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Selfie App Shots Wants to Graduate From the Selfie

Shots is getting more social.

John Shahidi

When photo-sharing app Shots launched in late 2013, it was known for two things: Selfies and its celebrity investor Justin Bieber.

Shots has since shed the Bieber-only following — 20 percent of its users now follow Bieber on Twitter versus 88 percent two years ago, according to CEO John Shahidi — and now it’s hoping to graduate from the selfie-only distinction, too.


Shots updated its app Thursday so that users can now share outside links and videos the way you might on Facebook or Twitter. The new app includes a curated section dedicated to funny content, the equivalent of a trending section you might find in one of the bigger social networks, and it will include original material created for Shots from some of the social media stars that originally gained notoriety on Twitter-owned Vine. (Shahidi serves as a mentor of sorts to many of the Vine stars.)

In a nutshell, the move is a graduation from photo sharing to content sharing. Not a pivot, says Shahidi, but an “evolution.”

“We’ve gotta evolve, especially if you’re targeting teenagers,” Shahidi said, who says the average Shots user is just 15 years old. “There’s only so much that people can do with a selfie. We want other ways to share, especially if someone doesn’t want to share a picture or video.”

Shots has allowed users to share images from a rear-facing camera and videos for some time now, but adding links and outside videos is still an interesting move. As a “selfie app,” Shots had a differentiating albeit limiting quality. It has spent the past year moving more toward the mainstream, but with its own spin.

Users can rate their friends’ posts with emojis, for example. It has a separate video app that adds a camcorder filter to video content. While Twitter and Facebook surface links alongside big cover photos, Shots only includes the URL, an intentional bare-bones approach intended to use less data to accommodate its international users.

“A lot of these kids are on data allowances,” Shahidi said. “It won’t be as pretty but that’s okay.”

Shots still has major obstacles to overcome, of course. Teens use a few other social apps, too, like Instagram and Snapchat, both of which have much bigger audiences and a lot more financial backing.

But Shots has raised $15 million in venture capital and has a modest but loyal seven million active users, most of whom are teens, a highly marketable demographic. It’s one of the reasons Shahidi says the company will start to advertise in some way in 2016. (He’s thinking of ads like movie trailers — the same approach Snapchat took for its first ads.)

Those ads, when they arrive, will be another step forward for a company that’s trying to graduate from the selfie. “We need to allow our users to share more so they can tell others about this and bring people in,” Shahidi said. “If you don’t evolve, you stay still and you become a dinosaur. We’ll never do that.”

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