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Did Kylie Jenner cause Snapchat to lose $1.7b?

Impact of reality star's tweet raises issue of celebrities' influence on social media

"Still love you tho snap... my first love," tweeted reality star Kylie Jenner on Wednesday. But it was US$1.3 billion (S$1.7 billion) too late.

Just minutes before that tweet, the new mom and social-media influencer had sent this out to her 24.5 million followers on Twitter: "Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me... ugh this is so sad."

That one tweet apparently caused the shares of Snap Inc, Snapchat's parent company, to sink by 6 per cent.

"She's one of the Snapchat divas... it's not good if one of the main symbols for your app says 'I'm not going to use the app,' " Summit Insights Group analyst Jonathan Kees was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Jenner was one of the first celebrities to get on the messaging app to market her line of beauty products. But did her tweet, which has been liked more than 340,000 times and counting, actually cost Snapchat over a billion dollars?

Observers note that Snapchat was already having a rough week. Its latest redesign plan is being poorly received with over 1.2 million users signing a Change.org petition titled "Remove the new Snapchat Update". The significant jump in negative reviews of the redesign prompted Citigroup to downgrade the stock to "sell" from "neutral" on Tuesday.

Snapchat's latest redesign plan is being poorly received with over 1.2 million users signing a "Remove the new Snapchat Update" petition.
Snapchat's latest redesign plan is being poorly received with over 1.2 million users signing a "Remove the new Snapchat Update" petition. PHOTO: REUTERS

This after Snap Inc chief executive Evan Spiegel said on Feb 15 that he was pleased with the redesign that separated content posted by users' friends from content pushed by the media and celebrities.

The Verge, a technology news site, noted that it is hard to definitively say whether or not Thursday's stock plunge was linked to Jenner. However, it does raise the question of how much influence celebrities have on social media.

Describing the Jenner-Snapchat incident as one on track to go down in social media history, digital media and entertainment company Refinery29's Madeline Buxton asks if social media apps need to do more to keep the celebrities who come with a large online following.

For instance, Snapchat did not make available metrics and data that an influencer could use to get sponsors.

"It wasn't until last week that Snapchat announced it would finally provide this data to its most popular users, including information such as the number of total views and unique viewers, completion rates (i.e. watching a story from start to finish), time spent watching, and audience demographics," she wrote yesterday. "While this information is certainly not too little, it may be too late for influencers who craved this data for years to no avail."

Yet, technology news site Recode's Kurt Wagner says Jenner's disenchantment with Snapchat probably means the redesign is working. "It's entirely possible she says she doesn't like opening the app because she's seeing that fewer people are seeing her posts," he says of Jenner.

"The point is, Snapchat is making a big bet that users want to hear more from their friends than from celebrities like Jenner or brands like Maybelline. We probably won't know for months if Snap's gamble pays off. But it's worth remembering that while Jenner's frustration clearly surprised a lot of investors, it probably didn't surprise Evan Spiegel."

Jenner is certainly not the first celebrity to influence the stock market with a tweet or a speech or a dress. Most recently, Weight Watchers' stock soared 14 per cent after Oprah Winfrey's inspiring speech at the Golden Globe Awards last month went viral. Winfrey owns a 10 per cent stake in the firm.

And former US first lady Michelle Obama actually made a difference to the shares of fashion companies after she wore their outfits.

INTERNET USERS ON THE RISE

A recently released report on social media and digital trends around the world says there are four billion Internet users now globally. And if you take into account the six hours a day an average person spent online last year, it works out to a whopping one billion years online. That's roughly one-third of our waking lives.

Of this, 325 million years will be spent on social media, it says.

More and more people are getting onto the Internet - a quarter of a billion, or 7 per cent of the world's population, joined just last year for the first time. And they are spending more and more time online.

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The report - Digital in 2018 - looks at 239 countries and territories. This year's edition is the seventh report by We Are Social, a social media agency, and Hootsite, a social media management platform.

It says that of the four billion (or 53 per cent of the global population) Internet users currently, about 3.2 billion, or 13 per cent, are active social media users.

Of this, 93 per cent, or 2.9 billion users, access social media from their mobile phones.

In fact, affordable smartphones and mobile data plans are behind much of the growth in Internet users, says the report.

What does this survey say about Singapore? There are 4.8 million people in Singapore, or 84 per cent of the population, on the Internet, and almost all of them are active social media users.

Overall, people in Singapore spend seven hours a day using the Internet, of which two hours are spent on social platforms.

Singapore also figured among the handful of countries enjoying average mobile connection of more than 50 Mbps. There are just six such countries.

Only Norway enjoys higher average download speeds of more than 60 Mbps, which is almost three times the global average.

One may think that being too connected or "always on" can lead to less time to smell the flowers and to more stress, not to mention "smartphone neck" and "texting thumb pain".

But the report actually cites research that says slower connections can trigger anxiety levels.

The Ericsson Mobility Report out in 2016 used neuroscience technology to measure emotional responses to varied smartphone experiences.

"Delays in loading Web pages and videos under time pressure caused mobile users' heart rates to rise an average of 38 per cent. Six-second delays to video streaming caused stress levels to increase by a third.

"To put that in context, the stress incurred is equivalent to the anxiety of taking a maths test or watching a horror movie alone, and greater than the stress experienced by standing at the edge of a virtual cliff, " it said.

So, even as we are spending more time online, better connectivity ensures that the time spent is less stressful, and would encourage more people to become Internet-savvy over time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 25, 2018, with the headline 'Did Kylie Jenner cause Snapchat to lose $1.7b?'. Print Edition | Subscribe