Say this for Facebook: They take competing social sites and apps very seriously. Whether they are adopting popular features of their competitors (geographical logins, hashtags, etc.) or outright buying competitors (Instagram), Facebook protects its territory like the apex predator it is. Lately, Facebook has been losing ground amongst teens and twenty-somethings to photo-messaging apps like Snapchat that allow users to share content that disappears after sharing (meanwhile, Snapchat is making moves into Facebook’s territory). This sort of service appeals to users because the content they share is kept private, and, often, it disappears after an allotted period of time.
Slingshot is Facebook’s direct answer to Snapchat.
Just like Snapchat, Slingshot let’s you take a picture or video, doodle on it if you choose, and share it (sling it) with a select group of friends. One of the major differences between Slingshot and Snapchat is that Slingshot requires you to sling something back to anyone who sends you a picture/video before you can view a picture/video they sent you. This, theoretically, makes the process of using Slingshot more collaborative- you aren’t telling a story to someone, you’re telling a story with them. Because of this dynamic, the app feels less like a messaging service, and more like a content feed. This is intentional. Slingshot FORCES you to engage with other users. You can’t passively sit back and watch others post content the way you might on Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook.
In the world of social, engagement trumps impressions almost every time. With Slingshot, Facebook is taking a few gambles. First, just spending the time developing an app is a gamble because it might never catch on. The second gamble is that some people just don’t want to engage with other users. By creating an app that gives you no choice in the matter, Slingshot potentially runs the risk of alienating a certain percentage of users before they’ve even gotten started.
However, if Slingshot DOES take off, it gives Facebook a viable Snapchat competitor AND one that is potentially more valuable to marketers as it rewards them for engaging directly with brands.