. However, your skepticism is well noted.
But what about Facebook? The site garners nearly half of all social network visits (45.4% according to Statista). And people are already using Facebook for payments; why not invest your money with a social network run by a billionaire? Maybe some of that Zuckerburg money mojo will rub off on you.
Remember the Facebook phone?
At least a couple of industry observers are skeptical about the prospects of having social media platforms become money managers.
"It's sort of like trying to buy a cell phone... from Facebook,” says Alex Tabb, partner of the Tabb Group, an investment management industry research firm. “I don't think that worked out too well for Facebook. They're an amazing social media company but would you trust them to build your cell phone? It's not a challenge of scalability, it's not a challenge of ability -- it's a challenge of consumer confidence."
Though Tabb is not completely ruling out the possibility. "I'm just saying it is a challenging prospect," he tells TheStreet.
"I like McDonald's for hamburgers," he continues. "That doesn't mean that I'm going to all of a sudden buy McDonald's for soufflé. Just because I like Facebook to update my friends on the status of my daughter and show cute pictures, doesn't mean I'm going to put my retirement savings in their hands."
And social network services are free, Tabb says. Even low-fee robo-advisors aren’t giving their services away.
"It is one thing to use a service for free," he says. "I may use Facebook for payments, but I'm just using it as a mechanism that takes money from my bank and buys me something over here on EBay or at this [online] shop. I think it's a totally different thing to say, 'I'm going to give Facebook my money and let them invest it for me.'”
Besides, it might be a bad business move
While consumers may or may not warm to the idea of a social network offering to invest their money, Jeff Fromm, president of FutureCast, a Millennial marketing consultancy, and author of the book Marketing to Millennials, believes such a strategy would be a bad business move for most social networks.
He says offering investment services, robo or otherwise, would likely "dilute the brand value" for a Snapchat or other platform that doesn't have even a distant correlation to investing -- or consumer purchases.