Online apps that have snagged celebrities such as Teuila Blakely, ex-Miss New Zealand Ella Langsford and All Black Aaron Smith in embarrassing poses are proving a growing hit with New Zealanders.
A survey by Colmar Brunton shows Kiwis are engaging more in visual sites such as YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest, which emphasise pictures, rather than in text-heavy sites such as Twitter.
Newcomer Snapchat is a rising star. Use has grown 60 per cent in the past six months.
Part of Snapchat's appeal is its novelty, with the ability to send pictures and videos to others with a maximum view-time of 10 seconds before the material is deleted.
Colmar Brunton Business Development Director Vanessa Clark said the sudden burst of Snapchat use proved the power of pictures.
"It's visual. It's something that's new and is heavily visual. We saw the same thing last year with Pinterest," she said. The free download app has proved popular with New Zealanders and has been the gateway to scandal for some celebrities.
All Black halfback Aaron Smith was the first celeb caught in a Snapchat furore after a screenshot was broadcast of him in a front-on naked photo.
More recently, an indecent "selfie video" sent privately over Snapchat by Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell and ex-Shortland Street star Teuila Blakely was leaked online.
Ex-Miss NZ Ella Langsford, Shortland Streeter Teuila Blakely and All Black Aaron Smith all have cause for Snapchat regrets.
Last week, a naked Snapchat "selfie" of former Miss New Zealand Ella Langsford appeared on Instagram.
Facebook is still the social media site used most by New Zealanders. Sixty-five per cent of users visit the site most often, compared with last year's 64 per cent.
But fewer people are engaging with brands or companies through social media than a year ago.
Clark said brands marketing on Facebook are having a negative effect, as users see it as "gatecrashing" or spamming social media audiences.
"This survey has told us the amount of advertising appearing in their space is putting people off. Social media is not about brands, it's about the people and brands are intruding in what some consider to be their private space," Clark said.
The drop in users is driven largely by those in the Gen Y age group, considered a key demographic by marketers.
"Certain groups are resigning from Facebook. The idealists are starting to switch off," said Clark.
Brands offering sales, discounts or giveaways are popular but are more likened to a "one-night stand" with social media users and are not likely to be repeated.
Clark believed brands marketing on social media sites needed to work smarter to understand how to target their audience.
"They need to be careful about how they engage and do more work to understand how that group of people want to engage with them, rather than bombarding them.
"If I recommend your brand it's because I like my friends, not your brand."
Happily hooked on social media
Hamiltonian Sean Peterson (picture) would rather talk over the online video service Skype than use the phone.
"I don't really text any more. Facebook is my go-to when contacting my friends or family."
The 20-year-old is a perfect example of the Gen Y age group of Kiwis on social media sites.
"As soon as I wake up I check my Facebook. I'm checking all my social media before my shower. I even eat breakfast while checking out social media. Unless I'm having quality time with family or out doing activities where I actually can't access any social media sites. Or I'm sleeping."
Peterson is the voice and creator behind the Youtube hit H-Town Street Cats and says social media isn't just about entertainment. It is also a gateway to a creative imagination. Three years after his clip went viral, Peterson now concentrates on his event photography business ANiMA and uses social media for promotion.
Snapchat is listed as one of his favourites after Youtube and Facebook.
But it's how Peterson uses Snapchat that proves its novelty among audiences, by creating a "snapstory" stringing together a number of entertaining 10-second video clips.
"As scary as it sounds, I feel like I'm always on social media, sort of connected to it 24/7," says Peterson.
"Even on the toilet."
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