Snapchat, despite all it's flaws and concerns, is very quickly becoming my favourite social network. Not my most used social network, mind you, but my favourite. It's all because of the ability to actively network with your friends.
When one looks at the other popular social networks, it's common to see some sort of news feed. No matter how this feed is sorted, it's difficult for one to be sure they've seen all the (hopefully important) content from their friends/connections. As someone posting content, there's not really a sure-fire way to guarantee that the friends you want to see a certain update is by mentioning them, which looks sloppy if done out of context.
Snapchat's core functionality centres around a user creating content, and then sharing it with the people they want to see it. The receivers are then notified that their friend shared something directly with them. In reality, especially with recent updates, Snapchat isn't really much more than a glorified messaging platform, but isn't direct, two-way communication at the core of social networking?
The one thing that makes Snapchat's "messaging" system stand out from SMS platforms, iMessage, and Facebook's Messenger is that it always sends content to individual accounts, and not as a group. If I were to create something and want to send it to five friends with Facebook's platform, I'd either have to create five new messages one after another, or send it to all five friends at the same time, which has major drawbacks. Everyone hates it when they're put in a group conversation with a bunch of people they don't know, and are forced to receive a barrage of replies.
Another great thing about Snapchat is the way they handle brands wanting to advertise. Instead of me being forced to see posts from brands that I couldn't care less about, brands using Snapchat for paid advertising purposes are limited and forced to a separate area of the app. Because of this, they are given he unspoken instruction to create content that is actually interesting for their audience.
The "Stories" section of Snapchat is one that I haven't played with much as of yet, but it seems very interesting. Stories is more like the "broadcast" side of social networking, where one is sharing their content with all connections, but it has some improvements. New, no-yet-seen items are clearly marked and shown at the top. Stories posted are also only shown for one day, enticing viewers to keep coming back, and preventing items from becoming stagnant and irrelevant.
Snapchat's core feature, that content is only shown for a short period of time before it's removed, had been criticized by many for encouraging inappropriate content and worse, but I think that it's their best feature. People who don't post don't have accounts showing years-old posts, friends can't spend hours scrolling back through your old posts to learn your every past blunder, and all new content, from the serious to the goofy, both had to be created to be relevant to the moment, but also doesn't need to be worried about three years down the road.
Snapchat: relevant, time-sensitive social networking for real friends, just like real life. Go ahead and add me, and share whatever you feel relevant with me. My username is iamlevisan.