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9 Creative Snapchat Ideas for Marketing Your Brand in 2016

James Rehwald
, Marketing Director

9 Ways to Market Your Brand with Snapchat

If you haven’t caught onto Snapchat yet, it's the wildly growing social media marketing platform in many sectors of the world, especially here in the United States.

Countless brands, businesses, and public figures have embraced the popular social media app, stirring up engaging content for their hundreds to thousands of followers.  Snapchat is unlike other platforms, however.

With Snapchat’s unique 24-hour-lasting image and video Snaps on “My Story” along with its direct-to-user disappearing Snaps, brands find themselves struggling to constantly generate and administer quality Snapchat content, whether it’s a day-to-day or week-to-week basis.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a localized clothing retailer, a widespread construction company, a non-profit humanitarian service, a luxury hotel, or a start-up tech business.

It's 2016.  You need ideas to market your brand on Snapchat.  Good ones.

Here are 9 categories of bulleted tips, tricks, and methods supplied with actual examples to give you a creative boost and better knowledge on how to communicate brand value via Snapchat.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

(More from our blog: 7 Predictions of Snapchat's Future)

 

9) Be Human and Unique

Snapchat Culture: Can’t stress this enough.  Snapchat is all about being in the spur-of-the-moment and authentic.  The best Snapchat content is raw, organic, and quick, not a lengthy cookie-cutter blog post with a photoshopped graphic or stock photo, like you’d see in your Facebook or Twitter feed.  Snapchat’s followers, especially the Millennials and Generation Z users, want to click your Story to see something unique and interesting, fast!

Check out this example from Forbes' Snapchat Story.  They appeared to have used a smartphone fisheye camera lens to give a "Forbes Under 30" live music event a cool, immersive touch:

Snapchat Brand Marketing, Forbes Under 30 Summit event

Humanize Your Brand: Your Snapchat content should be relatable and fascinating.  Be hilarious, awesome, cheeky, and weird in different doses.  Give your Story personality.  Just be sure your content aligns with your desired brand image.

• Use “My Story” often, but not TOO often.  Ideally, you want to only upload quality content, not just continual content for the sake of meeting a quota.  Be careful with your usage – enough uninteresting Snaps and you’ll lose engagement in a snap (get it?).  Don’t let your brand slip into becoming a Story that users just skip over or run through because it’s “meh, whatever.”

Remember:

"No point in gaining followers if they become unengaged."

Your Story is your main outlet for reaching your followers.  Get comfortable with it.  You NEED to view the nature of the 24-hour Snap period as an opportunity for persistent creativity, rather than an inhibitor towards audience reach/engagement.

This is a must.  Learn to communicate value in less than 10 seconds—the length of a full video Snap.  Be concise with your videos and don't cut yourself off.  Make your pictures easy to digest in a small amount of time.

Here’s an Idea: Create coherent, interesting stories using consecutive 10-second Snapchat videos.  A handful of back-to-back videos on your Story can create cool storytelling opportunity, unlocking your inner-director self.  Videography knowledge can be helpful here.

Another Idea: Follow the stop-motion model by creating a bunch of rapid 1-second Snaps to form an animation.  You can do this with photos, drawings, or videos – your pick!

Check out Target’s very simple, creative video Snaps in rapid succession, just in time for baseball season:

Snapchat My Story Content, Target, Marketing

Create Personal Connections: Send personalized Snaps to select users.  Someone just added your brand?  Send him/her a welcoming Snap.  A user sent you a funny Snap?  Send a funnier response!  Maybe there’s a valued customer among your brand’s friends?  Send unique, personalized Snaps to him/her.  Surprise someone with a live video call from the CEO/owner!

Always make it a goal to reply to every user’s Snap you receive.

• Include valued, charismatic, fun employees/customers/people in your Snaps.  Don’t Snap the boring, Snap the exciting.

The Obvious but Necessary: Use well-placed captions, fitting emojis, filters, and lenses.  They’re there for your disposal.  Use them but don’t abuse them.

Learn to be an awesome artist!  Check out the Huffington Post’s Monday Garfield doodle:

Snapchat Huffpost, My Story Drawing, Garfield

Behind-the-scenes Value: Hint at something your Snapchatters don’t already know about your company and then educate them in a fun way.  Try to capture the rare quality that you encounter in the workplace or elsewhere.

To market your brand best on Snapchat, expect the unexpected.  This means that you and/or your brand ambassador(s) must be Snapchat-ready to film or photograph at any given time.

 

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8) Assign Multiple Admins to One Snapchat Account

The Problem: One of the most difficult Snapchat brand marketing attributes to deal with, especially for businesses/brands not in a centralized location, is that you can only log into your Snapchat account onto one device at a time.

You can’t have multiple people uploading content to your brand’s “My Story” from multiple devices at the same time.  Unless you have $400-500k lying around to fund a crowd-sourced Live Story and several brand ambassadors to submit content to be curated by Snapchat, you’ll just need to be persistent in your content creation from a single device…

The Solution: OR…you can be smart and set up a delegation system for multiple admins.  Assign the Snapchat account to your best Snapchat-savvy, charismatic, personable employees for different weeks, days, or hours at time.  Let these brand ambassadors use the account from their smartphone for scheduled periods, encouraging diverse quality content.

Observe & reward quality work and then allocate Snapchat privileges at your discretion.

 

7) Hold Contests & Sweepstakes

Incentivizing competitive creativity or holding free giveaways is huge for effective brand marketing on Snapchat.

Contest: Ask users to send you a direct Snap.  Tell them to Snap a picture of ____, take a video of ____, or make a drawing of ____ for a chance to win a prize.  Fill in the blank with something accessible to your Snapchatters, but still brings in unique, creative opportunity.  Perhaps it could involve your product?  Maybe it could relate to a holiday?  Get innovative to make a stimulating contest!

You can reward the best contestant(s) with something as simple as a big shoutout, to something useful like a gift certificate, or something brag-worthy like a VIP access to a big event, unlimited access to one of your products, a cash money prize, or something else that fits your brand’s culture.

The choice to incentivize your followers to enter the contest is yours.  Just be sure to make numerous posts over time with clear instructions on how to enter the contest.

Taco Bell, again, did a great job with this through its coloring contest, just see for yourself (note that this capture is old, so the interface instructions are outdated).

Snapchat, Brand Marketing, Taco Bell Contest

When getting submissions from users, make sure you pay close attention to videos (film with a 3rd party app or camera) and screenshot images.  This will be helpful in comparing contestants to determine the winner and also sharing the winner’s submission to Snapchat and/or other social media outlets.

Sweepstakes: Same idea here, but since entering a sweepstakes/giveaway for free to win a prize is already a nice incentive, I like to alter the method: Multi-platform social media promotion for better reach.

Tell your followers via Snapchat to post a text blurb, photo, or video of _____ to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram with an accompanying #hashtag and/or @mention that fits your brand message.  If you can incentivize them to share your Snapcode as part of the sweepstakes or get their friends to do the same, even better.  Gather all the submissions by paying careful attention to each platform.  Decide the winner(s) and make a big announcement.

Once the winner is selected for the contest or sweepstakes, be sure to Snap a personalized photo and/or video of the prize to the winner(s)!  If it’s good enough, maybe they’ll screenshot the photo and share it with their friends!

Make the winning announcement on other social channels.  Tell users to follow you on Snapchat to join future sweepstakes/contests and win.

 

6) Offer Exclusive Deals

When word gets out that your Snapchat account posts exclusive price-saving content, it can really help your brand's following and engagement.

Exclusive deals usually (but not always) entails screenshot-able coupons/certificates/promo codes.  To upload a coupon to your Story, you’ll just have to take a clear photo of one.  To send a coupon straight to a specific user, you have the option of sending the image file directly.  To do this, just follow Snapchat’s instructions.

My Story Coupons:  These are easy, yet effective. Post coupons to your My Story that are clearly meant to be screenshotted by viewers.  Leave it as a 10-second image on your Story for 24 hours.  Just be sure to account for people sharing the coupon screenshots with friends.

First Come, First Serve: Offer the coupon only to the first person or the first # of users who screenshot it from your Story.  This creates a sense of urgency to motivate users to check your Story more frequently.     

Individual Coupons: Set up unique coupons with individual codes.  Send the coupons to loyal/valued Snapchatters to be screenshotted or alternatively, send them a special coupon URL via direct message.  A more secure avenue to take is to instruct users to only open and display the coupon Snap at the point-of-sale/register, making screenshotted coupons invalid.  Frozen yogurt shop "16 Handles" was one of the first to run a marketing campaign this way:

16 Handles, Snapchat coupon, brand marketing

Gifts: Perhaps your Snapchat followers have significant others or close friends who’d take interest to your products/services?  Set the coupon up with a “From” and “To” blanks, like a gift card.  Post a separate Snap before the coupon instructing users to screenshot, upload, edit, and send the coupon Snap.  Don't forget to theme your gift certificate/coupon to fit gift-giving holidays such as Valentine's Day, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc.

Coupon as Reward: Apply the contest idea I spoke of earlier by asking users via your Story to send you a picture/video/drawing of _____ to receive a special coupon directly through Snapchat.  Make sure your contest is fine-tuned to warrant the forecasted level of involvement and coupon/product supply you may have.

Users will be more likely to use a coupon after working to earn it.

 

5) Debut News & Unveil Products/Services

Debuting brand new products/services/ideas on your Snapchat makes your account all the more follow-worthy and exciting.  Offer that “first dibs” value by making Snapchat the first communication platform you make special announcements and reveal exclusive images/videos.

Create Buzz: Tell users to “check My Story tomorrow.”  Or if it’s something huge you want to reveal, make a multi-day countdown with posts to your Story every 24 hours.

The Debut: Perhaps it is a sneak peak of a brand new food item?  A beta product?  New service add-on?  New office space to show off?  Make a handful of awesome posts to your Story announcing the new thing(s) you want to showcase.  Make it relatable and screenshot-friendly so it can be share-worthy!

For example, Marriott Hotels informs its followers fun facts about its different hotels.  These particular My Story images showcase San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina's rooftop beekeeping, along with the food & drink made using their own honey.

Snapchat Marketing Example, Marriott Hotel, My Story

News Updates: Snapchatters love to eat up bite-sized news updates.  Make big news updates, industry-relevant updates, and company-related updates.  You can take a picture of a computer screen (bear with me here) with the news article itself.

Digital Trends is great at doing this, using accompanying emojis and text captions.  Check out some screenshots of their My Story news updates below.  One Snap includes a specific hashtag that helps users find their blog via other social media platforms or search engines.

Snapchat Creative Brand Marketing, Digital Trends News

Tease: Another strategy is to release news content bit-by-bit over time, increasing your followers’ engagement and curiosity.  Create value and build impulse without spoiling the surprise.

CTA: Provide an easy call-to-action such as a short URL to follow, a “screenshot this now” text caption, a well-designed hashtag to search, a location to visit, etc.

 

4) Learn These Creative Techniques

Know the creative tools that Snapchat gives you – it’s what makes Snapchat so distinctive and fun to use.  There’s a lot of ways to make your Snaps pop.  Here are some useful techniques to know if you haven’t already:

Hidden Colors: First, take a Snap.  Then, click the drawing icon at the top right to display the color bar palette.  While holding down to select a color, drag your finger to the very top-left of your screen to get a white color or drag to the very bottom-left to get black.  In between, you’ll find different shades of grey.

Large Text Colors:  When using large text caption via the “T” icon after typing something on a Snap, you can select different words or characters to become different colors.  Just highlight the exact text you want to color (on iPhone, you just tap the text and click “Select”), and then select the color you’d like by using the color palette.

Background: For an easier, more noticeable read, you can create partial backgrounds in your Snaps to lay your text caption and/or emojis over.  This can be done by simply inserting an emoji and then enlarging it to the size you want, and then positioning it where you’d like.  Maybe you want to use neon-colored text but the image you took is already too bright?  Enlarge a dark emoji and move it as such.

Here’s a quick example (I enlarged the white ghost emoji):

Dorey Design Group, Snapchat Brand Marketing Example

• Motion Tracking: This motion-tracking feature is part of a new iOS update.  It allows you to "stamp" a moving object in a video Snap with any emoji you choose!  Emojis will move, rotate, and scale to the moving object it is stuck onto.  Just place an emoji on the video, wait until the particular object is visible, and then tap and hold the emoji over the object to stamp it.  After another recent update the same can be done with text overlays, which by the way, can also be bolded, underlined, and/or italicized!

On-demand Geofilters: These customized Geofilters are excellent for events.  On-demand Geofilters are a new Snapchat feature.  Using Snapchat’s website, you can upload your own Geofilter design, select an area on a map, and set the dates and time it’ll be available for.

Running a big networking event?  An office party?  Team outing?  Tradeshow?  Design a fitting Geofilter with your branding ahead of time to get it approved!  If you are hosting the event, make occasional announcements about the custom Geofilter and instruct guests how to swipe to find the correct one.

Pricing depends on location size and duration length.  For a small office space for a night, they can go as cheap as $5!

Got a much bigger advertising budget?  Read our previous blog post about Snapchat's 3V Advertising!

Snapcode: Upload a cool, clear Snapcode profile image.  While in camera mode, click the small ghost at the middle-top of your screen.  It’ll take 4 front-camera photos which will become your GIF image inside your Snapcode.  You could always use your logo or some other form of recognizable branding.

The Snapcode is a highly imperative element towards promoting your Snapchat account.  See how other brands on social media have used their Snapcodes.

• Snapchat My Memories (7/6/16 UPDATE): With Snapchat's recent update rolling out, "Snapchat Memories" introduces a whole new avenue for content creation and creative brand marketing.

While uploading older, pre-produced/edited images or videos to your Story is now very possible with this update (note that a white frame + timestamp will appear on these images), brands should not forget the "organic rawness" factor that recent, self-captured footage has on viewers.  It's what sets Snapchat apart from other platforms.

Don't become a lazy brand—find the appropriate balance of real Snaps vs. "My Memories" Snaps.

My Memories Tips:

Tip #1: The white frame and timestamp only appear on Snaps posted from My Memories that were taken over 24 hours ago.  Unless you want your Snap to give off a "throwback" feel, make sure you post from My Memories within that 24-hour period.

Tip #2: Snaps posted to My Memories are saved onto Snap, Inc.'s servers.  If you have multiple admins that log into your Snapchat account from different locations & devices, they can save to or access/edit/post from My Memories anywhere, at any time.

A My Memories Idea – Slow-Mo Instant Replay:

Got a cool video Snap that moves a bit too quick to catch everything?

Save the Snap to My Memories when you post it to My Story.  Edit the Snap in My Memories and swipe to apply a slow-motion filter to it.  Post the edited version to your My Story following the original Snap.

Now you should have a regular-speed video Snap, followed by a slow-motion instant replay!

 

3) Share User Content + Create Shareable Content

Consistently providing new reasons for your Snapchat followers to involve their friends is an essential part of effective brand marketing on Snapchat.

Feature on Your Story: Ask your followers to send you Snaps that you might feature on your Story to show off.  Encourage users to send Snaps revolving around a theme, event, holiday, art, contest/sweepstakes, product/service, etc.  Reward originality.

Have the opportunity to meet a follower in person?  Feature them on your Story!

Be Ready to Screenshot: Be vigilantly prepared to screenshot all incoming images (sometimes they only last a second, remember) so you can share them later on if they win/qualify.  Film videos using a third party app or camera.  If the video quality loss is too much, just ask for and share photos.  It’s also a good idea to ask before sharing.

Post Shareable Content: Make content that your followers will want to share onto other social media platforms.  It can be limited-time coupons, exclusive sneak peaks, captivating doodle art, shocking news, hilarious photos, or anything that makes people itch to share with others.

Another angle to look at shareable content is by generating content that users can edit and send to their friends directly through Snapchat.  Check out this comical yet easily done image (among a series of them) by Taco Bell as Valentine’s Day approached:

Snapchat Marketing, Taco Bell Story, Valentine's Day

 

2) Get Endorsements

On Your Story: Get important, well-known, and influencial people to endorse your brand in your Snaps.  Ensure your endorsing person aligns with your brand image and strategy.  These could include industry leaders, non-profit philanthropists, famous celebrities, musical talents, etc.  Give them ample speaking/performing time on your Story.

Perhaps you can’t meet up in person to hand them your phone?  If it’s a fully secure option, give them access to your Snapchat account login to post their own brilliant content.

On Their Story: Get important Snapchatters with large followings to endorse your brand & post your account’s Snapcode to their Story.  Once they post your Snapcode onto their Story, users who view the Snap will automatically be given the option to add you.  Pretty nifty, right?  Again, ensure the endorser aligns with your brand and can communicate your value well.

Oh and remember the On-demand Geofilters I was just talking about?  Why not design a special one for your endorser to use?

 

1) Do Cross-promotion

Promote your best Snaps beyond Snapchat.  This will help increase your Snapchat account’s following and also further incentivize users to check their Snapchat more often, having missed your quality Snaps.  Don’t forget to utilize your scan-able Snapcode + Snapchat name too!

Snapcode:  Use your Snapcode and follow Snapchat’s guidelines.  Try to pair the Snapcode with something valuable, sparking curiosity and further incentivizing a quick scan or download.

Pin it to your social media accounts’ feeds if they contain large followings.  Use it as your profile pic for a while.  Stick your Snapcode on your merchandise, printed ads, office space for employees, lobby for visitors, and other places where your target audience may be walking by.

Forbes, for instance, had its Snapcode as its profile picture on Twitter:

Twitter Forbes, Profile Picture, Snapchat Snapcode

Other Social Media Platforms: Upload your best saved Snaps, best followers’ screenshotted Snaps, and endorsement Snaps.  You can save your entire Story of an event you hosted as one video file and then upload it to Facebook.  Post a quick video Snap from your office to Instagram and Vine.  Tweet a funny Snap photo you got from a follower.  The power is yours with what you curate and cross-promote.

Dillon Francis, a popular DJ, has an enormous Snapchat and Facebook Page following.  He’ll post everyday shenanigans, hilarious comedy bits, videos from his live shows, and occasional sneak peaks of new music he’s working on.  Dillon saved his Snapchat Story of his blender troubles to his Facebook Page, along with his Snapchat name in the comments:

Dillon Francis Snapchat Story, Facebook Page blender video

Web & Other Channels: Same principle here but if you run a website, you’ve got more options.  Stick your Snap video on an applicable landing page, post your Snapcode image in a blog post or contact page, include your Snapcode in an email newsletter blast, write your Snapchat name on guest blogs, etc.

The least you could do is add a noticable Snapchat social media icon onto your homepage (check out VaynerMedia, for example) which links to the URL for your Snapcode.  It should follow this format:
snapchat.com/add/username

Endorsement Cross-Promotion: Get your influential endorsers to share your Snapcode and Snapchat content to their multiple social media accounts!  Let their popularity expand your Snapchat account’s following.

• GhostCodes & Snapdex: Although more oriented towards individual users rather than brands, GhostCodes is a separate app that allows users to find other users via discovering and downloading their Snapcodes.  Users can search people by interest, category, and "Kudos" which is the app's user ranking system.  Marketers can use the app to discover and add users with interests that match up with their brands.  Snapdex carries a very similar functionality, but aimed towards desktop usage.

 

Snapchat Analytics Resources

Here is some extra food for thought to chew on.

The Issue: With no likes, comments, or shares, how do you measure your Snapchat account and content's performance?

Unfortunately, Snapchat's only available performance metrics to Snapchat marketers are unique views, screenshots, and replays.  These are useful, but limited.  Snapchat perhaps may introduce integrated analytics/measurement tools in the future, similar to Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, etc.

The Solution: Without a native Snapchat tool to use, a number of agencies, big and small, have developed Snapchat measurement software and services of their own.  Some provide content creation/advertising as well.  Listed below are a few companies that offer Snapchat analytics services.

Delmondo – Offices in New York City and Los Angeles.
Mish Guru – Offices in Auckland, New Zealand and New York City, USA.
Snaplytics – Offices in Copenhagen, Denmark and New York City, USA.

 

A Final Note on Snapchat Brand Marketing

And that’s all there is to it.

Maximize your Snapchat account’s value by making it something totally fresh from your other social media platforms.  Bring a unique light to your brand/company with the way you capture value on Snapchat.  Have a great mix of content including both spontaneous and well-crafted Snaps.  Surpise Snapchatters with something new.  Create emotional reactions and connections.

Build a personality for your brand that makes users want to click your name from their extensive list of Snapchat Stories.  Persistently generate relevant content that your followers will want to screenshot and share with others.

Make it a Story to follow, not a brand to watch.

 

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