Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel recently announced that Snapchat users share an average of 350 million photos daily. In early April, Snapchat said daily photo shares were at 150 million. This means that daily shares grew by 483% in seven months.
For some context, Snapchat overtook Instagram in daily photo shares back in May 2013.
Snapchat may have been able to overtake Instagram because the two companies use similar media in different ways. Instagram uses photos as you would in a photo album, and allows users to comment on them. Meanwhile, Snapchat allows individual users to trade photos back and forth like text messages.
It makes sense that there would be a higher number of photos shared per user when photos are medium for conversation, as opposed to the subject of conversation.
Another explanation for this explosive growth could be the release of Snapchat for Android in October 2012. However, a look at the chart below shows that growth in average daily photo shares actually remained relatively slow from October through February.
So Android may not be the real explanation.
It may be that like many new technologies, Snapchat simply faced an adoption curve that was moderate at first. Using Snapchat requires more imagination than simply commenting, tweeting, and texting. It also requires a network friends who also use the app. But once the Snapchat habit had been adopted and enough people had joined up, exponential growth — and network effects — set in.
(In the chart below, we use arrows to indicate months in which Snapchat released photo upload updates).