If you heard a lot about Snapchat recently, you’re not alone. The ephemeral photo-sharing app has gained the attention and interest of some of the biggest brands.
The appeal is pretty obvious to brands. Tapping an audience of teens/millennials that have dwindling attention spans and a growing desire for authenticity and access.
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat is an app for mobile devices that was developed by Evan Piegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown while they were students of Standford University. Snapchat users take photos/videos, add text, drawings, and stickers (which are based on your geographic location) and send them to a select group of friends.
As of 2014, 700 million photos/videos are sent through Snapchat per day, with 500 million Stories viewed daily. Snapchat is currently valued at $16 billion.
Not bad, for an app only 5 years old.
What makes Snapchat so unique from other photo sharing apps is that after the photo/video is shared, it’s permanently deleted after 1-10 seconds (unless you publish the moment to your story, which we’ll discuss later). What this means is that you can share moments of your life temporarily, free from the pressure of producing a polished image/video for Instagram/FB/Pinterest. It’s also a way of sharing what’s going on in your life at the present moment and allows for your friends to ‘chat’ with you about what’s going on in their lives as well.
The easiest metaphor that allows me to understand the appeal of the concept is that it’s a private Twitter for images/videos that don’t accumulate over time (as all other social networks do).
Snapchat also features stories, which are Snaps that last for 24 hours, and serve as a digital look book into a user’s lives (at least for the duration of 24 hours). It’s a dynamic album that lets users share with all of their followers at once.
Today’s digital world allows others to judge us on how we present ourselves on social media, so it’s easy to understand the appeal of wanting to share moments of what you’re currently doing without worrying about how it aligns with your ‘personal brand’ later.
As a user myself, Snapchat presents the opportunity to share moments of my life with a few people (as opposed to all of my followers). Additionally, there are some moments I don’t deem to be ‘Instagram worthy,’ so a Snap usually suffices my desire to share that moment.
Snapchat for Brands
Like Twitter, Snapchat is built for an audience with a short attention span and a desire to learn more about the brands they incorporate into their lives. Snapchat gives people a window into a brand’s personality and makes follower’s feel like they are a part of an exclusive group (Since Snaps aren’t sent to any other social media platforms unless it’s screenshotted). Snapchat is a great way to increase the loyalty of your brand audience and to show authenticity and transparency as one of your key values while delivering valuable (if temporary) content to your audience.
The content might be temporary, but the impressions that you can build are lasting.
With that said, Snapchat might not be for everyone.
It’s quite a bit different from other social media platforms in that there’s no place for your bio, no company picture, URL to your site, no social verification icon, support for business accounts, and profiles aren’t suggested to current users, so they have to manually type in your username (and type it in exactly as spelled) to add you. On top of all that the Discover feature that was recently release (we’ll talk about that more later) isn’t available to most brands.
This lack of resource for channel promotion means that brands must use their other channels to promote their Snapchat, which in and of itself could present unique promotion opportunities. Additionally, this means that only your current audience will have access to your Snapchat content. For brands that have small/nonexistent followings on their other social platforms, starting out with Snapchat wouldn’t be the best idea for increasing engagement and brand loyalty.
Before you dive into Snapchatting away, you’re going to want to do some goal-setting.
Sound familiar? It’s because it’s the first step I recommend before doing social media marketing on any channel. Without a clear goal in mind, you’re not going to know what growth/success/failure looks like, and not recognizing wasted time is a death sentence for some brands. Making sure your Snapchat goals align with your company’s purpose and brand values is important for conveying a cohesive brand personality/story, which is integral in getting your followers to be engaged and loyal to you.
Once you’ve done that, you should create your account. It’s a fairly simple process; all you need to do is enter your email and your birthdate (which should be 18+ so that Snapchat doesn’t flag your brand as a minor).
After you’ve created a profile, you’re into the interface. You can start adding people to follow if you’d like, using the button below, or you can start Snapchatting away.
To make a Snap, use your phone camera and press the big circle at the bottom of the screen. You can turn the flash on in the upper left corner, tap to add a plain text caption, use the pencil icon in the right hand screen to draw (press and hold, then drag up and down to change color), and even swipe right for some filters. To take a video, press and hold the circle to start recording, then release when your video is done. To switch between front and back cameras, use the camera icon in the upper right hand corner.
This is a lot harder to explain with just words, so enjoy this picture (And excuse the poor drawing skills)!
Most brands will take snaps and instead of sending them to their followers, publish them straight to their stories. This is so that users choose to engage with your brand, making it a more enjoyable experience.
Snapchat recently released the Discover function of Snapchat. Earlier this year, Snapchat released its first advertising functions, which didn’t go so well. Discover is the attempt at a middle-ground between promotional content and the ability to control what users see.
This feature is a place exclusively for bigger brands at the moment, but it’s not farfetched to think that they’ll start opening it up to most other brands in order to monetize the platform. Currently, they’re featuring notable Stories, with select brands/events being featured on the Stories page.
Discover features only 12 brands at a time, auto-playing a branded story (with noticeably higher production quality). The story can be scrolled right for a new story, or in some cases, scrolled up/down for articles. It’s very dynamic, and pressing/holding the story allows a user to send the snap to their followers, which helps to increase the reach of their content.
Discover and featured Stories bring exciting possibilities for brands on Snapchat, so it’s important to get started on Snapchat early so that your brand can adapt to coming changes on the platform (which in my opinion, will undoubtedly move towards more promoted content).
So is Snapchat the Next Platform for Your Business?
As long as the content that you provide is relevant to your brand and isn’t inappropriate for your social audience, jumping on this new platform could position you well for when Snapchat’s brand features become more developed. It’s also important that you have a decently engaged audience on your existing social networks, so that you can encourage them to add your brand on Snapchat. Because the platform is still maturing, it’s a great time to be a little experimental with the types of content that you provide to your following (especially since the content itself is ephemeral).
Need inspiration? If you download the app and make a personal account, you can see some featured brands/events to gather ideas for your content before creating a Snapchat for your brand. Because there’s no comprehensive analytics to the platform, you’ll have to trust your social marketing intuition on whether or not having a Snapchat will provide a benefit to your audience, and also, what types of content you should create for your brand.
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